Morning Star Staff
With the Interior Conference football championship and a playoff bye on the line, the Vernon Panthers upended the host Westsyde Blue Wave 35-8 in junior varsity action Wednesday.
Westsyde entered the game at 4-1, while the Panthers sported a league-best 5-0 mark (7-0 overall).
Charles Lemay scored on the opening offensive play for the Cats, taking it 39 yards for a touchdown. He added three more rushing TDS before the half expired, the longest 17 yards.
Lemay finished the day with 144 yards on eight carries.
Quarterback Zachary Smith hit six different receivers, going 11-of-15 for 124 yards passing, including a 40-yard TD strike to receiver Ethan Mitchell. Michael Preston and Caden Danbrook both added three receptions apiece.
“We came out firing on all cylinders and put up 35 points in the first half,” said VSS head coach Sean Smith. “I was very happy with our offensive execution and our ability to not only mix run and pass but spread the ball around.”
The Panthers shut down a potent Blue Wave offence by allowing only three first downs. Liam Alder, returning from a Week 2 shoulder injury, showed no signs of rust leading the Cats with six tackles to go along with an interception.
Matthew Reich and Kael Black also chipped in with six tackles, while Tristen Baker added 5.5 and Lemay five.
The Cats’ secondary allowed just one completion while Smith, Alder, Lemay and Mitchell all picked off errant Blue Wave passes.
“Our defence came ready to play and I thought we played true team defence with lots of players contributing,” said Smith. “This group is really starting to gel and getting Alder back helped us on both the offensive line and on defence. If we can get a couple more injured bodies back, we could make a deep run into the playoffs.”
By winning the Interior Conference, the Panthers will sit out the first round of playoffs and get a bye to the quarterfinals. They will take on the winner of the Prince George Polars and a wildcard team yet to be determined.
“Getting the win was huge in a lot of ways. We will get to rest, have an extra week to prepare for our upcoming opponent and have a home playoff game.”