Grizzlies make history in Mission
At precisely 3:32 Wednesday afternoon, Jordan Breuker's right foot connected with the football, kicking off the first regular season game in GW Graham Grizzly history.
The local lads played the second-ranked team in the province, the Mission Roadrunners and the final score was 24-0.
Twenty years from now, no one's likely to remember that.
What they're more likely to remember is the names and faces of the pigskin pioneers who brought the high school game back to Chilliwack for the first time in three decades. They'll remember Breuker, the 14-year-old quarterback who proved impossible to be brought down by any less than three Mission tacklers.
They'll see No. 14 in white, Billy Hansen, plowing through Mission defenders with his humpback Christian-Okoye style shoulder pads.
They'll see No. 34 in white, Tristan Davis, paving the way for Breuker and Hansen with devastating lead blocks.
On the defensive side, the players and coaches and parents who saw the game will recall the thundering hits thrown by linebacker Kirkland Kennedy and talk about the way outside linebacker Cyrus Tommy three times tracked down and dropped Mission running backs behind the line of scrimmage.
They'll wince when they remember cornerback Ryan Trottier's bone-jarring hit on a Mission receiver, perfectly, and I mean perfectly, timed just as the ball arrived.
It drew a 15-yard pass interference penalty.
“Lousy call,” they'll justifiably say. “He couldn't have timed it any better!”
These and future Grizzlies will go on to play many football games. They will win thrillers and lose heartbreakers and probably claim a championship or thirteen along the way.
But the guys who went to war on that beaten up field in Mission on Sept. 19, 2012 will always be special.
They were the first.
“It's the faces I'll remember,” mused head coach Laurie Smith. “I talked to the coach of Vancouver College not too long ago, and that's a program that's almost 100 years old. And here we are, standing at the very beginning of something. The legacy and traditions we're starting now, in 20 or 50 or 100 years they'll look back at us as the guys who started it all.”
They've been told about it over and over.
The players have heard from Smith about how they are the trail blazers, how they'll make history every time they set foot on the field.
Chances are they don't truly appreciate it now.
When faced with girls and homework and video games, what live-in-the-moment teenager is going to stop to ponder the historical significance of this football rebirth?
“To the 14-year-old mind, I don't think the history of football in Chilliwack is a dominant factor,” Smith conceded. “And that's fine. Right now we're absorbed in just getting into football, focusing on the fundamentals and the task at hand.”
Spoken like a coach who wasn't overly pleased with his team's performance in Mission.
Spoken like a coach who knows there's a second act to come.
On Thursday, his team will make their home-field debut at Exhibition Stadium. There will be more than just a handful of friends and family at this one. The stands, Smith hopes, will be packed to the rafters as his Grizzlies take on the Robert Bateman Timberwolves.
They'll have a band and a cheer squad. It won't just be a football game. It will be an event.
It is this game, not the Mission one, that most of us will remember when we reminisce.
“The atmosphere in Mission, it was just a collection of parents plus some kids who were hanging around and thought they'd see what was happening,” Smith said. “But we've been to games in the United States, and that's what we want. In Lynden, which is not very big, they get 2,500 to 3,000 people out for high school games. It's electric. They've got a tradition where high school football games are the place to be. It'll take time for us to create a tradition that way, but that is one of our goals.”
The Grizzlies may never reach the football-as-religion status depicted on Friday Night Lights.
No one will ever spend $60,000,000 to build an 18,000 seat stadium like the Texas-based Allen Eagles enjoy.
But when Smith talks about the start of something special, he means it.
“In the U-S, being on the high school football team is a huge honour and privilege, a point of pride,” he said. “It's something special to be a part of, and creating that tradition increases the likelihood that more kids will want to be a part of it. I read recently that high school kids never rally around their math team. But they will rally around their football team.”
Kick off is at 6 p.m.