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Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves win AA football provincial title

Bateman defeats John Barsby Bulldogs 45-14, helping to erase last year’s title loss
Bateman’s Ben Brown hugs Isaac Lynn after the Timberwolves captured the AA provincial title at BC Place on Saturday (Dec. 3). (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

40-38 - for an entire year that score haunted players on the Robert Bateman Timberwolves senior varsity football team.

On Dec. 4, 2021, Bateman lost by that score in overtime to the Carson Graham Eagles in the coastal championship game.

That crushing loss was all the returning players thought about.

For quarterback Nolan Watrin, he looked at the score every single day. Watrin taped 40-38 to the ceiling above his bed. A day didn’t go by where when he went to bed or woke up, opened his eyes and spotted that score.

That loss burned inside him and his teammates and was a major motivating factor in Bateman’s 45-14 win over the John Barsby Bulldogs inside BC Place at the AA championship on Saturday (Dec. 3).

“I was looking at that score every single night,” he said. “It definitely fueled all the sprints and all the hard work we put in this year. It’s still up right now, but it’s coming down tonight.”

Bateman set the tone early on Saturday, recovering the ball from an onside opening kick-off just six seconds into the game. The offence’s opening drive saw the Timberwolves march down field and cap it off with a touchdown by Taejshon Catlin.

The next kick-off was again a short kick and again Bateman recovered the ball and went back to work on offence. Watrin called his own number to put the Timberwolves up 14-0. Bateman attempted another short kick-off but the Bulldogs managed to get possession of the ball. That allowed the Timberwolves defence the chance to shine and they forced a four and out for Barsby.

On the ensuing drive, Watrin connected with Rayne Lang to put Bateman up 21-0. The short kick-off then worked again and the Timberwolves went up 28-0 when Isaac Lynn scored a rushing touchdown.

The Bulldogs got on the board late in the first half when Kai Redbour-Bruckman caught a 20-yard pass followed by a successful two-point convert, but Bateman entered the second half up 28-8.

The second half was more of the same for Bateman, as Watrin threw a short TD pass to Liam Olafsen on the first drive of the third quarter and Lynn snagged an interception on Barsby’s next offensive possession. Watrin tossed about a 30-yard pass to AJ Nguyen in the third and then Jagroop Bagri kicked a successful field goal to put Bateman up 45-8. Barsby added a late touchdown.

Bateman head coach David Mills, who was behind the bench for championship losses in 2018 and 2021 was at a loss for words following the win.

“This is unbelievable,” he said, soaking in the moment with a massive grin. “I knew we had a good team and I saw it as possible last year after the overtime loss. There wasn’t a day where somebody didn’t write 40-38 on our whiteboard.”

Bateman did not lose a single regular season, exhibition or playoff game this year and Mills said he will never forget this group.

“We have a great group of players and coaches,” he said. “They all have such great attitudes, very skilled and so big and strong. Everything just seemed to fall into place for us this year.”

Mills explained that kicking the short kicks was designed to give his time more possessions and as a way to avoid kicking to some of the Bulldogs talented players.

“If we could try to have one or two more possessions than them we wanted that,” he said. “Sometimes the ball just bounces your way. Last year the ball didn’t bounce our way.”

RELATED: Abbotsford’s Bateman Timberwolves lose championship game in overtime heartbreaker

Star lineman Logan Thiessen said this is a moment he will never forget and a team that is beyond special.

“This is beyond words,” he said, moments after the team was handed the AA trophy. “It’s the best feeling in the world. Our team worked so hard this week and this whole year. Tonight it finally paid off.”

He said his feelings on last year’s devastating loss were similar to Watrin’s.

“Every time I fell asleep I saw 40-38,” he said. “Every single night I thought about it, but now it feels so good. It is so nice to finally redeem ourselves and show everyone that we are provincial champions.”

Both Watrin and Thiessen are graduating in 2023 and the pair have each received significant interest from post-secondary football programs. Thiessen praised Mills and the program that he has helped build at Bateman.

“That guy puts in so much work every week,” he said of Mills. “If I could get him to follow me to university I would. He’s really second to none and has truly built this program into something really special.”

Watrin stated the coaching staff came up with an excellent plan and he and his teammates executed it.

“We couldn’t have had a better outcome today,” he said. “We had some good bounces but we played our best game today. It feels so good to finally get a win for the program. I can’t wait to go to school on Monday.”

Check out the print edition of the Abbotsford News for more on the historic win.

The Timberwolves team celebrate with medals and the banner. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Timberwolves players receive the banner and trophy. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Coach David Mills celebrates with his staff following the win. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Quarterback Nolan Watrin scampers for yardage. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Wide receiver AJ Nguyen dives in for a touchdown. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Taejshon Catlin finds open field. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
Colby Johnson dekes around a defender. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
The Bateman Cheer Team performed at halftime. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
The Bateman Cheer Team performed at halftime. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)

Ben Lypka

About the Author: Ben Lypka

I joined the Abbotsford News in 2015.
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