“The hardest thing to do in life, gentlemen, is to give your heart and soul, every single thing, come up short and not get where you want to be.”
Adam Smith wasn’t prepared to give this speech as he stood in the middle of GW Graham’s locker room at BC Place Stadium. But in the moments after a 26-7 semi-final loss to the Seaquam Seahawks, surrounded by bleary-eyed, inconsolable players, the head coach of the Grizzlies stepped up with a heart-felt gem.
“There are no words that can make this feel better, nothing you can say,” he continued. “It’s one of the worst feelings in life and I’m sorry we have to go through it together today.”
Smith and everyone else in that room thought the Grizzlies were good enough to beat Seaquam and move on to next weekend’s provincial final. In the days leading up to the game they talked about how the Seahawks had yet to be ‘punched in the face.’
But it was Seaquam who delivered the first big blow in this one, tagging the Grizzlies for a touchdown on their first possession.
A huge run by Tyson Philpot was the big shot on a six play, 67 yard drive that ended with a one yard sneak by Seahawks QB Josh Haydu.
Seaquam made it look disturbingly easy against a Grizzly D that had surrendered just one touchdown all season.
The second quarter started with the football in GWG’s hands, trailing 6-0.
Quarterback Gabe Olivares had his team on a 12 play drive into Seaquam territory.
A successful scramble by the QB on third and 11 had GWG close enough to smell the endzone.
Then, the game’s pivotal play.
Olivares dropped back to pass and was flushed out of the pocket. The teenager will no doubt replay this moment in his mind over and over and over.
Scrambling to his left with Seaquam’s Josh Boem in pursuit, Olivares spotted a target downfield.
Next time maybe he’ll pull the ball down and run or chuck it out of bounds.
If you must, fault the young QB for trying too hard.
Wanting it too bad.
Olivares pulled the ball back to pass, and as he did Boem stepped into him and jarred it loose. The Seahawks recovered the fumble and just three plays later had their second touchdown.
Facing third and 19 from his own 13 yard line, Haydu dropped back and saw Philpot splitting the safeties 30 yards downfield. The pass was perfect. Philpot scampered into the endzone for the score.
GWG started the next series with 6:04 left on the clock.
If they scored, they’d get the ball back to start the second half and have a chance to flip the script.
But Jalen Philpot came up with a diving interception at the Seaquam 23 yard line.
The Grizzlies were hanging on for dear life, glancing up at the clock after every play as the Seahawks marched down the field.
With less than 20 seconds before half-time, Haydu and Jalen Philpot hooked up on a scoring strike and Seaquam had a 20-0 lead at the break.
Smith said all the right things at half-time and his crew came out of the locker room believing they could stage an epic comeback.
Richardson started rolling in the third quarter, chewing up yardage on an 11 play drive that brought GWG into the shadow of the Seaquam goal-posts.
But a dropped pass on fourth and seven from the seven gave Seaquam the ball, and they chewed up the clock with a long drive that ended with a touchdown and a 26-0 lead.
GWG’s lone TD came in the fourth quarter when an Olivares sneak from the one yard line, plus a Spencer Breslin convert, made it 26-7.
But a Tyson Philpot interception ended the next Grizzly series and they ran out of time. Their final offensive play told the tale of the entire game when fullback Jesse Hough was stopped literally one-inch short of the goal-line.
An inch here.
A play there.
This game was full of ‘what if’ moments.
These teams meet 10 times Seaquam probably wins six or seven, but the Grizzlies will forever wonder, ‘What if just a handful of plays went our way?’
“Everything we asked you to do you did, and you gave your heart and soul to this program,” Smith said post-game, his voice starting to crack as he addressed a long list of graduating seniors.
Olivares, Ethan Mastin, Miguel Wood, Liam McCormick, Dakota Mathers, Devan Voss, Jaimey Bessette, Spencer Breslin, Sam Nelson, Ryan Clayton, Ethan Stubbs and the Lengert bros, Jaren and Michael all played their last games in Grizzly blue Saturday.
“You guys are an amazing group of young men and I’m going to miss every one of you who are leaving,” Smith said. “I love each and every one of you and you will always be a part of my family.”