Both Nanaimo’s junior varsity football teams are into the B.C. semifinals and one win away from playing each other for a championship.
The Barsby Bulldogs and the Nanaimo District Islanders juniors both won their quarterfinal playoff games last week. Barsby blasted the Langley Saints 60-0 on Wednesday at Merle Logan Field, then NDSS visited the Seaquam Seahawks on Thursday and won 21-20.
“This is uncharted territory for NDSS for junior varsity, getting to the semis,” said Nate Stevenson, Islanders coach. “We really, really, really worked for it and wanted to win and we overcame a lot of adversity. Being a coach watching that is something special.”
The win was every bit as exciting as one would expect from a one-point victory in the post-season. The game included 10 turnovers – the Isles fumbled six times and the Seahawks were intercepted four times.
“The kids tried super hard, but we were doing our darndest to lose the football game…” Stevenson said. “It was quite a cardiac arrest for coaches.”
NDSS trailed 14-0 at halftime and 20-13 after three quarters, but midway through the fourth quarter, a long completion to Liam Colbourne set up a short TD pass to Clayton Hennessy to bring the Islanders within one. They elected to go for two and although running back Anthony Comas was hit before the goal line, he was able to keep moving his feet and get in.
NDSS had a bad snap on a punt with 30 seconds left and gave Seaquam the ball on the 25-yard line, but a Hennessy interception ended the game.
Kyle Lindsay scored ND’s first TD on a 15-yard run and Comas had the other major on a pick-six. Finn Bradbrooke had a team-high six tackles as well as an interception and Colbourne also intercepted a pass.
Nanaimo District will face the Samuel Robertson Technical Titans on Thursday (Nov. 24) in North Vancouver.
“We were very excited after we won the game, but seeing them on the ferry ride on the way home, you could kind of tell their focus was shifting already…” Stevenson said. “We’re going to have a good, solid week of practice and we’re going to try our darndest to win this.”
Barsby wins in a blowout
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, made sure their playoff game didn’t go down to the wire as they hit their stride by their second possession, said coach Rob Stevenson.
There were numerous offensive contributors for Barsby, and defence was also a team effort.
“Our defence set the tone physically, probably the best team hitting I’ve seen all year,” the coach said. “Team tackling was ferocious, there was great pursuit angles and everybody just picked up off of that.”
The Bulldogs gained 422 rushing yards and 81 passing yards in the win. Steen Rasmussen had 120 yards and four touchdowns on just eight carries and Kole Postema had 125 yards and two touchdowns. Zach Taylor and Jayden Krayco also scored rushing TDs and Cam Wright scored a two-point convert.
On defence, A.J. Maher made seven tackles, Krayco had six and Taylor had five tackles and an interception. Ricardo Zavala-Torres had two interceptions and Hendrik Weinert also picked off a pass. Kaden Browne had a fumble recovery.
Barsby now goes up against the Vernon Panthers on Wednesday (Nov. 23) in Abbotsford. The Panthers juniors defeated the ’Dawgs 30-16 in the pre-season.
“Both teams have got a season under their belt with a lot of development…” Rob Stevenson said. “It’s red-hot team versus red-hot team.”
The coach has often said that the B.C. semifinal is the hardest game to win. It’s huge stakes, and his players know that.
“It’s there in the background,” he said. “No one’s talking about the championship. That’s for another time, if we’re successful. We have to go out and practise our tails off and be smart and clean up mistakes.”
GAME ON … The Bulldogs and Panthers play Wednesday at 2 p.m. at W.J. Mouat Secondary School field. The Islanders and Titans play Thursday at 1:30 p.m. at William Griffin Park.