GW Graham’s 2017 playoff road came to an end at B.C. Place Stadium Saturday afternoon with a 47-7 loss to the Windsor Dukes in a B.C. High School Football AA semi-final.
Underdogs coming into the game, the Grizzlies were overwhelmed Dukes offence led by superstar quarterback Ryan Baker and featuring playmakers across the board.
The Baker show was in full effect in the opening half as he led his team to a 28-7 lead.
The Dukes almost scored on the very first place of the game, as Julien Perri fielded the opening kickoff, burst past the first wave of tacklers and had only Darius Kelly between him and the endzone.
Kelly brought him down at the GWG 45 yard line, but four plays later Windsor was in the endzone anyways.
A 28 yard Baker run brought the Dukes to the Grizzly 17 yard line before three negative plays pushed them into a fourth-and-15. GW Graham appeared to come up with the stop when a Baker pass into the endzone fell incomplete, but defensive back Dion Kelly was called for pass interference, giving Windsor another shot with a fourth and four.
Baker took advantage, rolling left and knifing into the endzone for the game’s opening score.
The Grizzlies answered back on their second series of the game, with Von Richardson getting loose for a 38 yard touchdown run down the left sideline.
The Alex Whitehead convert gave GW Graham its only lead of the game at 7-6.
The rest of the half belonged to the high-flying Dukes.
Windsor re-took the lead midway through the second quarter with an eight-play drive that saw Baker torch the Grizz with his legs and his arm. He kept the chains moving with a 19 yard pass to Ben McMichael, finished the drive with a 12 yard touchdown run around the right side of the offensive line, and added a run up the middle for the two-point convert.
Sensing the game was getting away from them, the Grizzlies gambled on their next series, going for it on a fourth-and-two from the Windsor 47. Quarterback Bentley Thomas dropped back to pass, looking for Jacob Penner to his right, but a Dukes defensive lineman got his mitts on the ball, batting it down.
Windsor took over on downs and took two plays to cash in.
Baker found Perri on a short crossing route and No. 1 did everything else, cutting through the Grizzlies for a 47 yard score and a 21-7 lead.
Baker scored his third touchdown of the game with just under a minute remaining in the first half, and added a fourth score on Windsor’s first series of the second half.
“Ryan was as advertised,” said GWG coach Laurie Smith. “We wanted to stay disciplined, stay in our gaps and have backside containment where our guys stay home.
“He’s got speed but he’s also quite powerful and it seemed even if we met him at the line of scrimmage he was gaining five yards.
“He is a special player.”
Meanwhile, the Dukes did an amazing job bottling up GW Graham’s superstar running back Von Richardson.
Playing his last game for the Grizzlies, No. 15 in white was very good for the first two series, chewing up big chunks of B.C. Place turf. But for the rest of the game he had nowhere to run as Windsor won the battle in the trenches. With Richardson contained, GW Graham’s offence had nothing to hang its hat on.
“They brought a ton of pressure where they were almost blitzing on every play,” Smith explained. “And so, our traps and counters, it was hard to set up anything that required a pulling lineman because they were in the backfield disrupting our blocking.”
Down 34-7 heading to the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies had only pride to play for.
Another Baker to Perri hookup put the Dukes up 41-7, and a McMicheal pick-six interception wrapped up the scoring.
Baker took a seat on the bench in the final 15 minutes with backup Dimitry Volev taking over at QB.
A large group graduating Grizzlies watched the final seconds tick away as the Dukes streamed on the field to celebrate. Windsor will take on Abbotsford in the Subway Bowl final next weekend at B.C. Place Stadium.
“We were pretty confident we could beat them and so we’re disappointed,” Smith said. “But this team has a special place for me because they fought real hard for one another.
“They exceeded expectations because none of them backed away from a fight. Even in a lopsided game with a minute left they were still fighting.”
The graduating seniors are Colin Campbell, Bentley Thomas, Shane Claridge, Von Richardson, Jesse Hough, Alex Whitehead, Daniel Santos, Darius Kelly, Dion Kelly, Justin Hopwood, Cooper Middleton, Jake Troyan and Ryan Brady.