Nanaimo District Islanders player Zephyr Melnyk tackles Barsby Bulldogs opponent Matt Cooley during Friday's AA varsity football game at Merle Logan Field.

Nanaimo District Islanders player Zephyr Melnyk tackles Barsby Bulldogs opponent Matt Cooley during Friday's AA varsity football game at Merle Logan Field.

NDSS beats Barsby in Kocher Classic

The Nanaimo District Islanders defeated the Barsby Bulldogs 28-20 on Friday night in the Kocher Classic AA varsity football game.

The NDSS Islanders got the better of their neighbourhood rivals.

The Nanaimo District Islanders defeated the John Barsby Bulldogs 28-20 on Friday night in the Kocher Classic AA varsity football game at Merle Logan Field.

The Isles won the turnover battle, which helped them build a 28-14 halftime lead that they were able to protect.

“We just wanted to play tough for four quarters,” said Nate Stevenson, NDSS coach. “We know Barsby likes to play hard-nosed football and we were going to answer the call.”

The first half saw a few momentum shifts as the teams traded touchdowns, and then Nanaimo District scored two quick TDs just before halftime.

The Bulldogs scored on their first drive of the second half and the contest remained a one-score game from there.

“The rest of the game was back and forth with some terrific physical play both ways,” said Rob Stevenson, Barsby coach, in an e-mail.

Nate Stevenson said his team tried to slow down the Bulldogs’ run game and made some plays defensively in key moments.

“They really got some good yards on us, but just a couple miscues here and there and a lucky fumble or a big stop put them in down-and-distance situations that they tried to pass on us and that didn’t work so well,” he said.

That’s how the game ended, as Barsby was forced into a fourth-and-13 which resulted in an incomplete pass.

“All credit to the Islanders as they showed up focused and ready to play,” said Rob.

Friday’s result marked the first time the Islanders have defeated the ‘Dawgs in AA varsity play since an 18-12 win in 2007.

“They’re ranked top-five for a reason, you know, and they’ve been ranked that way for a decade,” said Nate. “And to get in a game and compete with them and come out with the win is very special, a very special moment for the program, especially for our 12th graders who have taken it on the chin since fifth grade.”

ND opened the scoring on a 61-yard fumble-recovery TD by Zephyr Melnyk. Maren Bradbrooke scored on a five-yard quarterback keeper, Donovan Davidson-Collie scored on a three-yard toss play and Nik Johnson scored his team’s other TD on a one-yard dive. Defensively for the Islanders, Bradbrooke intercepted a pass, Reece Maddison made six tackles, Maneel Jaswal made five and Connor Reid played a standout game.

For the Bulldogs, Justis MacKay-Topley got his team on the board, managing to catch a 22-yard pass from quarterback Ethan Laing that had been tipped twice. Matt Cooley had his team’s other scores, a five-yard run and a 78-yard run. Defensively for the ‘Dawgs, Colin Nutting had six tackles and a fumble recovery, MacKay-Topley also had six tackles and Andrew Ranftal had five.

GAME ON … The Islanders host the Seaquam Seahawks on Friday (Oct. 28) at 2:15 p.m. at Merle Logan Field. The Bulldogs visit the Windsor Dukes on Friday in North Vancouver.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com