Abby Panthers lose AA provincial football final

Panthers lose 53-34 to Carson Graham Eagles in title game

Panthers running back Richard Tshimpaka battles for yardage during the AA provincial title game at BC Place on Saturday.

Panthers running back Richard Tshimpaka battles for yardage during the AA provincial title game at BC Place on Saturday.

When star player Chase Claypool went down, the championship dreams for the Abbotsford Senior Secondary Panthers eventually faded.

Claypool landed awkwardly while going up for a catch in the endzone in the first quarter of the BC high school football AA title game against the Carson Graham Eagles, and didn’t return until the second half.

When he did come back, the Notre Dame recruit played courageously, but was limited. It was Claypool’s absence on offence that stung, but it was his removal on defence that may have cost the Panthers the game.

Abbotsford ended up losing 53-34 to the Carson Graham Eagles at BC Place on Saturday in the BC high school football AA title game.

“I thought the boys played hard, but then we had some adversity and you have to battle through that if you want to be a champion,” said head coach Jay Fujimura. “Hats off to Carson Graham. They played a hell of a football game and they were the better team today.”

He said losing Claypool hurt, but it was the Eagles’ offensive attack that sunk the Panthers’ title dreams.

“We’ve lost Chase before and we had opportunities to score and win,” he said. “But they were just very good offensively and we couldn’t keep pace. Things like that happen and we have to adjust and adapt, but we just couldn’t get it done overall.”

Claypool opened the scoring with a touchdown catch in the first quarter, but then had the awkward landing near the end of the first quarter. He didn’t return until later in the second half, and played through pain to throw a touchdown pass to Maasin Thompson.

Abbotsford had a 21-20 lead at halftime, but quarterback Tyler Nylander and the Eagles turned it on in the second half. Carson Graham was up 46-28 after three quarters and the teams traded touchdowns in the fourth.

Samwell Uko had two touchdowns for the Panthers, one on the ground and one after a kick-off return. Thompson also had two touchdowns, while Richard Tshimpaka scored a rushing touchdown and caught two interceptions.

Despite the loss, Fujimura said it was a season to remember. The Panthers reached a provincial title game for the first time since 1984, and he said he’s proud of his team.

“We had a really good season, one of the best we’ve ever had at Abby,” he said. “They did a lot of good things this year and I’m proud of how hard they worked and battled. Unfortunately, you can’t win them all.”

It’s the end of the road for graduating seniors Claypool, Tshimpaka, James Parker, Mike Sabourin, Manny Jhally, Jeremy Goldie, Harmin Gill, Harjot Lalli, Tajan Sangera, Patrick Janda, Jesse Clifford, and Jon Anderson. Fujimura said it was a special graduating class, and the program appreciates their efforts.

“They’ve been huge contributors to help get the program where it is today,” he said. “They’re part of our legacy, and have been here to help us grow and accomplish a lot. They will be sorely missed.”

Several Panthers were also honoured on Dec. 1 at the Subway Bowl awards banquet in Vancouver. Claypool was named AA player of the year, becoming the first Panther to win that honour. Quarterback John Madigan and offensive lineman Clifford were both named provincial all-stars.

Also at the banquet, W.J. Mouat Hawks star Dion Pellerin was awarded the Kevin Chin memorial scholarship.

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