Sardis Falcons led by Fantastic Four receiving crew

The high school football team is four deep with talented top-tier pass catchers in 2018.

Adam Smith has coached provincial championship offences in Manitoba and B.C. and coached a Canadian Football League calibre receiver in Derek Yachison.

But never, Smtih claims, has he coached a receiving corps as good as the one he has with his first-year Sardis Falcons.

One-through-four, the quartet of Nick Butler, Noah Saunders, DJ Stephens and Kurtis Flynn is the deepest group he’s ever seen.

They are a huge reason why the Falcons are due to surprise a few foes in their first season.

Butler is the lone senior in the group and caught two TD passes from quarterback Josh Janssen in the opener.

“Nick has great hands and route running and he’s our big, physical receiver this year,” Smith said. “His brother plays at Queen’s U, and Nick’s got that mentality that he also wants to play at that next level.

“He’s just die-hard for the game and he’s going to have a huge year.”

Flynn and Saunders are Grade 11 pass catchers.

Putting the Fantastic Four aside for a second, a better description for Flynn might be The Flash.

Everything he does is fast.

He moves fast.

He thinks fast.

“He’s the one in practice going the fastest every play, and you’ve almost got to tell him to slow down sometimes,” Smith noted. “He’s got the hands and routes and he’s physical too, and his game knowledge is right up there with anyone.”

Saunders burst onto the scene at spring camp, going from unknown to known in one play.

“During a spring game, Noah went up over two safeties, made a catch and got hit into a soccer net goal-post as he came down,” Smith recalled. “But he held on and popped right back up. We started looking at him more after that and he just blossomed.”

Saunders made a similar catch against Sullivan Heights, showing his ability to nab a ball at its highest point as he soared above a defender to snag a long pass down the sideline.

The final member of the Fantastic Four is its youngest.

Watching Stephens play, it’s hard to believe he’s only in Grade 9.

On the opening play against Sullivan Heights he took a direct snap and ran 63 yards for the first Sardis TD.

He had several big receptions and even produced an interception on D.

“He is the most talented kid I’ve ever coached at that age, and he might be one of the most talented Grade 9 players in B.C.,” Smith said. “His aggression is amazing. His football knowledge. His hands and route running. His speed.

“His ability to play the game at his age is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

“He’s like an athletic Derek Yachison.”

Wait.

What?

The same Yachison who was twice an All-Canadian with the BC Football Conference Kamloops Broncos and has spent time with the CFL’s BC Lions and Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

That Derek Yachison?

“You didn’t see Derek in high school. He ran a 4.9 40 yard back then and had to work real hard to improve, where DJ starts with the natural ability,” Smith explained. “If DJ combines even half of Yachison’s work ethic with the skill he already has, he’s going to get somewhere.”

The only question then is can Janssen get the Fantastic Four the ball, and after week one the answer is a resounding yes.

The tall, lanky quarterback was delivering accurate passes all over the field. As long as the offensive line gives him time, Janssen can make all the throws.

“Josh is one of the top two Grade 11 QBs in B.C., and he may be the best,” Smith said. “He trains with the National Football Academy down in the States, with all the NCAA Div-1 quarterbacks.

“His ability to work and his desire to succeed is just amazing.”

The Falcons (1-0) are on the road this week, visiting Surrey’s Earl Marriott Mariners in a Friday afternoon clash.

The Mariners lost 41-6 to the WJ Mouat Hawks in their season opener last weekend.

— Sticking with high school football, the GW Graham Grizzlies fell 22-6 to the Holy Cross Crusaders in preseason action last weekend.

The Grizz host Prince George in another preseason tuneup tomorrow (Saturday, 2 p.m.) at Exhibition Stadium.

G-Dub kicks off the regular season Sept. 22 on the road in Parksville, taking on the Ballenas Whalers.

See bchighschoolfootball.com for schedules and standings.

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