There’s a well-worn saying in football that offence wins games and defence wins championships.
No matter what you believe about that phrase, the GW Graham Grizzlies are in good shape heading into tomorrow’s junior varsity AA provincial title game at B.C. Place Stadium.
If it’s offence you like, the high-octane Grizz averaged 41 points per game in six regular season and playoff outings.
They have an elite quarterback in Grayson Frick and perhaps the best JV player in B.C. in Logan Buchwitz.
A rock solid supporting cast includes names like Michael Hopwood and Kaleb Spanner.
But enough about the O.
They’ve had plenty of time in the spotlight this season, and the Grizzlies are just as good on the other side of the ball.
If you like defence, consider that GWG has shut out three straight opponents and given up 36 points, total, in six games this season.
“We’re very good at what we do and our defensive coach (Jeff Samulak) says we’re the team’s secret weapon,” said cornerback Sam Mannes, the team’s second leading tackler. “We’re just good.”
The Grizz D is dominant on all three levels, from line to linebackers to secondary. The latter two groups benefit from playing behind a devastating group of big boys who have mashed opposing offensive lines, running backs and quarterbacks into the dirt.
“The offence may put up points, but we put zeroes on the scoreboard,” said Dhillon Myers, who has been an unstoppable wrecking ball on the GWG defensive line. “Our side of the ball sets the tone for the offence and special teams and everything.”
GW Graham’s first round playoff foe, the Ballenas Whalers (Parksville), averaged 32 points per game during the regular season.
The Grizzlies dropped them 40-0.
Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs averaged 37 points per game and GWG hammered them 38-0.
“I hope that on the bus ride home they were saying, ‘That was a very good team and their defence was insane,” Mannes said with a smile.
The Grizzlies have reached that wonderful point where they can see an opponent giving up mid-game. Even if they don’t have an actual white flag to wave, the GWG defenders can see it in their eyes and their body language.
After being bruised and battered and bullied up and down the field, they are done.
“We push them back and make sure they don’t want to get back up,” Myers said. “They’re OK for the first quarter or so, but by the second half you can tell they’re gassed and they don’t want to play against you anymore.
“I can see when they’re scared.”
If there’s a potential problem for the D, it’s that they’re too good.
A preseason loss to AAA powerhouse Van College, in a scrimmage no less, is the greatest adversity the unit has faced all season.
If North Vancouer’s Windsor Dukes put up any sort of fight in the championship game, they’ll be the first.
It might be unsettling if Windsor can punch them early, find some kind of hole in the granite wall and put a tiny shred of doubt in the minds of the G-Dub D.
If any coach could scheme up a way to do it, it would be Windsor bench boss Jim Schuman.
But it seems unlikely.
The greatest thing GWG must guard against is overconfidence, and your friendly neighborhood sports writer isn’t helping with this article.
“We’ll just play how we always play,” Mannes said. “It’s just been business (as usual) this week.
The only other issue could be the stage and the stakes.
Playing a playoff game at Burnaby Lakes is one thing. Playing under the dome at B.C. Place is another, and teams are often sidetracked by the spectacle.
But again the Grizzlies have an edge. Seven straight years GWG has sent a team to the dome for a semi-final or championship game.
The coaches know how to manage it.
And the core of the team has big-game experience from last fall when the Chilliwack junior bantam Giants won a provincial title.
Myers was on that team.
“I get butterflies before every game I play, but after the first snap they go away,” he said. “I have to get to that first snap and I’ll be fine.
“It’ll be very different playing in B.C. Place, but I’m just going to play my game.”
If the Grizzlies fulfill their destiny tomorrow, they’ll claim a third junior varsity championship in seven years.
Legacy is a big word to throw at a teenager, but it’s something the boys are thinking about.
“It would be amazing,” Mannes said.
— Kickoff for the game is 11 a.m.
The Dukes finished 2-2 in regular season play with 96 points for and 104 points against.
They were fourth in the West division and faced Vernon’s Clarence Fulton Maroons in their playoff opener, winning 38-27.
They beat Prince George’s College Heights Blue Cougars 36-26 in their semi-final match.