What a difference a year makes.
This time 12 months ago, Chilliwack’s junior bantam Giants were smarting from a 24-20 defeat in the provincial championship game. They came so close to a title, only to lose to the Victoria Renegades, and sometimes you only get one shot at something like that.
But the core of that team moved up to bantam this year, with unfinished business on their mind. They rolled through the regular season with 10 wins and no losses and swatted the Westside Warriors 27-7 in a playoff semi-final.
Sunday afternoon at Coquitlam’s Percy Perry Stadium, they finished their task and erased the sting of last year’s defeat, demolishing the North Surrey Tigers 40-7 to capture the provincial crown.
“I’m feeling pretty happy, waaay better than last year because we won,” said Logan Buchwitz, moments before he was presented with the game MVP trophy. “I’m just really excited.
“We just played our best game of the season, for sure.”
Buchwitz scored three touchdowns for the Giants, who also got majors from Tayton Gienger, Michael Hopwood and Davies Mitchell.
The Chilliwack attack was fueled by an unstoppable ground game which set the tone for the game on their first series. After a big Gienger punt return set them up at the North Surrey 35 yard line, the G-Men took four plays to get to the endzone.
Buchwitz’s first carry was a 17 yarder through the heart of the Tiger D and he finished the drive rumbling around the left side for a 14 yard score.
Christopher Haworth added the convert, the first of four on the day.
“It (the ground game) has pretty much been our bread and butter all year,” Buchwitz said. “We stuck to it and it worked for us.”
Chilliwack’s next major came late in the first half. Pinned deep in their own end, the North Surrey offence was forced to punt from their goal-line. Gienger fielded the kick around the 35, danced past the first wave of Tiger tacklers and was off like a rocket down the left sideline.
His Giants were up 14-0, but North Surrey was hanging tough. Then Michael Hopwood turned in the play of the day.
On the ensuing kickoff No. 20 in blue jarred the ball loose from the Tiger return man and chased down the fumble, falling on the ball at the North Surrey 37 yard line.
“He was going outside and he tried a swim move on me,” Hopwood recalled. “I stuck my hand up, it came loose and I went to go get it.”
Buchwitz ran left for 16 yards, left again for 14 and left again for seven and a TD. So good was their rushing attack that the Giants didn’t need to pass, but quarterback Grayson Frick finished the day with three TD tosses.
The first was a 45 yarder to Buchwitz, who caught a beautiful ball in stride and outran the Tiger D to the endzone.
Frick hooked up with Hopwood and Mitchell on nearly identical plays late in the fourth quarter. Both times the receivers were left uncovered as they ran down the right sideline and got behind the North Surrey secondary.
Frick’s passes were perfect, and those two scores completed the blowout.
The Chilliwack defence was at its best against a Tiger offence that wasn’t without playmakers. Shifty running back Kevin Hurtado accounted for the only North Surrey points, breaking loose for an 85 yard touchdown scamper late in the third quarter, but the Giants limited his damage most of the day.
Blake Vatkin started at QB for the Tigers, but generated nothing against the Chilliwack D.
He was sacked by Muleed Romaya on one series, and dropped by the entire Giants defensive line on another.
Vatkin had one pass batted into the turf by big Mason Murphy and was so rattled by the Chilliwack pass rush at one point that he chucked a ball into the back of one of his linemen.
Vatkin was replaced at half time by Harold David Rhodes, who fared no batter. Rhodes could throw the ball a mile, but several long attempts fell incomplete and he had a shorter try picked off by Mitchell.
North Surrey had the ball at the final whistle, denying Chilliwack the chance to kneel down in victory formation, but no one in blue was complaining as they streamed onto the field to celebrate.
“It’s a much better feeling than last year being on the winning side,” Hopwood said with a grin. “All season long we just tried to do our best every game, one game after another. We focused on that game and then, win or lose, we were on to the next one.
“This feels fantastic.”
— The full Chilliwack roster includes Kaleb Spaner, Noah Sprangers, Carson Dyck, Justin Kennedy, Jacob Dyck, Hayden Dahlby, Josh Janssen, Jackson Saunders, Connor Willdey, Paris Mastin, Jaycob Brown, Jaxon Wilkins, Noah Saunders, Jackson Webster, Dhillon Myers, Kain Friess, Zachary Wilson, Shirley Gonzalez, Braedon Dyck, Blake Goward, Gregory Roberts, Andrew Smith, Cole Kelly, Corey Lamb, Arden Loewen, Avery Ade, Ethan Paisley, Gavin Thomas, Jayden Vandermolen and Jayden Cousins.