The GW Graham Grizzlies are one win away from the Subway Bowl, and a chance to defend their provincial crown.
The reigning champs in the junior varsity division hosted Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs in a playoff game last Thursday.
The game was close at halftime, but the Grizzlies blew the doors off in the third quarter and cruised to a 49-28 win at Exhibition Stadium.
GW Graham did it with one of the most dominant ground games you’ll ever see, rushing for 498 yards on 46 carries.
Von Richardson accounted for 271 yards, starting strong on the opening drive. His Grizzlies started their first series on their own 29 yard line.
Richardson’s first carry went for 29 yards. Then nine. Then 21. Then five. Then four. No. 3 in blue got the Grizzlies deep into Bulldog territory.
Facing third and six from the Barsby 14, Richardson’s backfield mate, Gabe Olivares, rumbled straight up the gut for 11 yards. One player later, he bulled in for the first GW Graham major.
Spencer Breslin booted the convert for a 7-0 lead.
But in the first half of this game, Barsby had an answer for everything GW Graham did. On their very first offensive play, the Bulldogs ripped off an 80 yard touchdown run, adding a two point convert to lead 8-7.
The offences continued to trade touchdowns, and with time ticking down in the first half, the Grizzlies led 21-20.
But, the Bulldogs were driving.
Neither defence had shown the ability to get a stop.
If the Bulldogs scored they’d take a lead into half-time and get the ball with the second half kickoff. Facing a fourth and two on the GWG side of midfield, Barsby gambled.
The Grizzlies stacked the line and made the stop, getting the ball back at their own 39 yard line with 24 seconds left.
Head coach Adam Smith could have run out the clock and escaped to the break, but instead, he got aggressive.
Smith dialed up a pass, with quarterback Wyatt Uzick hitting Noah Dubosoff down the seam for 43 yards.
With zeroes on the clock and his team at the five yard line, Uzick stood in the pocket, stared down the Barsby pass-rush and took a hit as he threw, finding Ethan Mastin in the endzone.
Mastin held on for the major, and GWG added a two point convert to lead 29-20 at the break.
“Wyatt showed poise all game and when asked to get the ball down field had big throws all night,” said GWG head coach Adam Smith. “He actually has five TD passes in our two playoff games.”
Barsby took the ball to open the second half and drove straight down the field. But the Grizzly defence stiffened on a fourth and three from the three yard line, holding Barsby at bay and forcing a turnover on downs.
Then it was Emilio Pineda delivering the back-breaking blow. The speedy tailback took a handoff straight up the middle and didn’t stop until he’d covered 97 yards.
The Grizzlies led 36-20.
“Emilo’s TD run seemed to be the boost we needed to close them out,” Smith said. “It was all us from that point on.”
Richardson added the fifth GWG major, on a 57 yard run.
After Justin Hopwood recovered a Bulldog fumble, Richardson scored again on a 25 yard run, breaking tackles and dragging a Barsby defender the last five yards.
“The biggest complement was from the Barsby head coach when he said it was the best rushing attack he has seen since 2003,” Smith said. “Coach Calvin Sanheim has done an amazing job with our O-line this season.”
The Grizzlies are in Burnaby Lake tonight for a game against Holy Cross at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex.
The winner moves on to the Subway Bowl, the provincial championship played at BC Place Dec. 6.
GW Graham beat Parksville’s Ballenas Whalers 23-20 in last year’s title game, claiming the first provincial banner in the school’s history.
Should the Grizzlies get past Holy Cross, they could see the Whalers again.
Ballenas is in the other Wednesday playoff, taking on Abbotsford secondary school.
For more info see bchighschoolfootball.com
See Friday’s Chilliwack Progress for the story on Wednesday’s game.