The Bulldogs took a bite out of the Panthers.
Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs advanced to the B.C. School Sports Senior Varsity AA Football championship Saturday, Nov.26, at B.C. Place in Vancouver, defeating the Vernon Panthers 36-14.
The Panthers won the AA B.C. title in 2018 and 2019. There was no championship in 2020 due to COVID, and there was no official B.C. title game played in 2021 due to provincial flooding.
Barsby will face the Robert Bateman Timberwolves of Abbotsford in the provincial championship at B.C. Place Saturday, Dec. 3. The Timberwolves defeated Prince George’s College Heights Cougars 21-7 in the other championship. The Cougars had not played a game prior to Saturday in more than three weeks.
There was no scoring between the Bulldogs and Panthers in the opening 12 minutes. With Barsby threatening in the red zone (inside Vernon’s 20-yard line), Panthers defender Scotty Hoffman knocked the ball out of running back Rhondé Lyle’s hands and Vernon teammate Dawson Bond recovered the fumble.
Barsby broke the deadlock midway through the second quarter when quarterback Cohen Cadieux hit receiver Kai Rednour-Bruckman with a 31-yard scoring pass. The convert was missed by Meshach Imanzenobe, leaving the score 6-0 Bulldogs.
After the ensuing kickoff, the Dogs’ defence turned the ball over when Cole Jaques punched the ball out of receiver Austin Dunnill’s hands, and the loose ball was recovered by Barsby’s Jonny Durkan at the Vernon 35.
Several plays later, on fourth and five, Cadieux handed off to Cesare Rednour-Bruckman who scampered into the end zone from five yards out. He also added the two-point convert, giving Barsby a 14-0 lead.
The Cats would get on the board before the end of the half as quarterback Braden Khunkhun hit Mitchell Bond with an eight-yard pass. Gustavo Queireroz booted the extra point, making it 14-7 Nanaimo at the intermission.
The Bulldogs took the opening kick-off of the second half and marched 70 yards down the field, capping the 4 minute 30 second drive with a Lyle seven-yard run. He also added the two-point convert to make the score 22-7 Barsby, which they took into the final quarter.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, provincial offensive AA MVP, Vernon running back Joe Murphy, ran 20 yards for a major. The play was set up by a 50-yard Murphy scamper on the final play of the third quarter. The convert pulled to Vernon to within a touchdown at 22-14.
Lyle’s third touchdown of the game, a one-yard plunge, came with 9:22 to go, and he added a two-point conversion to make the score 30-14. Lyle would have a fourth touchdown later in the quarter called back due to a holding penalty.
Cadieux hit Durkan with an eight-yard pass with 3:15 left to complete the scoring.
Both teams placed a total of 10 players on the B.C. AA all-star team prior to the game. Ryler Dalton and Cesare Rednour-Bruckman were chosen on offence from the Bulldogs at offensive lineman and receiver, respectively, while lineman Parker Moscrip and linebacker Colton Finstad were selected on defence.
Besides Murphy, offensive stars from Vernon included lineman Terry Johnson, Bond at wide receiver and Hoffman at flex back.
Khunkhun was selected an all-star at defensive back while Mark Johnson was named top Grade 11 offensive lineman.