Betting on high school football games is rightly forbidden.
But if oddsmakers had turned their focus on the provincial double-A varsity semifinal Saturday between the College Heights Cougars and Robert Bateman Timberwolves at BC Place Stadium the betting line would not have been close.
The T-wolves of Abbotsford steamrolled the BCSSFA Coastal Conference all season. They went a perfect 11-0 and outscored their opponents a combined 224-6 in their last six games heading into Saturday’s clash with the Cougars.
College Heights traveled down to Vancouver as North Conference/P.G. Bowl champions, having not played a game in 22 days, their conference playoffs cancelled due to icy field conditions that closed their home field at Masich Place Stadium for two weeks.
Limited to just two exhibition games and four in the regular season, the Cougars also went undefeated at 6-0. But after such a long layoff between games, taking on a top-notch Robert Bateman team that was so dominant for so long, nobody gave College Heights a chance.
That blowout everyone predicted did not happen. The Cougars played the game of their lives Saturday in the cavernous Lions’ den and lost 21-7, but not without giving the Timberwolves a few nervous moments on the field.
“We had them scared,” said Cougars head coach Tommy Heinzelman. ”That second, third and fourth quarter, they were stunned. They were so close, but just a little short.
“I know it’s tough when you lose but most of them don’t know how good of a team that was. I know it sucks to lose but when you play that well, it’s better than losing 40-0 and coming back home. They only allowed six points in their last six games - this was their second-closest game of the year and they played winning triple-A teams.”
The T-wolves found the end zone on their first possession. AJ Nguyen caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Nolan Watrin to complete a 95-yard drive. They added to their lead on the first play of the second quarter with a short TD trot from Micah Barker.
Trailing 14-0, the Cougars got as lift late in the first half when linebacker Aiden Smith picked off a Watrin screen pass and College Heights moved the ball down to the opponents’ 15-yard line but turned the ball over on downs when quarterback Isaac Slavik was sacked.
College Heights made it one-score game early in the second half after receiver Matthew Norberg hauled in a 35-yard Slavik pass that took the ball to the one-yard line. Provincial all-star running back Taeman Piddocke took off on a sweep and ran in to give the Cougars their touchdown and Ryder Stoughton booted the convert to make it 14-7.
The T-wolves answered later in the third quarter and ball carrier Taejshon Catlin capped the scoring with a TD run. College Heights threatened in the fourth quarter and had the ball in the red zone when Slavik threw a ball on third down that was intercepted in the end zone.
Smith, with a handful of tackles and that interception, while defensive end Andrew Haseldine contributed two quarterback sacks/ On offence, Piddocke was the Cougars’ MVP.
Coach Heinzelman said his players obviously saved their best for last and, especially for his graduating players hoping to move on the junior football of the U SPORTS university teams, their extraordinary efforts on the field were certainly not wasted.
“Many different people came up to us saying it was not the score or the game they expected,” said Heinzelman. “One of the organizers that sets up the whole thing at BC Place came down and the first thing he said was, ‘We’ve got university scouts in the stands and they were wondering who is this College Heights team and where did they come from?’
“Bateman has a couple of guys – Watrin and (lineman) Logan Thiessen – who are (U SPORTS)-type players and are getting scouted. Now they’re looking at our players that they’ve never seen before because we don’t play down there. It’s pretty special for the kids to hear you’ve got scouts in the stands watching you at BC Place. It’s pretty cool.”
Heinzelman says there are other players in the North Conference with university potential, such as Nechako Valley defensive lineman Brecken Fawcett, who also made the provincial all-star team, but didn’t get to showcase their talent in a provincial playoff.
“Brecken is a great player but nobody really sees him unless it’s on film, just because of the geography of where we are,” said Heinzelman.
College Heights had a 32-player senior team roster and also had enough players this season to field two teams in the seven-team North Division for the Grade 8s and 9s. Heinzelman said there was a spike in interest in football when the junior Kodiaks arrived on the scene this past summer as a BCFC expansion team.
“We got some new kids this year just because they saw the Kodiaks and want to be part of football,” said Heinzelman. “Definitely the 7-on-7 winter program the Kodiaks run helped, it give the kids a chance to keep practicing.”
The Cougar roster also includes Connor Sherlock, a provincial all-star centre/defensive lineman. Other members of the team were: Caleb Fuller, Jackson Moleski, Trey Tayamomi, Ethan Lybbert, Oliver Wetmore, Caleb Low, Lincoln Andres, Tyler Rohra Jr., Dray Barclay, Tyrell Shannacappo, Sam Hoar, Ben Duchscherer, Jackson Kolody, Aden Lybbert, Dillon Piddocke, Keegan Shiels, Zachary Loewen, Decker Passey, Thayne Hatch, Troy Weatherly, Karson Husarski, Sam Dawson, Treton Eddy, Owen Bass, Jacob Desjarlais, Andre Nooski and Connor Clausen.
Scott Stoughton, Rob Sherlock, Grant Erickson, Westan Shiels and Spencer Rogers were the Cougar assistant coaches.
Robert Bateman will advance to the provincial double-A varsity final on Saturday against the John Barsby Bulldogs of Nanaimo, who defeated the Vernon Panthers 36-14 in the other semifinal.