Unless there’s a change by the governing body, the Vernon Panthers will end their B.C. High School Junior Varsity Football season as Interior AA champions.
Because, right now, they can’t go any further.
B.C. School Sports (BCSS) announced Wednesday, Nov. 17, that it was cancelling its 2021 provincial championships due to the severe flooding and landslides which, at the time, closed all the major highway routes to and from Vancouver. This was for all levels – AAA Varsity, AA Varsity, Junior Varsity. BCSS opted for regional championships at all levels, a move that affected both the Vernon Panthers senior and JV teams.
“Our players and parents are extremely disappointed about this decision and have indicated that they are willing to fly their kids to Vancouver if need be so they could have a chance to compete in a provincial championship at BC Place,” said Panthers junior varsity head coach Brett Fitzpatrick.
There has been no reply to the VSS request to overturn the decision, and senior varsity head coach Sean Smith said after his team’s 31-7 win in Prince George over the Duchess Park Condors Saturday, Nov. 20, that he would be discussing options with BCSS.
The Junior Panthers, playing at home on a cold, crisp Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 17, at Greater Vernon Athletic Park, dismantled the Westsyde Blue Wave of Kamloops 38-14 in the Interior AA final. The win regularly would have moved VSS to the final four, to be played at Burnaby Lakes, with the two winners meeting in the provincial championship at B.C. Place.
The Panthers came ready to play in the first quarter with a long dive capped by a 13-yard touchdown pass to Austin Dunnill from quarterback Cole Budgen. In the next drive, the Panthers drove down the field finishing it off with a 35-yard run by Ayden Macdonald. The first quarter ended with Panthers ahead 14-0
At the end of the second quarter the Panthers gave up a late touchdown to Westsyde ending the half with the Panthers leading 14-7.
At the start of the second half, the Panthers got the ball and pounded it down the field for a score by Mcdonald but failed on the point after, making it 20-7. The Panthers stepped up their defence, got the ball back and played very strong with stellar running by Mcdonald who added another touchdown with Anderson Bicknell converting the two-point try. Liam Greenan later kicked a 20-yard field goal making the score 31-7.
During the fourth quarter the Panthers put out their second team offence who drove the field and Anderson Bicknell ran in a 37-yard touchdown. Westsyde answered later in the game with just their second touchdown of the game.
“We were very concerned about Westsyde passing attack as they put up 51 points on us the last time we played them (won 57-51 by VSS), so our focus all week was to stop their two star receivers,” said Fitzpatrick “Our defence answered the bell and defensive coordinator Andy Shaw made some great calls and adjustments during the game which ultimately shut them down
“I can’t say how proud I am of all our players, how they stepped it up when we needed them the most. They earned this win and the title of Junior AA Interior Champions.
Mcdonald rushed for three touchdowns and 141 yards on 18 carries. Bicknell had three catches for 82 yards, 29 yards on the ground on three games and finished with a touchdown and two-point convert. Dunnill had five five catches for 58 yards and a major. Budgen was 11-15 for 163 yards and two TDs while backup QB Elijah Curtis threw a 27-yard pass.
The Cats’ defence played hard against some much larger players with Mark Johnson getting seven tackles, Cisko Hove added six and Jace Collard made five tackles.