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Ballenas players honoured
Their final campaign may not have ended exactly as they’d hoped, but being honoured by their peers at the big year-end awards certainly took some of the sting away.
Ballenas Secondary School’s varsity quarterback Liam O’Brien made team history when he was named BC High School Football’s AA MVP this week, and teammate Dallas Towle the Pepsi Provincial AA All Star Receiver.
Both players were on hand to receive their hardware Tuesday night in Vancouver at BCHSF’s year-end awards banquet.
The 6’4” 205 pound pivot was the top ranked passer in all of BC High School Football last year — single-A through AAA — and this year O’Brien finished the regular season ranked second overall amongst passers, having completed 72 of the 99 passes he threw over his six conference games for 1,209 total yards. He threw 19 passing touchdowns and finished the regular season with a completion percentage of 72.7 — both league bests. O’Brien was every bit as dangerous in the post season where he completed 48 of the 66 passes he threw in the Whalers three playoff games for 771 total yards (and an identical efficiency rating) and seven TD’s in the air.
Besides being a standout quarterback, O’Brien was also a team leader on defence — he led the league with 10 interceptions and was the Whalers’ second leading tackler with 42. He also took on most of the kicking duties.
Towle, O’brien’s favourite target, finished the regular season as the top-rated receiver in AA football having hauled in a total of 65 receptions for 1,136 yards and 14 touchdowns including the playoffs. He also returned three kickoffs, a punt and an interception for touchdowns this season. Towle also had four interceptions on defence.
O’Brien started playing football in Gr. 8 with the Jr. Bantam Titans and played three seasons for the Whalers. He was sidelined most of his rookie season with a broken throwing arm, and he and Towle joined O’Brien and the Jr. Varsity Whalers in Gr. 10 and they talked about the connection they developed on the field that made them such a dangerous duo.
“Oh yeah, I mean with how great he is it’s hard not to (develop a connection),” said O’Brien, adding “you know when you throw Dallas the ball he’s probably going to catch it every time, so it’s great having him there.”
In all, the two were on the field together for some 32 games over their three years together, and in that time they “definitely” developed a sixth sense and Towle said in his mind O’Brien is the best pivot in the province. “Liam doesn’t miss very much — he’s just right on the ball, you can’t beat him in the league, he’s probably the best, and he knows where I’m going to be, it’s a connection.”
“Sixty-yard bomb in the Belmont game,” a smiling Towle answered quickly when asked if there was a play that stands out, a catch that he’ll always remember and one he pulled in then waltzed in 10 yards to the end-zone uncontested. “By far the coolest throw I’ve ever seen. Just right there, right in my hands.”
The duo’s longest play from scrimmage this year was a 79 yard catch and run against Carson Graham, “but that wasn’t as cool as the Belmont pass.”
“I’m disappointed,” O’Brien conceded when asked about the gut-wrenching semifinal loss to the Mission Roadrunners that ended their season last week.
“I want to go to university somewhere but I don’t know where yet, I’ll just see what happens,” O’Brien said easily when asked what his plans are for after graduation, and confirmed he’s been talking to a couple schools and is testing the waters.
Towle says he’s hoping to get on with the VI Raiders and continue playing that route.
On their coaches, they agreed they’ve had the good fortune of having some great coaches over the year which “was huge” for their development, not only as football players, but as people.
It is the first time in BSS football’s 12 year history one of its own has been named varsity football’s Most Valuable Player.
Over his three years behind centre O’Brien racked up almost 6,000 yards in the air including 70 touchdown passes, while rushing for over a thousand yards and another 25 TDs on the ground.