The Vernon Panthers exorcised some ghosts from their past, defeating the John Barsby Bulldogs of Nanaimo 20-6 in B.C. Subway Bowl Senior AA Varsity Football League quarterfinal action Friday night at Greater Vernon Athletic Park.
The Panthers, who had previously dropped two semifinal tilts to the Bulldogs, prevailed despite turning the ball over five times on fumbles.
“We were lucky to come away with the win,” said Panther head coach Sean Smith. “Anytime you give the ball away that many times, you’re usually not going to win against a quality opponent. We were fortunate that the turnovers didn’t end up costing us, but we left a lot of points on the field when we turned it over deep in their territory.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Panthers took a 6-0 lead with two field goals coming off the foot of Perez Vermeulen.
Barsby responded in the final minute of the half with a short TD pass to even the score. The ensuing errant snap on the extra point kept the score tied at the break.
The third quarter was all Panthers. Valley Conference Defensive MVP Brad Hladik got the ball rolling with a pick six, returning an interception 23 yards.
Shortly after, Thomas Hyett (10-of-13 for 97 yards) found Riley Macgillivray on a 20-yard strike to put the Cats up by two majors.
“Hats off to Barsby. We always know what we are in for when we play them,” added Smith. “They brought it on every snap and gave us all we could handle until the final whistle. I was very happy with how my boys responded physically in the game. I thought our defence was lights out and our dline got lots of penetration on their inside run plays. We made a couple of coverage errors, but otherwise were very stout.”
Tailback Charles Lemay was, once again a workhorse for the Panthers, carrying the ball 22 times for 115 yards.
Defensively, Lemay had a game-high nine tackles and a pass deflection that saved a touchdown.
For the second game in a row, the interior defensive line was tough to handle. Defensive tackles Trey Defoor and Liam Alder both recorded eight tackles, with many of them coming in the backfield.
“This was a great win for our program,” said Smith. “Barsby has been the gold standard in AA football and they’ve had our number in the playoffs and ended our season quite a few times. We have a lot of respect for their program and what they’ve been able to accomplish, so to beat them when it counts was great for us.”
The Panthers will now face the winner of the Abbotsford Panthers and Hugh Boyd Trojans in the provincial semifinal next weekend.
Meanwhile, the Fulton Maroons fell to the No. 1 ranked Windsor Dukes of NorthVancouver 49-13 in quarterfinal action Saturday morning at B.C. Place.
“They were better than we are,” said Fulton head coach Mike Scheller. “They’re better coached and they played better than us. That happens in football. Our guys went hard all game.”
Caden Doyle recorded both TDs for Fulton, one on an eight-yard pass from Ike Olson and another on an 80-yard kick-off return.
Fulton won their wildcard game last Fridaty.