Vernon Panthers will be putting up the Dukes in the BC Junior Varsity High School Football quarterfinals.
The undefeated Cats will host the Windsor Dukes of North Vancouver in the quarterfinals Wednesday, Nov. 13, at Greater Vernon Athletics Park (3 p.m. kickoff).
The Panthers capped off an unbeaten regular season Wednesday, Oct. 30, at GVAP, doubling the gutsy Salmon Arm Golds 28-14. VSS finished atop the Interior at 6-0.
“The boys have worked really hard this season and deserve to be conference champs,” said Vernon coach Tim Thorpe. “However, the level of competition is about to increase and the real work begins now. We are confident in this group, we have the players to make big plays and we believe this team can make a deep run in the playoffs.”
Vernon started quickly with quarterback Braden Khunkhun completing a 30-yard pass to Landon Janke, followed by a 14-yard touchdown pass to Roan Reid to finish an efficient first drive, putting the home team on top 7-0. Later in the half, running back Damon Froste made his mark with several tough runs, including a 22-yard romp to the one-yard line. Froste capped the drive with a one-yard touchdown plunge to make the score 14-0. Salmon Arm responded with a touchdown pass on the last play of the half to close the gap to 14-7.
It was anyone’s game as both teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter. Khunkhun connected with receiver Kolby Thorpe on a slant and Thorpe did the rest, fighting his way into the endzone for the 21-yard score. Thorpe added a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to seal the win 28-14.
Khunkhun added to his league-leading statistics in yardage and touchdown passes, completing 18 passes for 210 yards and two touchdowns. Froste had a huge game on the ground rushing for 143 yards and a touchdown. Thorpe finished the game with nine catches for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, Froste was all over the field leading the way with eight tackles and a sack. Reid had an outstanding game with seven tackles, a fumble recovery and a blocked punt. Grayson Statham and Matt Mostyn were also defensive standouts with fivetackles apiece.
The Panthers capitalized on Salmon Arm turnovers as Seth Maglio had a nose for the ball, recovering three fumbles and Justin Ruscheinsky had an interception from the safety position.
Thorpe credits offensive coordinator Lance Heron and defensive coordinator Andy Shaw for preparing the players throughout the season.
“Our coaching staff is phenomenal, Andy and Lance aren’t teachers, they’re community members with a love for the game. They spend a ton of hours coaching and watching film, we wouldn’t have this kind of success without those guys,” he said.