Only one team in sports playoffs gets to end their season with a win.
Unfortunately for the Vernon Magnum Blue Junior Bantam football squad, it wasn’t them.
The Magnums fell 35-26 to the Coquitlam Chargers in the B.C. Junior Bantam final, played in Langley Sunday, Dec. 11.
“Our boys faced some big hurdles just to get here, I couldn’t be more proud of them,” said Vernon head coach Curtis Warner. “Big thanks for the community helping us out, from the Toyota soccer building helping us have a place to practice to Valley First credit union donating to make sure every kid had a place to stay for the road trip.
“After the game got pushed back a week last-minute due to weather, having local businesses have our back was huge in helping us be ready.”
Early in the game the Magnums and Chargers started slowly feeling each other out and adjusting on the fly having never seen the opposition, but it was the Chargers who would strike first with a big chunk play that ended in a field goal putting them up 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive Vernon seemed to be clicking and marched deep into Coquitlam territory but would stall out on some untimely penalties, stunting progress, and turning the ball over on downs.
The Chargers’ quarterback, eventually their game MVP, capitalized on some windows and would scamper in to the end zone pushing the Magnums deficit to 11-0.
Just when it was starting to look like a long day ahead, Vernon found its running game, led by Caden O’Dwyer, who put the team on his back, racking up 142 yards on the ground for the game and smashing in two consecutive touchdowns in the second quarter to give his team some life and its first lead of the day at 12-11.
Coquitlam desperately tried to swing momentum back in their favour, deciding to ‘air things out’ with a passing attack before half but Magnums cornerback Dez Wishart stood tall and batted down pass after pass giving Vernon the ball back with two minutes left to play.
Needing to score before half the Magnums went to big play guy Josh Vandenberg, who broke a chunk play and evaded tacklers for a 55-yard sweep down the sideline to go up 20-11 at halftime.
The Chargers made some adjustments and limited the Vernon running game. The Magnums could move the ball in the third quarter but couldn’t punch it in for points.
The Vernon defence did its part for the majority of the game and kept everything tight but with the offence halted, eventually the Chargers connected on a deep pass for a score, and to make things worse they’d recover a fumble on the following kick-off and turn that into a touchdown. Two scores within seconds of each other and time ticking down made a comeback difficult but not impossible.
With a sense of desperation taking hold the Magnums came back out with some urgency and Josh O’Dwyer managed to bust a 30-yard run for a late score and solidifying his Magnum game MVP status, but unfortunately it was too little too late.
Vernon would get two more possessions but, due to penalties and some nerves, weren’t able to close the gap.
“This doesn’t come down to one play or one decision,” said Warner. “Penalties, missed assignments and poor adjustments throughout put us here.”
Although the loss was a tough one the Magnums’ squad ends the season heads held high and proud of the effort put in all year. The coaching staff would like to thank all the hard work put in by the team’s parents and every player for getting the team as far as they did.
Vernon Minor Football AGM
Vernon and District Football Association holds its annual general meeting Wednesday, Jan. 18, from 6-9 p.m. at Alexander’s Pub in the conference room.
If an individual is interested in joining the VDMFA board, sponsorship committee, fundraising committee, or social media manager email Devin Rodger at email@example.com for more information.