A steady diet of Von Richardson was too much for the Ballenas Whalers to handle. The Parksville high school football squad fell 25-20 to the GW Graham Grizzlies in preseason action Friday at Exhibition Stadium.
No. 15 in blue was at his punishing best as the Grizz faced live bullets for the first time, running over and around the overmatched Ballenas D. But to the relief of GW Graham football fans, he wasn’t a one-man show.
The home team got excellent play from quarterback Bentley Thomas, who faces the tall task of replacing graduated pivot Gabe Olivares.
While Thomas doesn’t have Gabe’s rocket-arm he showed plenty of zip, completing a pair of deep passes to Dion Kelly.
He also flashed elusiveness and the ability to escape the pocket and run for yardage.
The Grizzlies defence bent but rarely broke against the Whalers, who came into the game ranked among the top five AA teams in the province.
Ballenas moved the ball on the ground, but the opportunistic GWG D forced two fumbles and intercepted two passes in the first half alone.
It was a Jake Troyan fumble recovery that led to the first Grizzly major.
Big No. 74 fell on the ball at midfield and eight plays later his team was in the endzone when Richardson ploughed in from the two.
A Grayson Hardie fumble recovery led to the second GWG touchdown early in the second quarter. Bentley got his team out of bad field position with a yardage-chewing pass to Jesse Hough, followed by a long Richardson run. Richardson finished the drive, catching a swing pass out of the backfield and rolling in from 12 yards out.
Shane Claridge had a noticeable day on defence, punching the ball out on Hardie’s fumble recovery and intercepting a Ballenas pass to end the first half.
Alex Whitehead also got his mitts on a Whaler pass.
Dion Kelly scored the third GWG touchdown on a 65 yard bomb from Bentley. His brother Darius scored the final Grizz major on a 14 yard run and added the convert kick.
“We played only second and third string in the second half,” said GWG head coach Laurie Smith. “The boys played really well and we are very happy to be competitive with an excellent program like Ballenas.”