Two longtime foes close out the Okanagan AA/AAA Hybrid Division Junior Varsity Football regular season Wednesday, Nov. 3, at Greater Vernon Athletic Park.
The Vernon Panthers will take on the crosstown rival Fulton Maroons with the AA playoff rankings on the line. Game time is 5 p.m. at Greater Vernon Athletic Park.
Each team’s playoff fate hangs in the balance with that game and the result of a match the same night 115 kilometres away in Kamloops.
Should the Battle of Kamloops be won by the Westsyde Blue Wave against the winless South Kamloops Titans, the Maroons will have to beat the Panthers by seven points or more, and that would eliminate VSS. A Maroons loss and they are done for the year.
The Cats turned up for the Battle of Vernon by mauling the Titans 45-8 Wednesday, Oct. 27, at GVAP, while the Maroons played immediately after, dropping a heartbreaking 27-21 decision to the Blue Wave.
Both games were played under cold, bone-chilling windy conditions.
The Panthers came out strong in the first quarter with an exploding 71-yard rushing touchdown by Ayden Mcdonald on the first offensive play of the game by the Panthers. In the next big play, Vernon drove down the field and Cisko Hove capped it off by catching a wide-open pass for another touchdown from quarterback Cole Budgen making it 13-0. Liam Greenan made 1 of 2 extra points.
In the second quarter, the Panthers continued to pound the football with great O-line play and stellar running by Mcdonald who added three more touchdowns and three, two-point converts making the score 37-0. Mcdonald, a Grade 8 student, amassed 348 yards rushing in the first half alone. He has 10 touchdowns on the ground over his last two games.
In the third quarter, the Panthers put their second team in and South Kam came out fighting rushing for a TD and a two-point conversion making it 37-8. The Panthers answered back with another solid drive running the ball with Hove capping it off with a three-yard rushing TD and two-point conversion by Hove.
Budgen finished 6-11 for 37 yards and a touchdown on an afternoon where passing the ball was difficult due to the conditions.
“We played a strong game today on both sides of the ball for all four quarters,” said Vernon head coach Brett Fitzpatrick. “I’m very proud of our team’s resilience in this game and how we played hard today, especially our O-line.”
The Panthers’ defence played tough with Mark Johnson getting six tackles, Owen Carpenter had five and Jeff Curtis and Jace Collard each added 4.5 tackles. Quarterback Cole Budgen played a strong game with 6 of 11 for 37 yards and one TD.
In the nightcap, a last-minute turnover doomed the Maroons, as Westsyde took advantage of the miscue to score the winning touchdown with 20 seconds left.
Fulton had rallied from a 14-0 halftime deficit to tie the game 21-21.
“It was a very exciting second half,” said Maroons head coach Mike Scheller. “The game went back and forth, and we tied it 21-21 in the fourth with three minutes left on a great (Kolby) Robinson run. Unfortunately, we had a costly turnover in the last minute.”
Robinson scored all three Fulton touchdowns on rushes of 14-, 60- and 42-yards, ending the night with 237 yards rushing. He was also three-for-three on converts. Quarterback Brad Scabar rushed for 19 yards and completed four passes for 42 yards but with one interception. Lucas Horne had a 28-yard catch for Fulton.
Defensively, Brett O’Dwyer, Reid Williamson and Palmer Taylor each had six tackles, and Carter Moore had a 28-yard interception runback.
“We had a bad first half,” lamented Scheller. “We came out of the locker room flat and were lucky to only be down 14. Defensively, we played pretty good. We held Westsyde, but gave up third and fourth down conversions which allowed them to control the clock.
“In the second half, we played much better defensively. Westsyde has an explosive offence with three very good receivers. To hold them to 27 points was pretty good for us. O’Dwyer and Williamson were tackling machines for us at linebacker. Both kids played their guts out that night. Palmer Taylor at the defensive end was very effective for us, and he had a big impact in the fourth quarter. Safeties Carter Moore and Luca Van de Vosse both played well in the secondary.”
• The Vernon Panthers will close out the senior varsity regular season Friday, Nov. 5, with a home game against the AAA Rutland Voodoos at Greater Vernon Athletic Park. Game time is 7 p.m.
The Panthers will likely finish second in the AA Division behind the South Kamloops Titans, who upset Vernon 7-6 earlier in the season. The Panthers will host a playoff game Saturday, Nov. 13, at 1 p.m. at GVAP against the loser of the game between the Prince George Polars and Duchess Park Condors. The two Prince George rivals play this weekend.
If the Cats win that game, they would travel to Prince George the following weekend to play the winner of PGSS-Duchess Park.