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Vernon Panthers to host Kelowna in Interior football final

The AA Panthers entertain the AAA Owls Friday, Dec. 3, 7 p.m., at Greater Vernon Athletic Park
Joe Murphy (12) and the Vernon Panthers will host the AA/AAA Interior/North Senior Varsity high school football championship, Friday, Dec. 3, at Greater Vernon Athletic Park. The AA Cats will take on the AAA Kelowna Owls. Kick-off is 7 p.m. (Darren Hove photo)

The Vernon Panthers senior varsity football team’s season will end on its home field, not B.C. Place Stadium.

The Cats will host the AAA Kelowna Owls Friday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. at Greater Vernon Athletic Park in the B.C. High School Football’s AA/AAA Interior/North championship.

The two-time reigning high school AA Subway Bowl champion Panthers were denied a chance to go for a three-peat in Vancouver when B.C. School Sports cancelled all provincial championships on Nov. 17 due to flooding in the province, and made regional championship finals instead.

The Panthers haven’t played since Nov. 20 when they travelled to Prince George and knocked off the North’s No. 1 seed, the Duchess Park Condors, 31-7.

The Owls advanced to the final with a 37-8 romp over the AA South Kamloops Titans in Kamloops Saturday, Nov. 27. The Titans were the No. 1 AA seed from the Interior, having upset the Panthers 7-6 in Vernon earlier this season.

South Kamloops was originally slated to play host to the Ballenas Whalers of Parksville in a provincial quarter-final matchup, with the winner advancing to the AA Subway Bowl semifinal round, which was to take place in BC Place Stadium.

But the cancellation of provincial championships, which dashed dreams of playing in the dome, did not sit well with neither Panthers bench boss Sean Smith or Titans’ head coach Brad Yamaoka and was a tough pill for players in the Okanagan, Interior and North regions.

“It’s obviously unfortunate, but we still get to come out here and ball out with the boys,” said Jaeke Schlachter, Kelowna’s standout who caught two touchdown passes and kicked four extra points and one field goal vs the Titans on Saturday.

“It’s better than sitting at home. You get to come out here and play football. That’s all that matters.”

South Kamloops, a smaller school than Kelowna, was undermanned and a major underdog heading into the contest, but held its own in the first quarter, which turned into a puntfest and finished in a scoreless tie.

Kelowna held a 27-0 lead at halftime, up big on a South Kam team that lost two key cogs to injury — provincial all-star Toryn Fraser and tackling machine Jakob Kies.

“Full strength to full strength, we could hold our own a little bit, but again, numbers, right?” Yamaoka said after the game. “We lose a couple of starters and we just don’t have much to go to after that. The kids who stepped in played well, but at the end of the day, it’s tough to compete against these Triple A schools with bigger rosters. A lot of them weren’t super excited to be playing this game, but that’s the way it is…”

—-with files from Marty Hastings, Kamloops This Week

READ MORE: Vernon Panthers prevail in Prince George

READ MORE: Titans shock Vernon Panthers

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Black Press Media Staff

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