The Sardis football Falcons suffered their first loss of the 2019 AAA season Friday, falling 32-19 to Kelowna’s Mt. Boucherie Bears in their home opener.
The game was played under the lights at Exhibition Stadium and was there for the taking.
But costly/untimely mistakes doomed the locals, who let the game slip through their fingertips.
Trailing 25-19 with time ticking down in the fourth quarter, the Falcons took the ball at the Mt. Boucherie 45 yard line, needing a touchdown and a convert to win.
Facing a third and seven moments later, quarterback Josh Janssen dropped back to pass and had Davies Mitchell running across the middle of the field uncovered. The pivot’s pass was on the money but the receiver couldn’t hang on.
Fourth and seven.
Game on the line.
Janssen dropped back again and this time it was sure-handed DJ Stephens running straight up field with the nearest Bear two yards behind.
The QB arced a beautiful pass over the outstretched mitts of the defenders, into the hands of Stephens. But the receiver bobbled it and watched it fall to the turf.
Stephens kicked the field in frustration at the missed opportunity, and moments later the visitors put it away, with their quarterback plunging in from the one to wrap up the scoring.
“I didn’t say much to DJ or Davies, as I know next time we need a big play they will make it,” head coach Adam Smith said. “We have a quote up in our locker-room that says, ‘We attack success. We don’t fear failure.’
“I let them know the team has confidence in them and let’s move on to the next game. We will work more on getting tons of reps this week so they are prepared next game when their number is called.”
You had to feel bad for both players because both have been so good for Sardis. Aside from the two drops they were otherwise great against the Bears, and both are teenagers who will make mistakes.
It was Stephens who made the play of the game for Sardis late in the third quarter. Trailing 19-12 and facing a fourth and 14, Janssen floated a pass into tight coverage in the endzone.
No. 1 in green soared backwards, hauling in the highlight reel grab as he landed on his butt.
Mitchell was Janssen’s most reliable target for most of the game.
On the first offensive play of the game, he caught a 48 yard pass, and he finished the drive reeling in a TD toss for a 7-0 Falcon lead.
Sardis looked ready to cruise when they took a 13-0 lead on a Myles Joinson TD run, but the Bears started rolling on their next series.
As Smith said at one point, “They do a few things and they do them really well.”
What they did was run the ball relentlessly.
Punishing runs up the middle, sweeps to the sides and scrambles by their fleet-footed QB chewed up the turf as they put together a six play 65 yard scoring drive.
Same story with their second drive.
Six plays, five of them runs (and one long pass) and a game tied at 13.
“The Bears’ O took advantage of our lack of discipline in knowing our jobs and how to execute them,” Smith said.
While the Falcon defence couldn’t stop the Mt. Boucherie attack, the Bears had their hands full with the Sardis offence. Brayden Struiksma checked into the game in the second quarter and sparked the home team.
One of the smallest players on the field, No. 2 ran big. He was fast and shifty and at times it required three or four Bears to drag him down.
“Brayden was amazing,” Smith agreed. “He joined us late, had a great week of practice and when his number was called he went out and dominated.
“The best thing is he is only in grade 10.”
But Struiksma’s effort wasn’t enough on a night when the Bears were just a little bit better.
“We were confident going into the game as we had a great game plan. We did not execute which is on me as the leader to make sure that does not happen again,” Smith said. “After the game we were pretty upset about our performance, but we had a great team bonding event on Sunday night and we are confidant that we will bounce back this week and jump to 3-1.”