The Province

Hyacks, Rams win when it matters

Two teams that stumbled earlier in the year face off for provincial triple-A championsh­ip


The New Westminste­r Hyacks and Mount Douglas Rams both appeared to be going nowhere fast at certain points of this high school football season.

They will meet in next Saturday’s triple-A provincial final at B.C. Place, proving a little momentum at the right time is a dangerous thing.

The reigning champion Hyacks, who had dropped three of four games heading into the playoffs, won their third straight post-season matchup on Saturday, thumping the Terry Fox Ravens 33-0 at B.C. Place in the semifinals. They’ll be joined in next week’s title game by the Rams, who edged the Vancouver College Fighting Irish 31-28 earlier in the day, avenging a 55-26 loss to the Fighting Irish during the regular season.

“We’re the two most improved teams in the province as the season has gone on,” New Westminste­r coach Farhan Lalji said of his Hyacks and the Rams. “I watched the (University of) Washington game last night. I saw them play so well and I saw a team that lost its way in a couple of close losses and I felt the same way about us. We had some losses in the middle of the season, a couple of close ones including the Mount Doug game. We were nursing injuries and we were trying to find ourselves, and now we’re playing our best football.

“And the thing I’ve always admired about Mount Doug is their ability to play their best football at the end of the season. It’s happened over and over.”

Mount Douglas outlasted New Westminste­r 34-28 on Nov. 2 at the Hyacks’ Mercer Stadium, but considerin­g how the last few weeks have played out, you could argue that was a lifetime ago.

New Westminste­r, who were honourable mention in the last provincial rankings before the post-season began, beat the No. 1 Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers 34-16 in the quarter-finals, handing them their lone loss this season to a Canadian opponent. They then downed the No. 4 Ravens, winning a rematch of last year’s hotly contested finale, which New Westminste­r captured 15-14 thanks to a touchdown on the final play.

Mount Douglas, who were also honourable mentions in that last poll, beat the No. 3 St. Thomas More Knights 43-21 in the quarter-finals and then handed No. 2 Vancouver College its lone defeat to a Canadian squad.

New Westminste­r is looking to become the first repeat champion since Mount Douglas won three in a row from 2011-13.

The Rams are looking for their first title since 2015, when then Grade 9 quarterbac­k Gideone Kremler helped steer them to the crown.

Kremler is in Grade 12 now and will play his final high school game on Saturday. The past few weeks he’s looked to have regained some of the mobility that a knee injury in Grade 10 seemed to have robbed him of.

“Mount Doug is built for this moment. If you’re Kremler, you’re thinking ‘I started my career in Grade 9 with a championsh­ip and I want to end it with one,’” said Lalji. “For us, fourth straight year in the semifinals and second straight year in the final. We’re used to these moments and so is he.

“It will be a great game. I’m really looking forward to it.”

The Hyacks got out to a 17-0 halftime lead and coasted from there on Saturday. Mount Douglas had a much tougher time of it.

They went up 28-13 on a 74-yard touchdown run by Sebastian Hansen with 2:20 to go in the third quarter, but Vancouver College came storming back and tied it 28-28 with 2:47 left in the game when quarterbac­k Eric Zychlinski found Owen Ker in the corner of the end zone from 12 yards out and then called his own number for the two-point convert.

Mount Douglas marched the ball down the field on the ensuing possession, aided by a questionab­le pass interferen­ce call on a 3rd-and-13 from their own 31 that put the ball on the Vancouver College 49-yard line. That was followed by a 26-yard toss from Kremler to Hansen that moved the pigskin to the 23.

Mount Douglas recorded another first down and then Grade 10 kicker Jackson Reid booted a 27-yard field goal on the game’s final play.

“He’s only just become our kicker recently,” Kremler said of Reid, who is the quarterbac­k for the Rams’ junior varsity team. “And he’s playing on a sprained ankle. I couldn’t ask for more from a young kid like that.

“What were we thinking? Just pray. He’s got a leg. You saw that. You still never know. That pressure can get to a lot of people. He proved he’s worth that pressure.”

The double-A final features the No. 5 Robert Bateman Timberwolv­es taking on the No. 1 Vernon Panthers. Robert Bateman beat the No. 2 Holy Cross Crusaders 49-0 on Saturday, while Vernon downed the No. 3 John Barsby Bulldogs 44-0.

 ?? GERRY KAHRMANN/PNG ?? New Westminste­r Hyacks’ Ajay Choi escapes from the grasp of Terry Fox Ravens defender Kyle Hush in the triple-A semifinal at B.C. Place Saturday, a game the defending provincial Hyacks won 33-0.
GERRY KAHRMANN/PNG New Westminste­r Hyacks’ Ajay Choi escapes from the grasp of Terry Fox Ravens defender Kyle Hush in the triple-A semifinal at B.C. Place Saturday, a game the defending provincial Hyacks won 33-0.

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