An overflowing rain-drenched crowd at Greater Vernon Athletics Park witnessed why the Vernon (VSS) Panthers are the No. 1 ranked senior AA varsity football team in the province.
It was Friday Night Lights and fans were also treated to a virtuoso performance in the art of quarterbacking by Thomas Hyett of VSS.
Fighting driving rain for much of the night, the Panthers signal caller connected on 16-of-24 passes for 278 yards and four touchdowns was VSS posted their sixth straight undefeated Interior Conference title by grounding cross-town rival Fulton Maroons 48-0.
Hyett’s favourite target was Caden Danbrook, who recorded eight catches for 168 yards, the longest being a 55-yard catch and run. Zack Smith tallied two scores from 37 and 26 yards out and Riley Macgillivray was the recipient of the game’s first touchdown – a seven yarder.
On the ground, Charles Lemay put up another MVP-like performance, racking up 151 yards on 14 carries; including touchdowns from 38 yards and a one-yard plung. Matthew Reich scored on a 10-yard run.
“Our O-line had another great game today,” said Panther head coach Sean Smith. “They are getting better and better each week and are the engine of our offence right now. Our ability to eat up large chunks of real estate on the ground is making our pass game so much more effective and their blitz pick up has been outstanding.”
Defensively, Trey Defoor was in the backfield all game registering four sacks and three tackles, while fellow line mates Kael Black and Liam Reid had two sacks apiece. Linebacker Drew Mackenzie led all tacklers with five.
“Fulton battled hard and played us tough all night,” said Smith. “We put a lot of pressure on them which made a big difference. Our D-Line had eight QB sacks on very few drop backs which was a huge boost.”
The win gives Vernon a bye to the quarterfinals where they will host the winner of Langley Saints vs Ballenas Whalers (Parksville) in two weeks.
“The playoff bracket didn’t do us a lot of favours,” said Smith. “Whoever comes to Vernon (Ballenas or Langley) in two weeks is going to be a well coached, well prepared team that is going to be riding a high after winning the opening-round game. Thankfully, we have two weeks to prepare for what’s going to be a very tough quarterfinal opponent.”
Vernon led 21-0 at the break and 34-0 after three quarters.
“The battle of Vernon wasn’t,” said Fulton head coach Mike Scheller. “Full credit to VSS for a great team win. They out- coached us and beat us in all three phases of the game. They have an excellent team and we were not close. Their offensive line is very good and they pass protect very well. They open some big holes for their talented skill guys and they make the offensive click. Their defence is very aggressive. They fill and tackle well. We simply could not get anything going. They blitzed us and were simply faster than us.”
Scheller gave major props to two-way starter Quin Williamson and defensive lineman Liam Gombrich.
“I am happy with the effort and competitive level of our kids. They played as hard in the first quarter as they did when the game was out of reach. They don’t have quit in them and they showed a lot of competitve spirit. They got bested by a better team, that’s all.”
Fulton secured the No. 2 seed in the Interior Conference since the South Kam Saints defeated Westsyde Blue Wave 35-18, giving Fulton, South Kam and Westsyde 2-2 records. Fulton won the points for/against tiebreaker and will host the West No. 3 Windsor Dukes of North Vanouver (date and time TBA).