It was the way high school football was meant to be played. Stadium filled to capacity, halftime marching band, rival student bodies cheering on their teams and excitement that kept everyone on their seats until the final whistle.
That set the scene for a game between two undefeated crosstown rivals battling in a Friday night lights showdown at Greater Vernon Athletic Park with not only first place on the line, but city bragging rights as well.
The Vernon Panthers, who have not lost a league game since 2010 and are currently ranked No. 2 in B.C. Senior Varsity AA football, got all they could handle from the Fulton Maroons before walking away with a 14-7 win.
The first score didn’t come until early in the third quarter when quarterback Thomas Hyett hit Zack Smith from 16 yards.
The Panthers threatened early, getting inside the five-yard line on their opening drive, and again in the second quarter, but came away with no points both times. Workhorse Charles Lemay (27 carries for 147 yds – one) plunged in from six yards to put the Cats up by 14 in the fourth. That’s when the tilt got interesting. The Panthers attempted a field goal that should have sealed things.
However, the Perez Vermeulen attempt clanked off the post, and the Maroons came to life. With under two minutes to play, wide receiver Caden Doyle got behind the coverage and pivot Ike Olson hit him in stride for a 50-yard TD strike to close the gap. An onside kick attempt was flagged which allowed the Cats to get a first down and run out the clock.
“This was a great game played by both sides,” said Panther head coach Sean Smith. “I think both defences played outstanding today and there wasn’t a lot of open space out there for either team on offence. I was concerned about whether my boys would be able to match up to the physical style of play that Fulton plays, but they stepped up to the plate and impressed me with their tackling and sound gap responsibility. We left 17 points on the field and got inside their five twice without getting a point which really hurt us.”
Grade 11 defensive tackle Trey Defoor led all VSS tacklers with a Panther season-high 10 solo .
“I told Trey before the game that he was going to be our defensive MVP today because they were going to run a lot of misdirection his way. For a DT to get 10 tackles is a testament to his film study and technique work this week because he had to do a lot of reading and reacting in tight quarters with very little time to spare,” added Smith.
Also impressive was the contributions of the Panthers Grade 10s. Junior quarterback-turned senior wide receiver Zack Smith not only registered the opening touchdown, but pocketed three more receptions for 49 yards to go along with an interception from his cornerback position.
Caden Danbrook hauled in four catches for a game-high 65 yards and Brady Szeman filled in at DT.
“The contribution our Grade 10s made was huge for us. They haven’t got a lot of senior reps so it was nice to see them make the transition so easily. However, our offensive line won us this game. We are usually a pass-first team, but we took a ‘take what they give you attitude’ which meant running the inside holes a lot. Lemay and our O-line surged in the second half and allowed us to not only control the time of possession but also score.”
The win assures the 3-0 Panthers the top seed in the Interior Conference and a first-round playoff bye while the 2-1 Maroons will host an opening-round game Nov. 10.
Liam Alder rang up seven tackles for VSS, while Lemay posted six and Drew Mackenzie and Brad Hladik each recorded five.
Olson completed 10 of 15 passes for 153 yards while being picked off once, Doyle collected 125 yards on five receptions, while Teigen Derkach had four catches for 15 yards.
Doyle ran the ball five times for 32 yards, while Ryan Rumsey had seven touches for 14 yards.
Quin Williamson earned 10 tackles for the Maroons, while Olson produced seven, Rumsey six and JJ Heaton two. Olson and Cole Hunter each posted sacks,
“The Battle of Vernon was a very close and exciting football game,” said Fulton coach Mike Scheller. “We had an excellent loud crowd and both schools had solid following. We stopped two field goal attempt in the first half to keep it scoreless. In the end, Vernon was the better team tonight. They took control of the line of scrimmage in the second half on both sides of the ball, and won the field position and time of possession battle. They are a tough physical team and they ground out the win. congrats to them.”
Fulton only racked up 209 yards total offence.
“We did not do a good enough job of controlling the clock,” added Scheller. “We should have passed more and that is my fault as playcaller. Doyle was a standout again for us. He is a threat to score every time he has the ball. Defensively, Williamson, Rumsey and Evan Trottier had excellent games for us.”