The long-awaited clash of two Chilliwack’s two high school football teams is here.
The perennial powerhouse G.W. Graham Grizzlies meet the ascending Sardis Falcons in the first round of the AAA playoffs, Friday night (Nov. 12 at 7 p.m.) at Exhibition Stadium.
Though Sardis returned to the gridiron in 2018, the Falcons and Grizz haven’t even met in a controlled scrimmage or preseason game. Some on the G.W. Graham side have suggested the Falcons have been ‘ducking’ or ‘avoiding’ them these past few years.
“Honestly, we weren’t ready to take on a team like G.W. Graham,” said Sardis coach Sukh Parmar, who is in his first year as head coach of the Falcons. “It seemed convenient to me that they were asking to play us, knowing our situation as a startup. It seemed like maybe they were trying to pad their stats or something.
“But we are ready now, and it should be a good game on Friday.”
The Falcons are coming off the most impressive regular season in their young history. They finished first in the AAA Pacific Conference, sewing up top spot with a 27-14 road win over North Vancouver’s Handsworth Royals last Friday (Nov. 5).
Sardis went 4-0, with 137 points for and just 21 against.
That said, Parmar acknowledged his crew didn’t face anyone the calibre of G.W. Graham and he suggested they are heavy underdogs.
“We’re happy to be here. Nobody expected us to win our division or go unbeaten, and I think the pressure will be more on them than us,” the coach noted. “We weren’t supposed to be here and the longer the game stays close, the more that pressure pendulum will swing towards them.”
The Grizzlies did typical Grizzly things this season. Making their first foray into AAA football, G.W. Graham didn’t skip a beat. They went 6-1 in the East Conference, with 194 points for and 94 against. Their lone loss came on the road against traditional AAA heavyweight Terry Fox.
The Grizzlies finished second in their division, setting up the all-local playoff battle.
“It’s a dream come true,” said G.W. Graham defensive coordinator Ian Parks. “I have coached players on both teams with the (Chilliwack Minor Football) Giants, and I have coached with coaches on both sidelines. We know each other very well, so there are no secrets. Both teams have the ability to score a tonne, and both have stingy defences.
“It’s going to come down to the final whistle for sure.”
Grizzlies head coach Luke Acheson calls Friday’s game the culmination of 10 years work building high school football in Chilliwack.
“We started the G.W. Graham program in 2012 and many of our coaches went over to Sardis in 2018 to start that program,” he said. “Coaches Adam Smith, Suresh Parray and Suhk Parmar have done an amazing job of bringing back the proud Sardis Falcons football tradition. This Friday night will be an electric atmosphere with the first high school game featuring two Chilliwack teams in over 40 years.”
Win or lose Friday, it’s been a significant season for the Falcons. Making the playoffs for the first time is a great achievement. Senior offensive tackle Travis Richley, whose leadership and dedication has had a significant impact on the Sardis program, was a unanimous choice as the Pacific Conference MVP, almost unheard of for an offensive lineman.
Parmar said there’s a lot to build on heading into 2022.
“We are super proud of everyone,” he said. “The coaches have worked extremely hard. The parents and alumni have been super supportive. Most importantly, the kids deserve all the credit. The ones who’ve been with us since 2018 stuck with it and improved over the last few years, to the point where we could get to where we are now.
“It’s been a lot of work by a lot of people to get here, but the biggest challenge is still before us.”
l There is no admission to the big game, but both teams are asking for the donation of a non-perishable food item for the local food bank.