Grade 8 Grizzlies advance to AAA title game

The GW Graham Grizzlies are shocking the BC high school football world. They'll play for a provincial title Dec. 1.

On Dec. 1 the GW Graham Grade 8 Grizzlies football team will take to the field at BC Place Stadium for a provincial title game against Notre Dame.

It will arguably be the most significant football game a team from Chilliwack has ever played.

Yes, there have been minor football teams who have advanced to provincial championships. The midget Giants did it in 2009 and the peewee Giants did it in 2010, coached by current GWG bench boss Laurie Smith.

Admirable accomplishments both, but here’s what makes the Grizzlies so exceptional.

We’re talking about a first year program.

At this time last year, GWG football was little more than a concept on paper. Starting a program is no small task and usually carries substantial growing pains. Taking a group of teenagers, some with football experience and some without, and moulding them into a winning team is supposed to take time and most coaches will be happy fielding a competitive team that might be good enough to make the playoffs.

So what do these kids do?

They roll through the regular season with just one setback. They lose 32-22 to Pitt Meadows in week one of the regular season, and they don’t look back. They finish 5-1, good for first place in their AA conference.

Then the fun really starts.

Smith’s crew is bumped up to the AAA playoffs. The reward for his middleweight squad is the opportunity to get clobbered by the AAA heavyweights.

“After our regular season finale, when we were in the handshake line with Abbotsford, their kids were literally laughing,” Smith said. “They thought it was hilarious because now we had to go face the top seed in AAA.”

In their playoff opener they travel to Burnaby to face the storied Vancouver College Fighting Irish,  one of the dominant programs in BC high school football.

The Grizzlies win, 24-18.

Fair enough. Any given Sunday right? They’ll get knocked back to Earth in the next one.

The next one is against the St. Thomas More Knights. On a chilly Monday night at the Burnaby Lakes Sports Complex, Emilio Pineda rips off 214 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Jared Lengert adds 72 yards and a major.

Down 14-8 to start the third quarter, the Grizzlies stay patient and run their single-wing offence to perfection.

Ethan Mastin leads a defence that shuts down the Knights, and when the final whistle blows, the scoreboard reads 30-14 and GWG is off to provincials.

Any given Sunday doesn’t happen twice in a row, does it?

At some point, you’ve got to tip your hat.

This isn’t a fluke. These kids are really, really good.

“Those traditional schools that win it every year, they’re big schools with 60-70 kids on the roster, and I’m excited that we’re able to compete at that level,” Smith observed. “And if we succeed in the final, it will be our school’s first provincial championship in any sport. Seven years of sports at GWG, and for us to come in and be the first would be remarkable.”

So they wait for Dec. 1 and a date with Notre Dame. This one’s under the big top with an 8:30 a.m.  start.

The Grizzlies face another storied program that just thwomped Lord Tweedsmuir 30-0, and Notre Dame will almost certainly be favoured to win.

But something special’s happening with these Grizzlies, and at this point, would anyone be crazy enough to bet against them?

“I was looking at the champions going back to 1920, because BC high school football has been around for a long time,” Smith said. “You can look back on 80 years of provincials and not see Chilliwack anywhere on there. For us to have this chance to become the first, that’s exciting.”

Catch a provincial preview in next Thursday’s Chilliwack Progress sports section.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COLUMN: Don’t be surprised to see hordes of teenagers gathering during this pandemic

The complexity and nuance of public health warnings look like mixed messaging to minds young and old

RCMP escort beaver across busy Chilliwack road

Motorists had to exercise patience as the slow-moving creature crossed several lanes of traffic

Rail traffic starts moving after 60-car derailment near Hope

The 60 cars carrying potash crashed along a rail bridge, clean up is ongoing

Fraser Valley foursome to hike 70km over mountains in memory of friend

Friends from Abbotsford and Langley to hike from Hope to Tulameen for Brook Morrison

Chilliwack RCMP officers find rewarding work in Mental Health Liaison Unit

Two officers are trying to bridge the gap between police and those with mental health issues

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Record-breaking 165 new COVID-19 cases diagnosed in B.C. in 24-hour period

Fifty-seven people are in hospital battling the novel coronavirus

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

PHOTOS: One injured in shooting on South Surrey-Langley border

Shots reported near 194 Street and 34 Avenue, burned-out vehicle found in 18100-block of 12 Avenue

Report raises questions about COVID outbreak that killed 25 seniors at Langley Lodge

CEO defends leaked document that’s igniting queries about BC’s most deadly COVID outbreak

B.C.’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan: Top 5 things you need to know

Jobs training, tax incentives for employers to hire staff and more

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

B.C. releases details of $1.5B economic recovery plan, $660M in business tax incentives

Economic plan includes support for employers, as well as training for workers

Most Read