The No. 1-ranked B.C. High School Senior Varsity AA Football team was suitably impressed with the crosstown rivals who struggle to put the ball in the end zone.
In an exhibition game played Friday at Greater Vernon Athletics Park in a constant, heavy rainfall, the defending provincial champion Vernon Panthers got by their city rivals, the Fulton Maroons, 28-0.
“The score flattered us,” said Panthers head coach Sean Smith. “We moved the ball pretty well on offence all game but got stung by a number of penalties that stalled our drives. I was very impressed with Fulton’s play throughout the game. They wanted it more than us and the score was not indicative of the how well Fulton played on defence.”
Trent Charlton was the recipient of the first of VSS quarterback Zack Smith’s two touchdown throws, hauling in a 10-yard slant in the end zone to put the Panthers on the board midway through the first quarter. On their next drive, Matthew Reich would score on a toss play from 10 yards out to put the Cats up by 14.
Smith was the difference-maker on offence, and the Fulton defence had a tough time containing his runs throughout the game. Smith would go on to put up 317 yards of total offence – 170 through the air and another 147 on the ground. Reich added 102 yards rushing and plunged in for his second score of the game in the third quarter. Johnathan Bielski would round out the scoring on a 35-yard bomb from Smith in the fourth.
“Our defence kept us in the game and were stout all day. We didn’t give up many first downs and that allowed us to control the time of possession and field position.”
Reich was all-world again on defence for the Cats registering seven tackles (including two for a loss) to go along with an interception.
“Matthew is the heartbeat of our defence and is flying around making plays everywhere. Fulton did a great job in coverage. We were fortunate to have Zack’s legs that added another element that was hard to defend.”
Despite the score, Fulton head coach Mike Scheller was very happy with the way his kids competed.
“We took on the No. 1 team in the province and held them to a TD each quarter,” said Scheller. “Our defence played great. Defensive coaches Bryan Cragg, Kevin Stecyk and Fraser Waldron had our kids well prepared for a very fast team. Vernon has great team speed and they are tough to contain. They made some big play on offence and their QB had a very good game running. I thought our kids were disciplined and tough.”
Middle linebacker Dayton Ingenhaag was awesome, recording 14 tackles and recovered a fumble. Fellow linebackers Quaid Willett and Ethan Schiman also played great with 15 tackles between the pair (eight for Willett). Scheller also praised the play on D of Seth Pallister, Brayden Beckley and Van Kozak.
Still, the Maroons have gone two games without scoring a point and Scheller knows his team’s offence needs work.
“The game was played in a massive downpour and it affected our ability to pass the ball,” he said. “We need to make more plays on offence to be successful.”
QB Dom Peterson finished 4-for-19 for 42 yards and was picked off twice. Kozak had two catches for 32 yards.
Both teams completed their exhibition schedules Friday and will start the Okanagan AA regular season this week. The Maroons visit the South Kamloops Titans Friday while the Panthers will begin defence of their provincial title when they host the Salmon Arm Golds Friday at 7 p.m. at Greater Vernon Athletics Park.
“I hope this game serves as a wake-up call for us,” said Sean Smith. “We committed far too many penalties, dropped far too many passes and didn’t match our opponent’s intensity. We play them again in November (Friday, Nov. 1) and Fulton should have a lot more confidence than they had going into this one. We have a lot of work to do moving forward if we want to compete with the best in the province.”
The Golds beat the Okanagan’s other team, Kelowna’s Okanagan Mission Huskies, 36-8 in exhibition play at Little Mountain Sports Field Friday.