Polars' season ends in loss to Holy Cross

Time ran out Saturday on the injury-riddled Prince George Polars football team.
The Polars suffered a season-ending 47-6 loss to the Holy Cross Crusaders of Surrey in a Subway Bowl double-A varsity quarterfinal playoff on the indoor carpet at B.C. Place Stadium in Vancouver.
The Northern Conference-champion Polars, who relied on quarterback Braden Reed and his scrambling ability that allowed him to score 10 touchdowns in the previous two playoff games, lost a war of attrition to a healthier Crusader squad that had strength in numbers.
Three key senior cogs in the Polars offence were either sidelined or on the limp for Saturday’s game. They lost fullback Gage Ridland to a broken collarbone in the last regular-season game. Gavin Murray, their starting running back and backup quarterback, was on crutches after he went down with a knee injury last weekend early in the Polars’ wild-card playoff win over South Kamloops. Running back Sean Bernard was also hobbled with knee injuries but played Saturday.
“We were right in it, we did well in the first half – our running game wasn’t as good as it normally is but we held them – and at halftime it was 14-6,” said Polars head coach Pat Bonnett.
“The (final) score is not reflective of our ability. It’s more reflective of the fact we were hampered by injuries, we got tired in the second half and because of those factors we kind of tuned out for the last half of the game.”
Reed did his best to carry the team on his back like he did in the previous two games but hurt his ankle in the second quarter with the Polars within a point of the Crusaders. Mark Vohar filled in for Reed’s spot on defence at linebacker. After getting his ankle taped, Reed came back into the game and was able to finish, but his injury limited the Polars’ options on offence. They still managed to rush the ball 200 yards – about half of the total ground gains they averaged in their games this season.
The Polars scored their only touchdown in the first quarter after Vohar moved the ball 30 yards on a pass from Reed. Reed then ran it in from six yards out and the Polars trailed 7-6. In the second half, Holy Cross had sufficient numbers to keep its offensive and defensive lines separate and stocked with fresh bodies. That and a few big plays weighed against the Polars and turned the game decidedly in the Crusaders’ favour as they reeled off 33 unanswered points.
“I kept telling the guys at halftime ‘We’re in this game, we can compete with these guys and I know we can win,’ but in the second half mentally we just blew it and physically we were just tired,” said Bonnett. “They kept putting out whole units, a different line for offence and defence, and we were just leaving the same guys out on the field and I think that’s what wore us down.
“When the other team scores a couple touchdowns, mentally you start checking out and unfortunately that’s what happened. There were a good half-dozen guys who would have been first-stringers who, for whatever reason, they decided not to continue and the guys tried to recruit them but there were other sports they felt allegiance to. If we had those six or 10 guys, whatever it was, we’d be going back down there (this) week for sure.”
Holy Cross came into Saturday’s game having won four of its five games this season. Jack Laurin, a Grade 11 running back, scored three touchdowns for the Crusaders, who advanced to the semifinal round Saturday against Robert Bateman of Abbotsford. John Barsby faces Vernon the other semifinal Saturday at B.C. Place.
Regardless of the outcome, playing in the home of the B.C. Lions was a thrill for the Polars and while Bonnett felt for his 14 Grade 12 seniors, who wrapped up their high school careers Saturday, the game planted a seed in the younger players. He hopes they will stick with the game long enough to return to the provincial playoffs and get another taste of playing at B.C. Place Stadium.
“There were five guys who went down there as juniors, two Grade 9s and three Grade 10s,” said Bonnett. “Now they can come back to PGSS and tell their teammates for two or three years, ‘It’s fun going down to Vancouver and it’s great going into the stadium and we can compete.’”
In a junior varsity semifinal this afternoon in Kamloops, the North Division-champion College Heights Cougars will take on Windsor of North Vancouver.
The winner will advance to the junior varsity Subway Bowl final Dec. 2 against the winner of today’s G.W. Graham-John Barsby semifinal.

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