Under the spotlight of a provincial semifinal and the glow that was a rematch of last year’s championship final, the Terry Fox Ravens may have difficulty seeing the good to a season that ended so coldly.
Understandably, Saturday’s season-ending 33-0 loss at the hands of the New Westminster Hyacks has such a dampening effect.
In a game that brought together last year’s finalists, where the 2017 championship was decided on the final play, promised so much in emotion and expectations, the end result was like being slapped with a wet towel – both shocking and numbing.
New West won the day by rattling the Fox defence with an array of running options as well as a stealthy passing plan, while doing an extremely strong job shutting down the Ravens’ running attack.
Having averaged 39 points per game during a 7-2 regular season, Fox was expected to continue grinding out the yards and moving the yard sticks as they did a week ago, when they took down Notre Dame. Taking away nothing from what had transpired en route to the B.C. Subway Bowl semifinal, but Saturday’s highlight reel will be short and not so sweet from a Terry Fox perspective.
“Full credit to New West, they just beat us on both sides of the football today,” remarked Fox head coach Martin McDonnell. “I’m still proud of our guys, we ended up 10-3 (on the season). We won 10 games this year, and two games we lost previous to this we lost by a total of 13 points. I really didn’t expect this.
“It really surprised me that we laid an egg on both sides of the ball.”
It didn’t start that way, as the Ravens’ defence bent but didn’t break during New West’s first possession, forcing them to turn over the ball just inside the 20-yard line on downs.
Getting anything going on offence was an issue all night. The Hyack defence was quick to lock down the rushing lanes, and did a good job of pressuring Grade 10 Fox pivot Key’Shaun Dorsey.
New West opened the scoring 33 seconds into the second quarter on a nine-play drive that covered 95 yards and ended with a 12-yard TD pass from Kinsale Philip to tight end Matthew Drake.
They’d add to their lead with a field goal on their next possession, putting the pressure on the Ravens to respond.
However, the Hyacks threw a wrench into the works when Matthew Lalim stripped the ball from Fox’s Cade Cote at the Ravens 29-yard line. It was followed six plays later by another major that put the Ravens in a 17-0 hole.
Their best chance to get on the board came in the waning moments of the first half when, after another unsuccessful drive, New West was tagged for a late hit on punter Dawson Hodge that gave the ball back to the Ravens just across midfield. Terry Fox’s Ethan Shuen took a Dorsey pass inside the five-yard mark, followed by a Jaden Severy run to the one-yard line. However, with the clock winding down, the squad was unable to punch it over.
That sent the tone for the rest of the night.
“We knew what (the Ravens offence) was going to do. Structure, if you get in the right spots and you have good athletes, can win you games. And we have good athletes,” remarked New West coach Farhan Lalji.
Unofficial offensive yards in the first half had Fox held to just 60, while New West posted 210 yards, including Philip completing five of nine passes for 61 yards and one major.
From McDonnell’s vantage point, the result may have been a one-off, but it was equivalent to a blindside hit, especially after Fox’s strong 35-21 victory over ranked Notre Dame in last week’s quarterfinal.
“We were just not firing on all cylinders. It was everybody’s fault, no one was in sync so it wasn’t one particular side, one aspect,” noted McDonnell. “This is the only egg of the whole season, but just a really bad time to do it.”
Having had to scramble at the start of the year to fill some unexpected holes in the starting lineup, the coach noted that it was a season that, while ending on a sour note, had plenty to feel good about. Being ranked as high as No. 2 during the year, the Ravens have a number of key returnees who can use this experience as fuel for next season, he said.
“The good news is we will bounce back. … Since 2006 we have been in the finals six times, we’ve lost in the semis another three times. We’ve never not been in the playoffs, but it was our turn to get our asses kicked,” he said.