For the second straight year, a GW Graham team is taking part in the Subway Bowl, championship day for high school football.
The junior varsity Grizzlies take on the Ballenas Whalers (Parksville) in a game that kicks off at 10:30 a.m. at BC Place Stadium.
A win gives GWG its first ever provincial banner, but the Whalers will be no pushover.
They went 3-1 during the regular season, averaging 33 points with a balanced offence.
“They are a very capable running team, with a couple of strong running backs who excel in counters and off-tackle runs,” said GWG head coach Laurie Smith. “Their offensive line is one of the best we’ve seen on film. They come out of their stances really quick and they’re very disciplined.”
The Whalers’ strength plays into a potential GWG weakness. If the Grizzly defence has struggled with anything this year, it’s misdirection.
“We run a simple 4-4 defence where the defensive line creates a moving wall and the linebackers fill gaps,” Smith said. “With our scheme, it shouldn’t be a problem, but we have been exposed against misdirection.”
All the coaching staff can do is emphasize being disciplined and assignment sure.
If the Grizzly D can handle the Whaler offence, the Grizzly O could have a big day.
The four headed monster of Jordon Breuker, Billy Hanson, Tristan Davis and Emerson Smith ran roughshod over opposing defenses this year.
If the Whalers have a great offensive line, GWG is in the conversation with big boys like Jake Troyan, Vincent Braunauer, Elijah Schellenberg, Michael Lengert, Jaren Lengert, Braydon Winger, Dakota Mathers and Liam McCormick.
“We’ll have some wrinkles in the game-plan, but we know what works (the running game) and I’m nervous about changing anything at this point in the season,” Smith noted.
The biggest challenge for the Grizzly coaching staff won’t be in the X’s and O’s, but with the mental side.
Thinking back to last year’s Grade 8 team at provincials, Smith recalls them being too awestruck at the process.
“They were all staring at the roof and the bleachers and the big screen, and even when the game started they still looked stunned,” Smith recalled. “I don’t expect that from the kids who were there last year, but we might have to control it a bit with our Grade 10’s.”
Smith and company will try to have them keyed up, but not so keyed up that they make mistakes.
“We’ve talked to them about playing with heart and passion, and they’ve really ramped it up lately,” Smith said. “There is a danger they’ll get too excited and commit errors, so our focus at practice this week has been minimizing mental mistakes.”
Follow ProgressSports on Twitter for live game-day tweeting and see next week’s Progress for a full game report.