By Howard Tsunamura, The Province, Oct 10, 2012
Welcome to B.C. high school football’s most eagerly-anticipated game of the 2012 regular season, the third chapter in an ongoing saga which last season produced two thrillers and a combined 177 points of offence.
Up and down the field, with touchdowns-scored serving as both punches delivered and received, the undefeated, No. 1-ranked Mt. Douglas Rams (2-0, 5-0) of Victoria and Abbotsford’s No. 3-ranked W.J. Mouat Hawks (1-1, 5-1) have built an instant rivalry whose renewal Saturday (2:15 p.m.) at the Fraser Valley school promises not only more of the same, but the expectation that winner will likely be the one who scores last.
“I don’t know about the score,” laughs Mt. Douglas head coach Mark Townsend, “but I do know that it’s going to be another close game. It may come down to the final minute, or the final few plays.”
How close were the saga’s opening two chapters last season?
In a Sept. 9 game in Victoria, the Hawks beat the Rams in the highest scoring game of the entire 2011 campaign, leaving the provincial capital with a 53-47 victory.
Then on Dec. 3, in the last game of the season, the Rams gained their revenge, rallying from a 22-point first-half deficit to stun the Hawks 42-35 in the Subway Bowl B.C. Triple A championship final at B.C. Place Stadium.
The season split saw the Rams score a total of 89 points, and the Hawks score 88 points. Sounds like Townsend knows what he’s talking about.
Yet the best part of Saturday’s meeting, which many feel could be a preview to the 2012 Subway Bowl final, is the fact that both teams have re-made their identities with new stars.
Mouat is led by one of the most electrifying running backs in the history of the provincial game. Grade 11 running back Maleek Irons has already rushed for 1,513 yards and 25 touchdowns over six games, and an offensive line which is one of the finest Mouat has ever put on the field, has performed on cue.
Mt. Douglas has unveiled Grade 11 quarterback Ashton MacKinnon, whose arm is as big as his size (6-foot-6) and who has two distinctly different primary weapons at his disposal in the senior pair of power back Mason Swift, and hybrid runner/receiver Marcus Davis.
After watching each other’s game film, the two head coaches know what awaits each of their defensive units.
“For a Grade 11, their quarterback throws those patterns as well as anyone I have seen at the high school level,” Mouat head coach Denis Kelly says of MacKinnon, who has thrown for 1,045 yards and 15 touchdowns through five games, the last four of which the Rams have scored at least 40 points. “The corner routes he throws to Davis and Swift are right on the mark and those are some of the most difficult throws that a high school kid has to make. He is a real prospect.
“You don’t want to overplay Davis, but you know that from anywhere on the field he can score, and those quick (touchdowns) can kill you in a close game. He has everyone’s attention. And (Swift) is that combination of strength and a great runner.”
Townsend’s take on the Hawks?
“We know we can’t completely stop Maleek, but if we can limit his big plays, that’s what St. Thomas More did last week (in a 32-28 win in which Irons was held to 75 yards rushing and one touchdown),” said Townsend of a the leader of a Mouat offence which has broken 40 points five times this season, including 60-plus points twice. “And their offensive line is very aggressive. They get off the ball so quickly. They get to the second level and really tie up linebackers and they seem to have the ability to get Maleek five yards where he’s untouched. Once he gets that, the rest he is doing on his own.”
Still, both programs didn’t get to where they are without depth.
Crysthian Rivas, Taylor Hinton, Nick Westad and emerging quarterback Mario Narte are among the chips that Mouat will put into play. Mt. Douglas has similar wildcard factors with players like Julian Louis, Brian Dowds and James Nicholas.
That said, both coaches know parity reigns supreme at the upper reaches of Triple A.
“(The loss to STM) exposed some problems for us,” explained Kelly, whose team got a real push from West Vancouver two weeks ago before losing its first game of the season last Friday to the Knights, despite leading by 10 points with under three minutes remaining. “Sometimes winning a game like that can give you a false sense of your own standing. Full credit to STM for putting together a good game plan and executing it, but for us, in the long run, it was probably something that we needed.”
Adds Townsend: “The parity is amazing and we’re not so much concerned about ranking, because the teams one through five are so equal. I am just happy that our kids have continued to come out and practice hard, and have remained hungry.”