It’s difficult to play Friday Night Lights football when there are no lights.
A capacity crowd filled Greater Vernon Athletics Park Friday to watch the annual Interior AA Conference Senior High School Varsity Football League Battle of Vernon between the No. 1-ranked Vernon Panthers and the Fulton Maroons.
Halftime featured exhibitions from Vernon Minor Football and routines performed by students of Accentz Dance Studio.
However, the fans and teams went home sad and mad when the game was stopped part way through the opening drive of the second half when the lights went out.
“We were all disappointed,” VSS head coach Sean Smith said. “It was an exciting game between two good teams and everyone wanted more. Unfortunately, the officials had to call the game after a half-hour of waiting. I really feel for the Grade 12s from both teams. They all look forward to this game and to have it cut short is unfortunate.”
“I would like to thank all the fans who came out to create a great atmosphere Friday night,” Fulton head coach Mike Scheller said. Great support for both teams. The Accentz dance team and Vernon Minor Football put on a great halftime show, and I would like to thank the volunteers who made a very good halftime show.”
City of Vernon director of recreation services Doug Ross said Monday the lights going out was a case of simple human error.
“Once a week, we look at the booking sheets at the track. Our facilities booking clerk programs the lights to go on and off. A booking for the meeting room at the park was fine, but the field was missed so the lights went out at their regularly scheduled time of 8:30 p.m.,” Ross said.
Several people tried contacting someone to help turn the lights back on, but the Vernon Recreation Centre office was closed because of a swim meet.
“Had there been somebody there, they would have been able to find a person who could turn the lights back on,” said Ross, adding that recreation services has talked with the District of Coldstream and Regional District of North Okanagan to have some of their staff trained in the ability to use the lights program, which can be operated through a smart phone.
“We never like having these situations come up, but they do. It’s unfortunate it happened,” Ross said. “We want to keep it from happening again.”
The lights did come back on but after a 30-minute time deadline imposed by the referees.
“We tried to reschedule the second half, but there are no refs available,” Scheller said. “Honestly, it’s not the refs’ fault. They are very short officials and are swamped.”
Ross said the schools will be credited for the time and not have to pay for the lights on Friday.
Prior to the blackout, the capacity crowd watched the Panthers take a 14-0 lead, scoring both majors in the second quarter. Quarterback Zack Smith continued to be the difference-maker for the Cats on offence, passing for 93 first-half yards on nine of 14 attempts. He would add a game-high 105 yards on 10 carries including a 15-yard touchdown run to put the Cats up by two scores.
VSS was credited with a 14-0 win.
Trent Charlton was the game’s leading receiver hauling in four catches for 67 yards while Caden Danbrook added three for 18 yards (including a three-yard major).
“We moved the ball quite well in the half, but continued to shoot ourselves in the foot with penalty calls that got us into bad down and distance situations,” Smith said. “Once we got away from penalties we were fine. We put up 239 yards in a half, but if we continue to get penalized we will have a tough time in the playoffs. Zack was fun to watch out — he was pretty slippery and made a lot of guys miss despite being in good position.”
“Fulton played us tough defensively the first time we played them in Week 4 and I knew we’d see more of the same,” Smith said. “Mike (Scheller, Fulton head coach) had them playing great and I wish we could have had another half to give my guys a test against a good squad to prepare us for playoff football.”
Maroons running back Quin Williamson ran for 35 yards on 14 carries and contributed a quarterback sack on defence. Fulton QB Dom Peterson was 2-for-6 passing for 15 yards. Dayton Ingenhaag led the Fulton D with eight tackles, Seth Pallister added six, Quaid Willett had four and Hayden Catt chipped in with three.
“Our coaching staff is very proud of the effort from our kids,” Scheller said. “They faced a very good opponent in VSS and we were right there with them.
“It is a very good rivalry and our kids always get fired up for this contest. Our guys played tough. Williamson had a good game for us on offence. He ran hard behind our offensive line. Ethan Schiman, Mo Salgado and Dayton Ingenhaag were key guys for us up front. The Vernon defence is excellent. They are tough to play against.”
Defensively, the Panthers continue to shut down opposing offences. End Brady Szeman had his best game of the year with four tackles, including two for a loss. Will Satterthwaite added four tackles, while Liam Reid and Zack Smith had three apiece.
Scheller also liked how his defence played against the top AA team in the province.
“I think our kids controlled their gaps well and we did a good job in the secondary,” he said. “Seth Pallister and Brayden Beckley both had very good games at corner. Our guys tackled well.
“The difference in the game was VSS QB Zack Smith. When he decides to tuck it and run it he is very tough to bring down. He makes clutch plays and he has done it all year. He makes their offence tick. Credit to Vernon for their season. Coach Smith and his staff have done an excellent job in 2019.”
The defending B.C. champion Panthers clinched the Interior AA Conference at 4-0 while Fulton finished third at 2-2.