Through three quarters everything went according to script for the Valley Huskers in their 2019 B.C. Football Conference season opener.
But a fourth quarter collapse cost them a win as they fell 21-20 to the Westshore Rebels at Exhibition Stadium.
The Huskers jumped out to an early 10-0 lead, led 13-7 at the half and a pick-six interception by defensive back Marcel Arruda-Welch had the home team up 20-7 after three quarters.
With just over five minutes remaining in the game the Rebels got the spark they needed when running back Zachary Lubin ploughed into the endzone for his second major of the day.
After getting a stop from their defence, the Rebels were gifted glorious field position when the Huskers punt unit messed up.
Instead of conceding a two-point safety as planned, an errant long snap ended up in the hands of a Husker upback who was tackled at his own four yard line.
“It was a clear mistake by two guys who were playing out of position because of injuries,” said Husker head coach Bob Reist. “That was the obvious play that cost us the game, but there were a lot of things leading up to that cost us the game too.”
Quickly back to work on offence, Henkel completed the comeback with 2:20 remaining, finding wideout Brycen Mayoh in the back of the endzone. Kyle Clarke added the decisive convert kick and the Rebels escaped with an unlikely W.
The Rebels out-gained the Huskers 256 to 153 in net offence.
The difference came in the ground game Westshore ground out 160 yards on 22 carries (7.27 ypc), led by Lubin’s 71 yards.
The Huskers managed 83 yards on 19 totes (4.37 ypc) led by Remis Tshiovo’s 68 yards.
The Huskers had a slight edge in the passing game led by quarterback Reid Vankoughnett. The second-year pivot completed 50 per cent of his attempts (14 of 28) for 162 yards with a touchdown toss to Brandon Poulin.
He also threw an interception to Westshore’s Maleek Womack and was sacked eight times operating behind an offensive line that is clearly still a work in progress.
“I thought the line showed some really good things at certain parts, but at other times they showed an inability to stop the pass rush,” Reist said. “We did some good things in the run game, but we need to continue to get better at protecting the QB and giving him more time to throw.”
Kicker Ethen Homan accounted for six Husker points on field goal boots of 32 and 37 yards.
Until the final five minutes Chilliwack’s defence was almost as good as advertised. Henkel was intercepted three times, once by Arruda-Welch and twice by Desmond Jeanson.
He was sacked eight times.
Linebacker James Moar had 2.5. Lineman Isaiah Letender had 1.5 and Tyrese Viner-Cox, Jacob Dodd, Dion Kelly and Kai Sommerville had one apiece.
“There were a lot of good takeaways from this game, and one is our defensive line showing tremendous play at times,” Reist said. “But we need to be ready to go in the fourth quarter and learn how to finish games off.
“And our defence as a whole needs to learn some discipline. We took an incredible amount of penalties, most of them completely avoidable, and gave up a lot of yards at crucial times.”
The Huskers are home again Saturday night (Aug. 10) with a 7 p.m. kickoff as they host the Okanagan Sun.