The last loss was a playoff game, the provincial semifinal, in 2018.
The last league loss was a decade before that.
It’s been a long time since the Vernon Panthers, the two-time reigning B.C. AA Senior Varsity High School Football champions, have felt the sting of defeat.
And this one stung by a mere single point.
The visiting South Kamloops Titans stunned the No. 3-ranked Cats 7-6 Friday, Oct. 15, at Greater Vernon Athletic Park.
“Southkam played great defensively and was able to limit us to one score on the day,” said Vernon head coach Sean Smith. “You’re not going to win many high school games putting in the endzone once. Offensively we continued a season-long trend of putting ourselves in bad down and distance situations with penalties, drops and negative plays. We had 14 plays where we went backward – it’s hard to overcome that and we had a tough time running the ball when both of our tailbacks (Scotty Hoffman and Kolby Thorpe) went down and it made us too one dimensional.”
After a scoreless opening quarter, Vernon struck first when quarterback Jake Farrell hit a streaking Mitchell Bond on the left sideline. However, a missed convert would prove costly, leaving the Panthers up 6-0.
The score stayed that way until midway through the fourth quarter when Titans tailback Toryn Fraser scored on a 20-yard run, and Jason Peters booted the convert to give South Kamloops a 7-6 edge.
The Panthers would have two more opportunities to take the lead in the final minutes. However, despite getting into Southkam territory both times, came up empty-handed.
Farrell went 17 of 33 for 235 yards and a touchdown with Bond being his favourite receiving target hauling in five receptions for 84 yards. Scotty Hoffman rushed 46 yards on eight carries before leaving the game due to injury.
“Defensively, I thought we had a great game plan and limited them to one touchdown while picking off two balls and registering 13 tackles for loss,” said Smith. Grayson Statham was a tackling machine for VSS, recording double-digit tackles (10) on the night including six for a loss. Defensive tackle Nolan Matthews chipped in with seven (two for a loss) while Roan Reid contributed eight (one for loss).
“This is a tough loss and will mean a more difficult road in the playoffs for us,” said Smith. “However, I think this team has the ability to rebound. Hopefully, this loss will make us stronger when it really matters in November/December.”
The Panthers will look to get back to their winning ways Friday, Oct. 22, when they visit the Okanagan Mission Huskies at Kelowna’s Apple Bowl. Game time is 4 p.m.
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