Vernon Panthers quarterback Zack Smith has been named B.C. High School Senior Varsity AA Football’s Most Valuable Player, the third Panther to win the honour in the past four years. (Morning Star - file photo)

Vernon Panthers QB named provincial MVP

Zack Smith becomes third Panthers football player in past four years to take top player honour

In leading the Vernon Panthers to a 56-6 B.C. High School Senior Varsity AA Football Conference quarterfinal win over North Vancouver’s Windsor Dukes, quarterback Zack Smith rushed for more than 200 yards and threw a pair of 40-plus yard touchdowns.

After the game, longtime Panthers fans told VSS head coach — and Zack’s father—Sean Smith it was the best game of Zack’s career.

“I thought he played great, but I’ve become so accustomed to what he does that it didn’t phase me,” said coach Smith.

“He will go down as one of the best (if not the best) player to suit up in a Panther jersey. We’ve had a great run together since he suited up in minor football at a young age.

”It’s going to be sad to see it come to an end soon.”

On Monday, Zack Smith was named the Most Valuable Player of the B.C. AA ranks, and four teammates were named provincial all-stars, as the defending provincial and undefeated Panthers prepare for Saturday’s semifinal date with the Ballenas Whalers of Parksville at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver Kick off is at noon.

Smith is the third Panther in the last four years to be named provincial MVP (Ben Hladik, 2016; Charles Lemay, 2018).

In an eight-game season, Zack led the province in passing yards (1,286) and touchdown passes (20) and only threw one interception.

He was second in the province in rushing (859 yds) and added seven rushing TDs.

He also led the province in interceptions with seven, playing defensive back when the Cats didn’t have the ball.

“Zack seems to elevate his play as the stakes get higher,” said his father.

“Last year, with Thomas (Hyett) as quarterback, we had to move him to receiver so he didn’t get a lot of work throwing in game situations.

“Fortunately, he picked up where he left off as MVP in his Grade 10 year (leading Vernon to the B.C. Junior Varsity title with a win over Ballenas in the final, the first non-Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island team to win the provincial junior championship).”

Named provincial all-stars were Caden Danbrook at wide receiver; offensive lineman Brady Szeman; Liam Reid, the Interior Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year, was selected at defensive line; and defensive back Trent Charlton.

“These guys have been dedicated Panthers for many years,” said Sean Smith. “Our junior and senior teams have had a lot of success because of their commitment to being the best players they can be.

“I can’t say enough about what they’ve meant to our program and to our younger players who see their dedication to the sport year round. They are all truly deserving of the recognition they are getting.”

Reid decided to get stronger for the season and worked hard to put on some size and strength, a decision that Smith said made all the difference as it allowed Reid to combine it with his athleticism and game smarts to be an outstanding impact player.

“He just keeps getting better every game – many of which I don’t notice until I slow the game down when I watch the film,” said Smith. “He’s had an outstanding year on both sides of the ball. However, what I’m most proud of is the way he’s taken on leading some of our younger and newer players. His leadership and patience passing along his knowledge has been key to our success and to the development of other players.”

Danbrook is valuable to the Panthers in many ways. He dominated the competition in every receiving category with 26 receptions for 496 yards and nine touchdowns. If the Cats’ offence didn’t spread the ball around, Danbrook would have doubled his yardage.

“Aside from the great stats, what makes him the province’s top receiver is that he also works so hard when he doesn’t have the ball,” said Smith. “He’s a tenacious blocker which allows his teammates to spring longer runs and get more yards after the catch. It’s been a pleasure to watch him grow as a player over the past four years. He’s a special talent that will be hard to replace.”

Szeman has been the rock of the Panthers’ offensive line since he started in Grade 9.

“Brady is key to everything we do on offence,” said Smith. “We’ve moved him to guard a bit this year which was new for him and I think he was able to use his size and athleticism even more. He’s a perfect fit for our offence as we require our linemen to pull and move around a lot. He can punish you in run blocking and has good enough feet to be able to go toe-to-toe with the biggest and fastest rushers.”

Seeing Charlton get provincial recognition, said Smith, has been the most satisfying for him as a coach.

“Trent has always been a talented player, but with so many outstanding players on the teams he’s been on, it’s been difficult to shine,” said Smith. “This year, he has made himself irreplaceable on our defence as he’s so versatile and intelligent. We can line Trent up anywhere on the field and he’ll be able to perform at a high level. He put on some size in the weight room this spring and I’ve really noticed that he’s more confident getting physical in the trenches. That’s been huge for us as we can put him in the box to stop the run and put him out wide to lock down receivers.”

Clarence Fulton’s Dayton Ingenhaag was also selected to the B.C. AA defensive all-star squad at linebacker.

“Truly deserving for this kid. He is an extra coach on the field for us,” said Fulton bench boss Mike Scheller. “He has a great understanding of our defence and was able to adjust himself and teammates on the fly.

“As a linebacker he had an innate feel for what the opposing offence was doing and he put himself in great positions to stop them. Once he got there, he is a very intimidating tackler and he laid out big hits all year. In short, he is a great football player who has a very solid future ahead of him.”

In addition to being a provincial all-star Ingenhaag won a $1,000 academic scholarship from BC High School football for his academic and volunteer endeavours.


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