Sports

Panthers, Ravens battle their way to B.C. football finals

Reid Dana of the Abbotsford Senior Panthers Grade 10 football squad runs away from a would-be Vernon Panthers tackler during provincial AA semifinal action on Wednesday. Abby Senior won the battle of the Panthers by a 21-16 score. - Dan Kinvig
Reid Dana of the Abbotsford Senior Panthers Grade 10 football squad runs away from a would-be Vernon Panthers tackler during provincial AA semifinal action on Wednesday. Abby Senior won the battle of the Panthers by a 21-16 score.
— image credit: Dan Kinvig

On a rain-soaked Wednesday afternoon at Mouat Field, two Abbotsford football teams punched their tickets to the B.C. finals.

In Grade 10 AA semifinal action, the Abby Senior Panthers edged Vernon 21-16, writing another chapter in a remarkable turnaround story.

The Panthers finished 1-7 last season with a roster predominantly comprised of Grade 9 athletes. But those players stuck with it and came back strong, and now they’re off to play for the provincial title at B.C. Place Stadium next Saturday vs. the Mission Roadrunners.

“To play where the B.C. Lions play, it’s unbelievable,” marveled Abby Senior quarterback Grayson Marquardt, who rushed for all three Panthers’ touchdowns on Wednesday. “I’m kind of at a loss for words. But we’re ready for it, I think.”

Abby Senior coach Rick Funk said that earning a berth to the B.C. final was a just reward for his crew after taking their lumps last year.

“They got beat up physically, they got beat up on the scoreboard, and they never gave up hope for one minute,” Funk enthused. “All their bruises became badges, and this year it’s paid off. It’s great to see.”

In the Grade 8 AA semis, the Eugene Reimer Ravens upset their crosstown rivals, the Abby Middle Huskies, 16-6.

The Huskies had lost just once all season, while the Ravens were sporting a 6-3 record coming in. But Reimer came up with a huge defensive effort, and earned the right to face the H.D. Stafford SkyHawks of Langley in the provincial final next Thursday at Burnaby Lake Sports Complex (4 p.m. kickoff).

“Our defence played very well and limited their passing game,” Ravens coach Ryan Colbert noted. “That was the big difference. On offence, we just focused on getting three or four yards at a time and ensuring we kept things simple.”

Reimer running back Dylan Manocha had a huge game against the Huskies, racking up 178 yards and two TDs on 27 carries. Bobby Narang chipped in with 49 rush yards and a key two-point convert, while Samwel Uko accounted for the Abby Middle points on a 60-yard scoring scamper.

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