Star linebacker Miguel Wood (left) and the swarming GW Graham defence made life miserable for the Holy Cross Crusaders and every other opponent they faced this season.

Grizzly D leads championship charge

The GW Graham Grizzlies have the stingiest defence in BC high school football, and the offence isn't too bad either.

If it’s true that defence wins championships, then the GW Graham Grizzlies are in fine shape heading into the playoffs.GWG’s varsity football squad wrapped up the regular season sched last Friday with a 15-0 home win over Argyle.They finished the five game slate undefeated, averaging 35 points per game.But here’s the big number.The Grizzly D did not surrender a single point. They pitched shutouts against Salmon Arm (46-0), Holy Cross (33-0) and Robert Bateman (32-0).Two wins were forfeit by Langley and Argyle, each going into the books as 15-0 triumphs.“It’s just disciplined execution football, where we ask the guys to do simple stuff and trust each other,” head coach Adam Smith said at a Monday afternoon practice. “The coaches have been coaching them up and the players have been listening 100 per cent.”It wasn’t supposed to be this way.The Grizzlies lost key pieces from last year’s D with the graduation of guys like Cainen Bergh, Emerson Smith and Jordan Breuker, and the unit was supposed to take a step backwards.But into the breach have stepped young guys like Thomas Bentley, Shane Claridge and Daniel Santos.“Thomas has played outside linebacker and given us a solid one-two punch with Miguel (Wood),” Smith said. “We knew Miguel would be solid, but Thomas is one of the young guys who stepped in right away.”“And our two cornerbacks, Shane was always solid and he’s stepped up like we thought he would.”“Daniel had a rough preseason, but he’s got it together now and he’s playing hard.”The result is a unit that is three levels deep. From the defensive line to the linebackers to the secondary, there are no weaknesses for an opposing offence to exploit.If there’s a beating heart to this D, it’s the line.Dakota Mathers has just been named an Eastern conference all-star. Michael Lengert would have been an all-star too had injury not limited him to two games.Nose tackle Ethan Stubbs has been a revelation at nose tackle, taking on two blockers every play to keep the linebackers clean.As the playoffs start, star running back Von Richardson checks back in at LB to play both ways. His presence, along with Ethan Mastin’s in the secondary, has the Grizzlies poised for a provincial run.They’re just three wins away, starting with a Nov. 19 quarter-final at Exhibition Stadium against either the Clarence Fulton Maroons (Vernon) or the Windsor  Dukes (North Vancouver).“I think it’s going to be Windsor who comes here,” said Smith, who’s been devouring game film over the last week. “Their quarterback and their top receiver are up there with anyone in the province.”The Dukes finished 4-2 in the Western conference and could be a formidable foe.“At this time of year, it’s whoever executes better and forces their game plan upon their opponent — that’s the team with the best chance of going through,” Smith said. “Windsor’s QB (Ryan Baker) is a big and physical kid who run, has a good arm, has good ball fakes and will test our defence to the max.”Windsor is one of four Western conference heavyweights on the horizon.The Dukes actually finished third behind Richmond’s Hugh Boyd  Trojans (5-1) and Delta’s Seaquam Seahawks (5-1).“Ballenas (Parksville, 4-2 record) is the wild-card because they’ll win 64-7 one week and lose 7-0 the next, so you’re not quite sure what you’re getting.”As the calibre of opponent rises, the Grizzlies probably won’t keep their goose-egg intact.And that’s OK, as long as the wins keep coming.“The no-points-against thing is something that’s special and they’re proud of it, but we try to avoid talking about that sort of stuff,” Smith said. “It’s for the same reason we haven’t talked about going to the dome (BC Place) or anything like that.”“A part of our success has not been looking ahead.” “But I’m sure they probably talk about it when I’m not around.”Find more info online at

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