The College Heights Cougars are on a 9-0 roll and are now just two wins away from the double-A junior varsity provincial football crown.
They took one big step towards that goal Saturday at Masich Place Stadium where they defeated the South Kamloops Titans 33-19 to claw further into the playoff grid than any other northern B.C. team since the North Division was formed in 2016.
"We just made history, in our own hometown, being the first College Heights team to win the junior P.G. Bowl, and now we're the first team out of the North to make it to semis," said Cougars running back/linebacker Alex Thanos, who rushed for 101 yards on 23 carries and had one touchdown.
"Everyone was nervous and it was kind of a roller-coaster ride at the beginning and we just had to get those bumps out and it was just a steady climb. It's just all that work paid off in the end, and this is not over."
Cougars running back/defensive back Austin Adams was a frequent flier into the end zone. He made four catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns and ran the ball 16 times for 152 yards and two touchdowns. It certainly wasn't easy for him and his rushing counterpart, gaining all that real estate.
"They're a good team and they came out fighting from the start and we just had to keep our composure and just give 'er from start to finish," said Adams. "It helped to have the crowd cheering you on.
"Alex Thanos is such a good player, picking up five or 10 yards every time - he's six-foot-one, 200 pounds and he was just giving 'er."
The Titans gave the Cougars more adversity than they encountered in any of their previous eight games. Their season started for College Heights in September with preseason wins over Robert Bateman of Abbotsford and Argyle of North Vancouver. They rolled over their North Division opponents, winning all four regular season and a conference semifinal games handily, followed by a 40-14 triumph over the Nechako Valley Vikings in the junior varsity P.G. Bowl.
"I don't think it's quite sunk in what they've accomplished here, but it's pretty amazing, pretty special," said Cougars head coach Grant Erickson. "It was a tough game and we knew that coming in. Nothing against the teams here, it's just we knew they would be a lot tougher competition for us. We had a huge week of practice and you could tell by the type of practices we had that we were dialed in a ready to go and it was just a matter of executing the plays.
"When Austin starts freelancing out there he's hard to stop. They're the first team all year that's been able to stop our sweep to Austin and we found a hole running the ball on the right side and continued to grind that out with Alex."
Thanos made five tackles, as did College Heights linemen Hayden Matheson and Spencer Rogers. Adams picked off two passes thrown by Titans quarterback Amaryn Mahal. Cougars linebacker Levi Martin had one QB sack.
The Titans came with the blitz and had Cougars quarterback Jerome Erickson under siege for much of the game. He still managed to complete seven of 18 passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns and had two tosses intercepted.
"They were sending the house so he didn't have a ton of time back there and the poor kid's so short that he has trouble seeing over the line and they were containing him so he wasn't allowed to roll out," said coach Erickson, Jerome's dad. "But he hung in there and played a whale of a game."
The Cougars led 21-7 at the half but it was was a one-score game to start the fourth quarter until Erickson and Adams hooked up for a 25-yard TD toss down the middle of the field. Late in the quarter Thanos punched it in from one yard out to create more breathing room for the Cougars.
The Cougars will head to North Vancouver on the Nov. 23-25 weekend to play the Windsor Dukes, who beat the Clarence Fulton Panthers 38-27 in a quarterfinal playoff Saturday. The Dukes finished the regular season 2-2 and are the third-ranked team in the West Division.
The semifinal winners meet in the B.C. Secondary Schools Football Association double-A junior varsity Subway Bowl Dec. 1 at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.
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