The GW Graham survived a massive scare from the Holy Cross Crusaders, and will move on in the AA varsity football playoffs.
The Grizzlies beat their Surrey-based foes 33-27 in overtime last weekend in a game that lived up to its billing.
The teams met under the big top at BC Place Stadium and the Grizzlies jumped out to an early 21-7 lead with a familiar formula.
Beat the defence down with Von Richardson runs, then cut ‘em up through the air with Gabe Olivares’ arm.
Emerson Smith caught two TD passes from the QB with Tyler Sprott also finding the endzone and it looked like GWG would cruise.
Maybe they thought so too.
“We were almost through three quarters holding them to just seven points, and the feeling on the sideline was pretty confident,” said Grizzlies bench boss Laurie Smith. “Then, it was really three big breakdowns in a row that let them (Holy Cross) back into it.”
On a third-and-short quarterback sneak, Crusader pivot Patrick Shoemay bounced outside and ran 50 yards to the endzone.
“Our outside linebackers pinched down because that’s what we do on a quarterback sneak, right?” Smith said. “He (Shoemay) is a fast, fast kid.”
The Grizz answered immediately with a 19 yard Richardson TD run, but missed the convert.
They led 27-14.
On the next Holy Cross series, scrimmaging from his own 20 yard line, Shoemay dropped back and aired it out to receiver Brandon Canuel, who loped in for an 80 yard score.
“Now I’m starting to get a little nervous,” Smith laughed.
The Grizzlies stalled on their next drive, punting it away.
The defence had Holy Cross in a third-and-long when Shoemay pulled another rabbit out of the hat.
“I was confident we were going to stop them, get the ball back and punch it in, but he (Shoemay) did the craziest run,” Smith said. “He was in the backfield on one side of the field, came back to the middle, deked out every defender we have and ran the distance (79 yards).”
Holy Cross had only to kick the convert to take a 28-27 lead.
With 55 seconds left, that might have been enough.
But the Grizzlies blocked the kick and escaped to overtime.
BC High School Football employs a Texas Shootout format where teams take turns scrimmaging from the opponent’s 10 yard line. If one team scores, the other team must match or beat it to win.
“We’re doing the coin toss and one of our captains, Jordon Breuker, is out there with me,” Smith recalled. “I said to Jordon, ‘What do you want to do if we win the coin toss?’”
“Loud enough for everyone to hear, he says, ‘Coach. Put us on defence. We’ll stop these guys and then I guarantee we’ll score.’”
In a 2003 National Football League playoff game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers, Seattle QB Matt Hasselbeck made a similar guarantee, only to watch Packer cornerback Al Harris take an interception to the house.
“It reminded me of Matt saying, ‘We want the ball and we’re going to score,’ and I thought, ‘Oh Jordon. You’d better be sure,’” Smith chuckled.
The Crusaders took the ball and the Grizzly D stuffed them on a fourth and goal from the two yard line, with Miguel Wood making the tackle.
The GWG offence took over and three plays later found themselves in the same situation.
Fourth and one.
Now, a chip-shot field goal would have won the game, but offensive coordinator Adam Smith and offensive line coach Luke Acheson were in the head coach’s ear.
“I wanted the field goal, Adam wanted to push it in and Luke assured me the O-line would get it done,” Smith said. “They didn’t because Gabe (Olivares) got stuffed, but Jordon (Breuker) came in behind him and shoved him across the goal-line.”
Technically, that’s a penalty.
Had it been assessed, the Grizzlies would have been pushed back to a fourth-and-goal from the 11.
“In this case, the referees didn’t call it, which is fair because it was a bit of a mess down there,” Smith noted. “Even if they had called the penalty, I guess we could have just kicked the field goal at that point, but it was an exciting finish this way.”
The final stats had Richardson hauling the ball 31 times for 229 yards.
That’s a heavy workload that could wear him down, but Smith said the coaching staff has limiting his defensive reps.
Smith calls Richardson a phenomenal linebacker, but acknowledges he had to be pulled back.
“There were a couple games, the Robert Bateman one for example, where Von was playing both ways and just got worn down being pounded every play,” Smith said. “He’s super important to us as a running back, and he’s a strong kid.”
“He only gets stronger as the game goes on.”
Sprott led the pass catchers with seven for 79 yards and seems to be elevating his play at the right time of year.
“He’s become a go-to guy because he’s got great hands, runs nice routes and creates separation every play,” Smith said. “He’s fun to watch and it’s nice having three threats (Sprott, Emerson Smith and Baker Douglas).”
Olivares had himself a game, completing 14 of 26 passes for 160 yards and three TDs.
“He scrambles around back there, and he can throw it 30 yards without even setting his feet,” Smith said. “If he sets his feet he can throw a tight spiral 50 yards with pretty good accuracy.”
Defensively, Cainen Bergh led the way with nine solo tackles.
Sprott produced an interception.
The Carson Graham Eagles now await in a semi-final that will take place Saturday at noon, back under the dome.
The Eagles were second in the AA Western conference behind Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs — 3-1 with 120 points for and 47 against.
“They’re a very balanced team with a good quarterback, a great running back, two good receivers and a very capable defence,” Smith said. “In a way, it’s like looking in a mirror and they’re going to give us all we can handle.”
The other semi-final will see Chase Claypool and Abbotsford Collegiate taking on the Cinderella story Langley Saints. Claypool’s crew dumped Barsby 50-36 to get here while Langley toppled Vernon 28-21.
See bchighschoolfootball.com for more.