The GW Graham Grizzlies won their season opener Friday night, dumping the Langley Saints 19-0 at Exhibition Stadium.
But there wasn’t much hooting and hollering after the game, no smiling players celebrating a victory.
That’s because for several minutes after the game ended, one of their teammates was still laying in the middle of the field, immobilized after taking a helmet in the back. Darius Kelly was kept dry under several layers of blankets and jackets until an ambulance responded and took him to the nearby hospital. His teammates, including Jake Troyan, could only hope for the best for their fallen friend.
“It’s sad because he’s a good player but he’s an even better friend and teammate,” Troyan said. “It sucks to see anyone go down like that but especially someone like Darius who puts it all out there for the team.
“Everyone’s a little worried and concerned, but he’s a warrior who’s going to fight and come back stronger than ever.”
The end of the game cast a dark cloud over a gritty effort from the Grizzlies, who battled more than just the Saints.
They battled inclement weather, with rain coming down in horizontal sheets and howling wind blowing in their faces.
And they battled a flag-happy officiating crew who littered the field with yellow and elicited more than one ‘Let the boys play!’ cry from the stands.
You know that magic trick where the magician pulls a never-ending handkerchief from his sleeve?
It was a lot like that.
“There were definitely a couple (calls) that I wasn’t too sure of, but I’m not one to argue with the officials,” Troyan said. “That’s their job and I’m just going to keep playing, but maybe we (O-line) will have to put in a little more practice, learn our technique a little bit better and maybe have a bit more understanding of what they’re going to call.”
GWG running back Von Richardson was his usual unstoppable self until a knee injury took him out early in the third quarter. Give him all the yardage he lost to holding penalties and No. 15 in blue probably topped 150 yards rushing.
As it is, he had to be near 100 and he counted for one of three Grizzly touchdowns, bulling in from the two yard line on the second GWG series.
The home team clung to that 7-0 lead until late in the first half.
With less than 20 seconds on the block, quarterback Bentley Thomas dropped back to pass, felt pressure and took off running, scampering 25 yards for a much-needed major. The third GWG TD came from an unexpected source as Andrew Locke recovered a Langley fumble and showed suprising speed on a 65 yard return.
GWG’s defence was excellent. Langley started several series on the Grizzly side of midfield and didn’t make a dent. The Saints had one big passing play for 26 yards down the left sideline.
Their next biggest play was a fake punt on a fourth and 13 that came up two chain links short.
Other than that, it was a lot of runs stuffed, incomplete passes and three-and-outs versus a GWG front seven that left them with nowhere to go.
The Grizz had four quarterback sacks, one each from Darius Kelly, Colin Campbell and Justin Hopwood and another where the entire GWG defensive line arrived in the Langley backfield.
“Our defence played really strong and did real well collectively as a unit,” Troyan said. “This team was ready to play and win some games with 100 per cent smashmouth football.
“That’s what we’re going to do.”