The GP Vanier Towhees opened their senior varsity football season Oct. 7 in Langford with a close 11-10 loss to the Belmont Bulldogs.
This was the first game of the season for both teams. Each had played four pre-season tilts with Belmont having the better record. The weather turned out to be perfect for football, and the artificial all-weather turf promised a fast game.
Vanier was eager to play Belmont because last year they suffered two lopsided losses to the Bulldogs. This game would test how much progress had been made so far this year. “Belmont runs a very potent passing game with the occasional running back draw play, and Vanier is mostly a run offence, so it was a game between a passing team and a running team,” said Vanier coach Bob Campbell.
The Towhees kicked off and the Bulldogs mounted a five-minute drive that was finally stopped deep in the Vanier end. The Towhees took over at their own 10-yard line and with the slashing running power of Brandon Hudson and Connor Willis marched down to Belmont’s goal line. Hudson punched the ball in for the touchdown and Willis kicked the convert to make it 7-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The visitors kicked off to start the second quarter and successfully defended a re-energized Belmont offence. The Bulldogs turned the ball over on an unsuccessful fourth down attempt and the Towhees drove to the Belmont 10-yard line before being stopped. Willis kicked a field goal to increase the lead to 10-0.
Belmont’s offence came alive midway through the second quarter with some very impressive passing plays and finally scored a TD and two-point conversion to cut the lead to 10-8. Just before halftime the Bulldogs put up another drive that was stopped cold by Vanier’s defense on their own 15-yard line. Belmont settled for a field goal and 11-10 halftime lead.
The second half was dominated by each offence driving deep into their opposition’s territory only to be stopped by the opposing defence. Belmont kicked off and their ‘D’ put up a big effort, forcing Vanier to kick it away. Belmont then mounted an impressive aerial attack with several incredible pass receptions, despite great coverage by Vanier.
The Bulldogs ended up on Vanier’s 10-yard line as a result of their passing ability and one fortunate fumble recovery. Incredibly, Vanier stopped Belmont’s repeated attempts at a TD and took the ball over at their own one-half yard line.
The Towhees drove the ball out to their 35-yard line but Belmont’s defence stiffened and Vanier was forced to punt. The Towhees had the opportunity to try another field goal from about the 30-yard line but decided instead to try a fake field goal to get a first down. The Bulldogs sniffed out the deception and snuffed out the attempt.
With all the action of back and forth offence and determined defence, the game ended 11-10.
Willis had a very good afternoon which might have been helped by the presence of an SFU football scout in the stands. He had three kickoffs go into the end zone for touchbacks (average 60 yards a kick). He also punted three times for an average of 60 yards. Willis ran 17 times for 121 yards and kicked one convert and one field goal. “Vanier coaching staff hopes the football scout from UBC shows up for the next game,” Campbell said.
Hudson ran for 58 yards on 10 carries and returned two punts for an average of 20 yards. Quarterback Ian Curry completed 3-of- 8 passes and ran one fine bootleg. Jose Huacuja and Wills each had eight-yard receptions.
On defence, Willis made 12 tackles, forced one fumble and had a QB sack. Justin McCooey made six tackles along with Nolan Laderoute. Hudson made five tackles, and Dylan Wyatt made four tackles and one QB sack. Eight other defensive players had unassisted tackles.
The Towhees return to action Saturday against Timberline High School in Campbell River, with game time 1:30 p.m.
– GP Vanier Towhees Football