Prince George Polars quarterback Braden Reed can toss a football half the distance of the field with accuracy if that’s what his coach tells him to do.
The Polars have a corps of sticky-handed receivers to haul in those passes and they lined up on the turf at Masich Place Stadium next to Reed while he took the snaps Friday night in the double-A varsity PG Bowl final.
It turned out Reed didn’t need to use his passing arm to shred the Kelly Road Roadrunners’ defence. His legs did the job just fine.
The Grade 12 senior ran the ball 28 times for 266 yards and five touchdowns in a 49-8 rout of the Roadrunners which gave PGSS its second-straight B.C. Secondary Schools Football Association Northern Conference title.
“It was a good game, we really played a lot better than we did (in last week’s B.C. Secondary School Football Association Northern Conference semifinals) when we played Vanderhoof, we really performed like we should have,” said Reed, who made just three pass attempts.
A 50-yard punt from Darren Eikum pinned the Polars on their own four-yard line for their first possession and Reed marched them 96 yards into the end zone.
“I really stepped up for the game and feel I performed by best and I tried my hardest,” said Reed. “It was my last-ever PG Bowl and I definitely wanted to leave my mark.”
Reed said it helped having played Kelly Road late in the season (a 39-14 win on Oct. 18) which made it easier for the Polars to predict what to expect.
The Polars have had to adjust to not having fullback Gage Ridland in the offensive scheme. The Grade 12 senior was the third-leading rusher for PGSS, averaging 56 yards per game, and was one of their top linebackers until he broke his collarbone in the Kelly Road game that wrapped up the regular season.
“He really opened up the run game on the outside – the way he carried the ball up the gut really made defences focus on him and they had to stack up a lot of players in the gaps and that cleared the way for me and Gavin (Murray) on the outside,” said Reed.
“I’m glad we’re still gelling without him and our players are willing to step up to the plate to replace him.”
Murray and Gage Bernard have taken on Ridland’s duties at fullback and took advantage of the holes guard Tristan Serwatkewich and the rest of the offensive line opened for them. Murray gained 117 yards on 22 carries and had one touchdown.
The Roadrunners passed frequently with Brendan Watts at quarterback and he was under pressure constantly from the rush led by Max Vohar and Sasha Gajic.
“They had a couple big plays on us which resulted in their touchdown and two-point conversion but other than that we handled them well,” said Polars head coach Pat Bonnett. “Their quarterback played well and a couple of their receivers had a good game and their No. 10 (Logan Devauld) was good at running back the kickoffs. (Thiessen) really messed up our backfield for a while until we double-teamed him.”
Jason Kragt, a Grade 10 special teams player, was handed one of the game balls in the Polars’ locker room after the game.
“He’s the kind of kid, it didn’t matter where we asked him to play, he’s just so willing and plays so well,” said Bonnett. “He’s at every practice and he lives in Hixon.”
Grade 11 running back Alexander MacPheat was moved over from his usual position at wide receiver due to injuries and in the fourth quarter scored his first touchdown of the season.
Defensive tackle Clay Thiessen was the player of the game for Kelly Road.
The Polars led 28-0 at halftime. The Roadrunners finally broke through late in the third quarter when Watts and receiver Brayden Richards hooked up for a 30-yard passing play. Watts ran in the two-point convert.
“That was our worst game of the season by far, we just came out flat, they got up on us early and we couldn’t dig out of the hole,” said Kelly Road head coach Ryan Bellamy. “Our tackling was too high to play against a guy like (Reed) and he made our defence look bad early and often and all night.”
The Polars will be the North’s top seed when they take on the Samuel Roberts Technical Titans of Maple Ridge (the Eastern Conference No. 4 seed) next Saturday (5 p.m.) in the opening round of provincial playoffs at Masich. The winner advances to a playoff against the second seed from the Western Conference.
It will be the first-ever BCSSFA playoff game in Prince George and Reed can’t wait to renew acquaintances with Titans defensive end Curtis Farnworth, who played with Reed on Team B.C. at the Canada Cup tournament in July in Calgary.
“It will be kind of funny seeing him in P.G. because whenever I go down south for provincial teams it’s always like, ‘What? You’re from Prince George, what’s that like?’ Now they’ll be coming up to experience it.
“Having home field advantage really helps, because pretty much every year except this year we’ve had to go down south for provs to play in Kamloops or Vernon. It’s going to be a gamechanger being the home team for once.”
Saturday at 11 a.m., the Roadrunners face the G.W. Graham Grizzlies, 34-7 winners over Samuel Roberts Friday night in Chilliwack. The Grizzlies are seeded third in the East.
The junior varsity North Division-champion College Heights Cougars take on the South Kamloops Titans in a first-round playoff Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Masich.