Levi Nicholas (left) of the Vernon Panthers avoids a tackle by Jeremy Goldie of the Abbotsford Panthers in B.C. AA Varsity Football Championship quarterfinal action Friday night at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops.

Levi Nicholas (left) of the Vernon Panthers avoids a tackle by Jeremy Goldie of the Abbotsford Panthers in B.C. AA Varsity Football Championship quarterfinal action Friday night at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops.

Vernon Panthers advance to provincial semis

Vernon Panthers pound Abbotsford Panthers 36-6 in B.C. AA Varsity Football Championship quarterfinal Friday in Kamloops.

The Vernon Panthers scored early and often in dismantling the Abbotsford Panthers 36-6 in B.C. AA Varsity Football Championship quarterfinal action Friday night at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops.

VSS, coached by Sean Smith, opened the scoring when quarterback John Garvie (4-of-8 for 101 yards) hit Okanagan offensive MVP Zac Kronbauer for a 44-yard touchdown pass.

Following an Abbotsford fumble, Garvie called his own number from a yard out to close out the first quarter. VSS added two more TDs and a safety to end the first half. Karson Patommel (19 rushes, 62 yards) scored both touchdowns, rambling in from 14 yards and one yard to put Vernon up 29-0 going into the break.

“We have followed the same pattern the past month,” said Smith. “It takes us a possession or two to get our feet and we absorb a few punches early, but we seem to catch fire in the second quarter and put games out of reach.

“Abby was a well deserved top-five ranked team in B.C. They had a lot of talent, are well coached and were very tough. But my boys never cease to amaze me with their ability to focus and follow our game-plan.”

Smith praised his defensive players for stifling the Abby attack and dominating the line of scrimmage.

Friday’s win was extra sweet as Abbotsford was the team that knocked Vernon out of the junior provincial semifinals two years ago.

Abby struck first in the second half, scoring on a one-yard QB sneak in the fourth quarter. Vernon responded with an interception by Kronbauer, who returned it 50 yards to cap the scoring.

Defensively, Grade 10 standout Ben Hladik paced VSS with six tackles and two sacks, while Patommel (six tackles, one sack) and Carson Labreque (five tackles, one sack) were also stellar.

“This was a complete team win for us,” said Smith. “We had so many different players step up to the plate and make big-time tackles, catches, throws, blocks and runs.”

The No. 1-ranked Panthers advance to the semifinals Saturday at UBC in Vancouver. They will face the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal tilt between the No. 2 John Barsby Bulldogs of Nanaimo and Seaquan Seahawks of Delta.

“Our program has knocked at the door, making the provincial semifinals four straight years, but we haven’t had that breakthrough game to get to the finals,” said Smith. “I think we’ve got a legitimate shot this time. Barsby is the defending provincial champion and have, who I believe, is the best coach in AA football. We’re going to have our work cut out for us this week, but I think we’re up for the challenge.”