The GW Graham Grizzlies celebrate their provincial title after defeating the Windsor Dukes during the AA junior varsity championship at BC Place in Vancouver on Saturday. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

GW Graham Grizzlies blow out Windsor Dukes to capture provincial football championship

A close game at halftime turned into a rout as the Grizzlies won 69-27 at B.C. Place Stadium.

The runaway train rolled over one more overmatched foe Saturday as the GW Graham junior varsity Grizzlies captured a provincial football championship.

The Grizzlies capped off an unbeaten season (7-0), whomping the Windsor Dukes 69-27 under the B.C. Place Dome.

The final score says this was an easy win, but it was anything but. The feisty Dukes gave the heavily favoured Grizz all they could handle through two quarters, but they couldn’t keep up with G-Dub’s insane offensive attack.

”Their coach, Jim Schuman, is a really good tactician who watches a lot of film, and they prepare really well,” said GW Graham coach Laurie Smith. “He had us on the ropes in the first half. They knew where to attack our defence. They knew the spots to hit and they hit them in the first half. They did a really nice job.”

Five minutes into the game it looked like another one-sided romp for the Chilliwackians.

After Windsor’s first drive ended with a fumble, recovered by GWG’s Samuel Mannes, the Grizzlies took over at their own 30 yard line.

It took one play to find the endzone as Logan Buchwitz flew down the right sideline, leaped to snag a perfect pass from big-armed Grayson Fick, shook off a Windsor defender and completed a 70 yard scoring play.

His first of seven (not a mis-print) touchdowns on the day.

“Grayson is an amazing quarterback, definitely one of the best I’ve ever played with,” Buchwitz said. “We’ve been playing together a couple years now and developed a really good bond.”

The Dukes looked to answer back on their next series, driving inside the GWG 10 yard line. But on fourth and goal from the nine, defensive back Nick Beck intercepted a pass from Dukes QB Alek Giragosian.

Operating from their own 22, the Grizzlies turned to Kaleb Spanner. The lightning quick running back took a handoff from Frick, cut right through the heart of the Windsor defence and scampered 45 yards for the second GW Graham major.

“Kaleb is great, and maybe played his best game ever today,” Buchwitz said. “And the offensive line did an amazing job blocking for all of us.

”None of our scores would have happened without them.”

But the Dukes would not go away, and the game turned into a track meet.

Giragosian got Windsor on the board on their next drive, sneaking across from the one yard line.

GW Graham answered with a 73 yard touchdown run from Spanner, and a 49 yard touchdown toss from Frick to Buchwitz early in the second quarter had the Grizzlies up 27-6.

Windsor was reeling against the ropes on their next drive, facing a fourth-and-20 on their side of the midfield stripe.

But Giragosian dropped back and sailed a pinpoint pass down the right sideline. Evading the outstretched mitts of the GWG cornerback, it dropped into the hands of Jordan Kwan who raced into the endzone for a 62 yard score.

Windsor‘s offence was back on the field seconds later after recovering a short kickoff, and another one yard run by Giragosian made the score 27-20.

“At the beginning of the game I think maybe we had some jitters,” said linebacker Michael Hopwood, who was a big-hit dealing wrecking ball on the GWG D. “But our offence kept us going.

”Logan really carries us sometimes, but even if you take him away we’ve got a lot of good supporting people. It’s not run through one person. It’s run through everybody and even our second and third stringers are really good.”

On GW Graham’s next series, Buchwitz took a shovel pass from Frick and rumbled 56 yards down the left sideline for another touchdown, and a Cayden Weiss convert kick made it 34-20.

But back came the Dukes again, with a seven play drive capped by a 24 yard Giragosian to Adam Murray touchdown pass that had the score at 34-26.

Taking over at their own 47 yard line with 50 seconds left, the Grizzlies drove again.

A Spanner run up the gut brought GWG to the Windsor 27. With time ticking down, Frick dropped back to pass, fought off a Dukes pass rusher and floated a pass into the front right corner of the endzone where guess who, Buchwitz, hauled it in with two seconds on the clock.

The GWG defence collected their thoughts at halftime and pitched a shutout in the second half.

Smith said much of it had to do with a key adjustment made by defensive coordinator Jeff Samulak.

“Coach Samulak moved the linebackers up and that seemed to solve a lot,” Smith said. “The coaches were calm at halftime, and that’s what we do at halftime. There’s never any inspirational speeches. It’s always about making adjustments and doing things better in the second half.”

The offence didn’t need any tweaks at all and continued to steam-roll the Dukes.

Taking the second half kickoff at their own 39, the Grizzlies scored a touchdown on just two plays.

On the first, the Dukes forgot to cover wide receiver Nick Beck, who was left all alone on the left sideline to haul in a pass from Frick. The Dukes finally dragged him down at the one yard line, but Buchwitz finished what Beck started, scoring on an end-around sweep.

“It was a very tough game in the first half,” Buchwitz said. “Honestly, in our practices leading up to this I don’t think we were too focused. We were excited and maybe fooled around too much, and I think that carried over to the first half of this game. But I think we meshed together and played as a team in the second half, and that’s when we were able to get the score up.”

GW Graham’s next drive was 12 plays long, ending with a one yard pass from Frick to Hopwood to make the score 55-27.

Buchwitz added two more majors, the first on an 11 yard run and the second on a highlight reel 55 yarder where he first ran right, stiff-arming and shrugging off would-be Windsor tacklers. Reversing field, he rumbled all the way back to the other side, leaving Dukes in his wake.

It was the ultimate sign that Windsor was finished.

Buchwitz was part of a provincial championship win this time last year, taking the title with the Chilliwack junior bantam Giants.

But this game was different, played under the bright lights in B.C. Place Stadium.

It’s one Buchwitz will remember for a long time.

“The atmosphere is bigger and better here and I liked the atmosphere more,“ Buchwitz said. “This one was more of a challenge too, and I enjoy that more.

”This is the third provincial final in a row for a core group of guys on this team, and this one was very exciting.”

For Smith, who gets to keep this core group together for two more seasons as they move up to the senior varsity level, this is hopefully a sign of even better things to come.

”This one feels different from the championships that we (GWG junior varsity) won in 2013 and 2014 because this one always felt inevitable to me,” Smith said. “It wasn’t, ‘Can we win?‘ I just expected them too. It’s exciting for the kids and it is certainly encouraging for the future of the program”

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Logan Buchwitz of the GW Graham Grizzlies tackles a Windsor Dukes player during the AA junior varsity provincial championship game at BC Place in Vancouver on Saturday. (Jenna Hauck/ The Progress)

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