It is a testament to how far the GW Graham Grizzlies have come in their first junior-varsity football year that no one wants to face them.
After starting the season 0-2, opponents may have written them off for dead.
But three straight wins have put GWG back on the map in a big way.
Their latest W, a convincing triumph over the previously unbeaten Abbotsford Collegiate Panthers, has opponents crossing their fingers and toes that the Grizzlies miss the playoffs.
If they get in, they seem capable of beating anyone.
Last Wednesday’s game against the Panthers was a must-win for GWG, and things didn’t look good early on.
The Grizzlies found themselves down 6-0 just three plays in. Following the opening kickoff, the Panthers ran two offensive plays.
The second was a long touchdown run for Phillip Cromwell, who bulled through a crowd at the line and rumbled 47 yards down the left sideline for the major.
The Panthers continued to pound away with the ground game, and early in the second quarter had the ball deep in GWG territory.
Working from the 19 yard line, the Panthers opted to pass.
In hindsight a mistake.
Grayson Marquart dropped back and lobbed the ball into the waiting arms of Grizzly safety Terrell Sparvier. He was tackled at the one yard line, and the Panthers dropped Jordan Breuker in the endzone for a two-point safety on the very next play.
But it could have been a whole lot worse.
At 8-0, the Grizzlies were still alive.
With less than one minute left in the first half, the GWG offence finally found traction.
A Panther fumble set the Grizzlies up at the Abby Collegiate 41.
Breuker found Kirkland Kennedy on a quick out for 10 yards, and found him again on the next play with a 21 yard completion.
On the final play of the half, Breuker hit Treyvon Walsh in the endzone for the first Grizzly major.
GWG’s defence stepped it up in the second half.
Abby Collegiate’s first series ended abruptly with Ryan Trottier picking off a Marquart pass.
“We have exceptional corners in Trottier and Austin Creasy,” said GWG head coach Laurie Smith. “They are big and athletic and can track down most running backs and still recover in coverage if they misread a play. Both players are new to football this year which is a great feature of having a new high school program.”
Chase Claypool, Abby Collegiate’s star running back, was beaten into submission by the tenacious Grizzly D.
Claypool had gone down earlier in the game, and finally left for good late in the third quarter.
With Claypool sidelined by a bum shoulder, the Panther offence couldn’t move. They managed to get to the ball inside the GWG 10 early in the fourth quarter.
But on a fourth-and-goal from the seven, Cromwell was stuffed by the Grizzly front line.
GWG surged ahead late in the fourth quarter, following a Jake Troyan fumble recovery.
Breuker made them pay with a 19 yard touchdown run down the left sideline, giving his Grizzlies a 12-8 lead.
Austin Creasy recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and three plays later Breuker hooked up with Walsh for a 16 yard scoring strike.
The final week of the season has GWG playing another must-win game.
The Grizzlies host the 1-4 Pitt Meadows Marauders at the school, with a 3 p.m. kickoff.
GWG needs to win that game and get some help. The Samuel Robertson Titans (2-3) need to beat the Mission Roadrunners (3-2).
If that happens, GWG gets into the playoffs, where anything can happen.
“It was a huge win for our program. Beating the undefeated No. 1 team in the conference, after they beat provincially-ranked Mission and Bateman put us on the map,” Smith said. “If we win this week we have a shot at the playoffs, and that’s a pretty good showing for a brand new program.Having said that, it may all be meaningless if we don’t get some help from SRT.”
Get more GWG football info at grahamfootball.ca