The GW Graham Grizzlies host the Hugh Boyd Trojans in a playoff game Thursday afternoon, with head coach Laurie Smith hoping it is the first step on the path towards a provincial banner.
Smith’s junior varsity crew wrapped up the regular season last week, falling 35-6 on the road in Abbotsford.
They finished the regular season 5-2, good for third place in the east division standings.
The teams ahead of them, Abbotsford (7-0) and Lord Tweedsmuir, moved up to the AAA playoff bracket, and the Grizzlies were relegated to AA.
“We’re in the playoffs either way, but I’m not sure I’m a big fan of that system,” Smith said. “Last year with the Grade 8s, it was great to get bumped up to AAA and beat some big boys on our way to the provincial final.”
At the same time, if collecting provincial banners is a goal, the Grizzlies face much better odds staying in their weight class.
With 900 students in Grades 7-12, GWG is tailor-made for the AA level.
“It was tough for our Grade 8s to lose in the AAA final, and then see a team (HD Stafford) that we beat quite handily in the regular season win the AA provincial banner,” Smith acknowledged.
That’s not to say the AA bracket will be a cake-walk.
A win over the 2-3 Trojans would set GWG up in a semi-final against one of South Kamloops or Prince George.
GWG would hit the road in either scenario. If PG was the opponent, they’d be taking on a team that went 8-0 in the regular season, with 359 points for and eight against.
The lop-sided loss to Abbotsford shouldn’t carry too much weight when judging GWG’s playoff readiness.
Win or lose, they were going to be in the playoffs, and they faced Abbotsford without their top player.
QB Jordan Breuker was sidelined by a dislocated finger.
Had it been a do-or-die game, he probably would have been in there.
“He will be back playing on Thursday,” Smith confirmed. “He wanted to play against Abbotsford, and we said no.”
His presence will help a GWG offence that is depleted at running back.
Billy Hansen isn’t expected to play, nor is Tristan Davis.
Emerson Smith and Tyler Sprott will split the tailback duties, and Breuker will probably get a ton of carries on QB keepers.
“Jordan can do it all, as long as he doesn’t break something,” Smith chuckled.
The best news of all may be that the Trojans don’t have a Chase Claypool in their lineup. The Abby football phenom was the difference maker in last week’s game.
“We expect him to be good and last week he was great,” Smith said. “The kid runs a 4.5 40, and he’s just phenomenal. Whatever we did didn’t matter. On one of his four TDs, he caught the ball in triple coverage and just sauntered into the endzone.”
Kickoff for Thursday’s playoff game is 4:30 p.m. at Exhibition Stadium.
— The senior squad ended their season with a win, dumping the Samuel Robertson Titans 27-13 Friday.
Quarterback Brandon McCormick led the way.
The first year pivot completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 227 yards and two touchdowns. He ran for another.
“I hope he keeps playing because he’s got a level of poise that’s hard to teach,” Smith said of his QB, who was a soccer player prior to this year. “He is so relaxed back there and he can throw darts.”
Wideout Jake Creasey had a great game, catching four passes for 106 yards and a major.
He added another 132 yards on four punt returns.
The Titans did a good job bottling up GWG’s top running back, Brett Westad. But Treyvon Walsh was effective out of the backfield, picking up close to 100 yards.
The Grizzlies finished their first senior season 2-5.
They will not be in the playoffs.
“I remember saying a couple weeks ago, after they were eliminated from playoff contention, that I hope they don’t mail it in,” Smith said. “Kudos that they didn’t. They were out-gunned in most of their games against bigger, stronger and tougher teams. But they showed a ton of heart.”