Familiar foes face off in a Friday night B.C. Subway Bowl High School Senior Varsity AA Football quarterfinal at Greater Vernon Athletic Park.
The No. 1 ranked undefeated Vernon Panthers take on the Ballenas Whalers of Parksville at 7 p.m. The two schools met in the provincial quarterfinals in 2016, and in last year’s B.C. Junior Varsity championship. Both games were won by VSS.
“While we beat them both times, this is a different group,” said Panthers head coach Sean Smith. “The playoff draw didn’t do us any favours as a No. 1 seed to get them in the quarters as they were ranked No. 2 in B.C. earlier in the year. They are big, strong, and execute their system very well.
“I think we have a bit more team speed than them, but they more than make up for it with size. In watching film, I’ve been very impressed with their solid tackling and ability to catch teams with counters, play-action boots and roll outs. They can pound the ball with a power run game from a number of different formations and then will catch you with play fakes. As a result, we will have to be very disciplined on defence and stay gap sound. Offensively, we have to avoid turnovers and be able to run a balanced offence.”
The Cats haven’t played since wrapping up a 4-0 regular season on Nov. 2. Vernon outscored opponents 183-6 in its four Okanagan Conference games.
The Whalers advanced to the quarters by stopping the Langley Saints 21-14 last weekend.
“If we can stop the run, we have a good chance,” said Smith. “If we can’t, it’s going to be a long night. They are a very well coached team and their program has been in the mix for championships for a long time, so we will have our work cut out for us. Having said that, our coaching staff has put in a lot of time game planning and preparing my guys for the game and they will be ready.”
The other three quarterfinal games go Saturday. North Vancouver’s Windsor Dukes, who eliminated the Fulton Maroons last weekend, take on the Robert Bateman Timberwolves of Abbotsford, and the Holy Cross Crusaders of Surrey meet the Prince George Polars, both games at B.C. Place in Vancouver. In Nanaimo, the John Barsby Bulldogs host the G.W. Graham Grizzlies of Chilliwack.
A staggering 14 Panthers were named to the Interior Conference All-Star Team, led by offensive MVP, quarterback Thomas Hyett, and defensive MVP, linebacker Charles Lemay.
Caden Danbrook was top Grade 11; top flex position went to Riley Macgillivray; Jackson Thomas and Nathan Vasconcelos were selected offensive linemen; Trey Defoor, Kael Black and Mark Delasan were chosen at defensive line, all-star linebackers included Drew Mackenzie, Liam Alder and AJ Maher, and Zack Smith and Matthew Reich were chosen all-star defensive backs.
Eight Maroons were chosen to the all-star team: running back Quin Williamson; offensive linemen Carson Harrower and Brennan Kennedy; defensive lineman Logan Higgs; linebacker Dayton Ingenhaag; defensive backs Nate Foster and Evan Trottier.