Football semis will be a battle

The John Barsby Bulldogs face the Vernon Panthers on Saturday (Nov. 29) in Vancouver, with one team advancing to the Subway Bowl.

Barsby Bulldogs quarterback North Rainey is tackled by a Seaquam Seahawks opponent during quarterfinal action last Saturday at Merle Logan Field.

Barsby Bulldogs quarterback North Rainey is tackled by a Seaquam Seahawks opponent during quarterfinal action last Saturday at Merle Logan Field.

Something’s got to give this weekend in the AA varsity football semifinals when the defending champs play the top-ranked team.

The John Barsby Bulldogs face the Vernon Panthers on Saturday (Nov. 29) in Vancouver, with one team advancing to the Subway Bowl provincial championship.

Barsby coach Rob Stevenson said Vernon is “easily the No. 1 team in B.C. right now” after a blowout win of Abbotsford in the quarterfinals.

“[The Panthers have] been winning by 30 points against everybody. They haven’t been challenged once this year, not even remotely,” Stevenson said. “They haven’t been in a tight game and I wonder how they’ll respond to it if it does turn out to be that. Hopefully we put them in that situation.”

Barsby advanced to the semis in a squeaker win over Seaquam and Stevenson said his guys are a scrappy bunch that knows what it takes to win playoff football games.

The semis should be another good scrap. The Bulldogs coach is expecting a physical contest with the “nasty” Panthers.

“Some teams hit because they’ve got to hit, these kids relish it. They like the rough stuff,” he said. “But it’s not just a bunch of brawlers, they’re polished brawlers.”

The ’Dawgs will stick to their game plan and try to pound the football.

“Just get more of our guys on their guys and run all over them, that’s our deal…” said Cole Virtanen, Bulldogs back. “We know who they are, we know what we’ve got to do. Practice has been good this week and we’ll rally together and get this win.”

Vernon coach Sean Smith said he’s impressed with his players’ ability to focus and follow the game plan. His Panthers are becoming regulars in the provincial semifinals and are looking for a breakthrough.

“I think we’ve got a legitimate shot this time,” said Smith. “Barsby is the defending provincial champion and have, who I believe, is the best coach in AA football. We’re going to have our work cut out for us this week, but I think we’re up for the challenge.”

On semifinal Saturday this week, it’s going to be a battle to get to the big bowl game.

“Whoever wins will win legit, and whoever loses will have given their full measure,” Stevenson said.

GAME ON … The Bulldogs and Panthers kick off Saturday at 1 p.m. at the University of British Columbia’s Thunderbird Stadium. John Barsby Secondary School will be sending a fan bus over on the ferry; for information, please stop by the school office.

-with files from the Vernon Morning Star