Brand new grass field. Electronic scoreboard. Loud 1980s music. More than 100 fans.
The setting was certainly sweet Saturday afternoon as the VSS Panthers stopped the Fulton Maroons 29-0 for their second straight Interior Football Conference title.
It was the first home game in five years for the Panthers (5-0), who face the Duchess Park Condors of Prince George Friday night at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops to decide the No. 1 Interior provincial playoff seed.
Strong Safety Levi Nicholas started the scoring with a pick six on Fulton’s second drive of the game. He finished with 60 yards on nine touches. Quarterback John Garvie (4-for-6 and 101 yards) called his own number minutes later to put the Cats up by 14.
Karson Patommel led all rushers gaining 125 yards on 17 carries, including the next two scores of the game. He also made two catches for 48 yards and posted six tackles. It was 21-0 at the half.
“Our defence was lights out all game,” said VSS head coach Sean Smith. “We held their ground game in check and didn’t allow any passes of significance until the game was well out of reach. I was very happy with the way we were able to carry out our game-plan. It was a great atmosphere at the new VSS field and I’m glad these boys were the first to play a game on it.”
Grade 10 standout defensive end Ben Hladik led all Panthers with eight tackles and two sacks. Zach Hyer, Justin Haverkamp and Kevin Disterhoft all had three tackles.
“Big Ben was our best defensive player today,” added Smith. “He not only held the edge on his side, but also tracked down a lot of plays on the backside.”
Back-up quarterback Zac Kronbauer entered the game in the second half and led the Cats inside the red zone on every drive. Kronbauer racked up 50 yards on five rushes.
“Hats off to Fulton and their coaching staff,” said Smith. “They were shorthanded this year and they worked their butts off today battling us. They definitely tested us more than any other team in the Interior this season.”
Quarterback Tye Kitzman recorded 12 yards on six touches, while completing four of 13 passes for 58 yards. He pocketed a dozen tackles. Brandon Isaac registered a pair of catches for 48 yards.
Max Chapman posted seven tackles for the Maroons, while Hunter Krieger earned six, Darrien Broomfield five and Sikander Ahmad four.
“Congratulations to Vernon on their victory and league championship; it is well deserved,” said Fulton head coach Mike Scheller. “They are a dominant football team in this conference and province. They simply whipped us. They are disciplined, well-coached and have some great athletes. Their offensive and defensive lines are very tough.
“They overpowered us on defence, and just ground out the game. Offensively, we could not block them nor stop their blitz. We had less than 100 yards offence, and that is a credit to them. I was really happy with the way our kids competed. They played hard all game and never quit.”
Fulton finished 3-2 in league play and 3-4 overall, winning three of their last four games.
“I would like to thank senior players Tye Kitzman, Davron Polok, Max Chapman, Mike Williamson, Sikandar Ahmad, Darrien Broomfield, Trent Smith, Kyle Dennis and Brandon Isaac, who all played their last game for Fulton,” said Scheller.
Dale Olson, Darryl Thomas, Kevin Stecyk, Bryan Cragg and Bryan Bateman were assistant coaches.