Two touchdowns on the ground, one through the air, and holding a big physical team to under 10 points.
It added up to a 21-7 win for the Vernon Panthers, ranked No. 1 in the pre-season AA high school football poll, over the AAA Kelowna Owls in the first exhibition game for both teams Friday at Greater Vernon Athletic Park.
The Panthers, who fell in the B.C. Subway Bowl semifinals a year ago, scored a major on their first offensive possession. Third-year quarterback Thomas Hyett hit backup QB Zack Smith on a 55-yard bomb, then, two plays later, Smith called his own number on a sneak from the one-yard line, giving Vernon an early lead.
With starting tailback Charles Lemay sidelined for the contest with a rib injury, reserve back Matthew Reich plunged into the end zone on a seven-yard carry to put the Cats up by 14. A bend-but-don’t-break first half Panther defence kept the visitors off the scoreboard.
Despite giving up large chunks of yardage, the home team got some timely turnovers and an errant red zone snap –all key to pitching a shut out in the opening half.
BC Team standout wide receiver Nolan Ulm got the Owls on the board in the third stanza on a slant corner touchdown catch from quarterback Isaac Athens. However, Hyett responded on the next drive, hitting Smith again, this time on a 53 yard catch and run that ended the scoring.
“There were definitely some positives to take away from our first game of the year,” said VSS head coach Sean Smith. “Allowing seven points against a tough team like Kelowna was encouraging. Ulm was a tough matchup for us. He’s big, physical and can run. So it was a good test for our secondary to try and keep him in check. Our defensive line was able to get some consistent pressure in the second half.”
Kael Black had four sacks and a forced fumble while Liam Alder had a key pick to go along with eight tackles.
Hyett finished 8 of 15 for 155 yards and the one major. Smith had the two catches for 10-8 yards, Caden Danbrook hauled in five passes for 29 yards, and Reich finished with 36 yards on 10 carries and one major.
The Panthers (1-0) travel to Coquitlam to take on the No. 2 AAA ranked Terry Fox Ravens on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve got a lot to clean up on both sides of the ball if we want to compete with the toughest opponent our program has ever faced (Terry Fox),” said Smith. “They are nationally ranked and were a second away from winning the AAA championship last year so we are going to have to bring our A game just to compete.”
Robert Bateman Timberwolves 40 Fulton Maroons 8
The visiting Robert Bateman Timberwolves of Abbotsford built up a 26-8 halftime lead, and rolled to a 40-8 win over the Fulton Maroons in Fulton’s pre-season opener at GVAP.
Quarterback Evan Trottier scored Fulton’s lone touchdown on a one-yard run. Nate Foster caught the two-point conversion from Trottier, who finished the game 5-12 for 34 yards and one interception.
“We played a good quarter-and-a-half of football,” said Maroons head coach Mike Scheller. “The game was 12-8 with about four minutes in the first half. We made a bad gamble on fourth down, which gave up field position and they scored quickly. The next possession, we threw a pick-six and before we knew it we were down 18 points. That sequence was a major turning point in the game.”
Bateman came out and controlled the third quarter in terms of possession, as the Fulton defence could not get the T-Wolves off the field. Fulton’s only drive in the third quarter was a three-and-out.
“We had trouble defending the deep ball on them and they got a lot of chunk plays,” said Scheller. “Offensively, we ran the ball fairly effectively, we had about 182 yards on the ground. We just were ineffective passing the ball. We need to be more aggressive on both sides of the ball in attacking the ball in the air. Defensively, we had some good things, but we need to tackle lower and defend our zones much better. Bateman does a great job of passing the ball.”
Quin Williamson led Fulton rushing with 71 yards on 13 carries. Gabe Dewald had 57 yards on 13 touches and Hayden Catt ran for 27 yards on three carries. Ethan Schiman and Van Kozak each caught two passes for 17 and 14 yards, respectively.
On defence, Logan Higgs, Liam Gombrick, Trottier and Williamson each had four tackles while Gombrich had a sack and Isaac Coombs recovered a Bateman fumble.
“The coaching staff was super impressed with the play of guards and defensive tackles Logan Higgs and Liam Gombrich, they were great for u,” said Scheller. “They blocked very well and made some great holes for our running backs.
Defensively, they stuffed the run and were warriors out there for us.”
The Maroons head south of the border for their annual trip to Omak, WA. Friday.
VSS and Fulton will close out the regular Okanagan season on Friday, Nov. 2, at GVAP.