Head coaches Mike Scheller of the Fulton Maroons and Sean Smith of the Vernon Panthers had different reactions to their teams’ exhibition senior varsity high school football victories at home Friday.
The Maroons rallied in the second half to beat the Rutland Voodoos 28-14 at Fulton Field while the Panthers used a strong fourth quarter to down the Hugh Boyd Trojans of Richmond 31-13 at Panther Field.
“While we were happy with the win, the coaching staff is not particularly happy with the way we played,” said Scheller. “When we were focused, we played very well. We began the game with a great opening drive. We played well defensively in spots. However, we had a bad second quarter where we made too many mistakes.
“We are making mistakes that good teams do not make. I will credit Rutland. They are a disciplined and hard-working squad. They are tough and they outplayed us in the second quarter for sure.”
The Voodoos led 14-6 at intermission.
Caden Doyle scored three touchdowns for Fulton for a second straight game, scoring on a 22-yard run, catching a seven-yard pass from quarterback Ike Olson and returning a punt 70 yards for a major. Ryan Rumsey added a 10-yard scoring scamper and a two-point conversion. Ethan Trottier was 2-3 on converts.
“Caden Doyle was fantastic for us again,” said Scheller. “He just makes play after play for us. He is a true game breaker. Olson was very tough on defense as was Rumsey. I liked the play of our secondary for most of the game. Junior linebackers Ethan Schiman and Quin Williamson continue their tough play for us.”
The Maroons are 2-1.
The Panthers, ranked No. 2 in the B.C. AA polls (Abbotsford Panthers are No. 1), won a B.C. AA Subway Bowl semifinal rematch with the Trojans, but it was the play of his juniors that put a smile on Smith’s face after the contest.
With senior all-star two way player Bradley Hladik sitting out the contest with a sore knee, the sputtering Panthers turned to junior varsity QB-turned senior wide receiver Zack Smith for answers on offence.
Smith not only gave them answers, but sparked a spurt of three unanswered touchdowns beginning in the third quarter. Smith would finish the game with six catches for 98 yards to go along with two TD receptions of 11 and 27 yards.
With the game still in question, pivot Thomas Hyett lofted a deep and seemingly out of reach ball down the sidelines. Smith hauled it in in circus-like fashion for a 52-yard reception that set up the Cats to score a few plays later.
“The catch seemed to spark a dormant offence that made multiple mistakes including two interceptions thrown by Hyett,” said Coach Smith.
“It was fun to watch the connection that Zack and Thomas had in the fourth. We needed some energy and some playmaking and Zack brought us that right when we needed it.”
Workhorse running back Charles Lemay tallied 89 yards on 17 carries to go along with a five-yard touchdown run. Landon Colvin also scored from five yards out. Hyett finished 14-17 for 174 yards with two majors and the two picks.
Defensively, Colvin led all tacklers with eight while Trey Defoor and Brady Szeman added six and a fumble recovery.
“It was great to see our grade 10s (linebacker Szeman and Caden Danbrook, one interception and two catches for 22 yards) compete and make some key plays in their first significant action with the seniors,” said Smith. ” They definitely proved they belonged in the senior ranks today and gave us some dynamic playmaking ability.”
The Panthers, 2-1 in the pre-season, have a bye this week and open up the regular season Friday, Oct. 6, at home against the Westsyde Blue Wave of Kamloops.
Fulton was to have travelled north to Prince George this week for an exhibition game against the Duchess Park Condors, but the Condors have cancelled. The Maroons will open up the regular season on the road in Kamloops Oct. 6 against the South Kamloops Titans.
VSS and Fulton will face each other Friday, Oct. 27, under the lights at Greater Vernon Athletic Park.