It’s a tall enough order simply trying to tackle W.J. Mouat Hawks tailback Maleek Irons, powerful and elusive as he is.
Factor in the Hawks’ road grader of an offensive line, and the Grade 11 speedster becomes downright unstoppable.
The Robert Bateman Timberwolves got a first-hand taste of that reality on Friday evening, as Irons racked up 324 yards and five touchdowns on just 13 carries in a 64-34 non-conference victory at Mouat Field.
“Once he gets a head of steam and gets into the secondary, it’s basically just one or two missed tackles and he’s gone,” noted Hawks coach Denis Kelly, whose team led 28-0 after the first quarter and 42-6 at the half.
“But it’s like any good back – if there’s no holes there, you’re dancing around with nowhere to go. He’s getting very good blocking up front. It’s 10 other guys doing their job for him to get the type of runs that he has, and he has the talent to take advantage of those situations.”
Clovis Lumeka had touchdowns on both sides of the ball for Mouat, rushing for a 61-yard TD and returning a fumble to the end zone on defence. Quarterback Mario Narte also accounted for a pair of majors, tossing a 55-yard pass to Steven Baker and scoring on a five-yard QB sneak.
Friday’s tilt marked the only game against a fellow Abbotsford team this season for the Hawks (2-0), who are No. 2 in the provincial AAA rankings.
For Bateman (0-1), ranked No. 5 in AA, the defeat was not without silver linings.
After struggling to move the ball for much of the first half, the T-Wolves got on the board late in the second quarter when quarterback Tanner Friesen hit running back John Beckerleg for a TD.
Bateman had much more success after the break, outscoring Mouat 28-22 the rest of the way. Beckerleg (pictured below) would rush for two more majors en route to 128 yards on the ground, while running back Ben Cummings (98 rush yards, one TD) and tight end Kent Hicks (10 catches for 132 yards, one TD) also found the end zone.
Riley Davis, playing his first-ever football game, sparkled on the defensive line, leading the T-Wolves with six tackles.
“It was a whole new game for the kids (after halftime),” said Bateman coach Alfred Brathwaite, noting that his team hadn’t even had a chance to scrimmage prior to Friday’s contest. “It makes a huge difference when they get their confidence back.
“By the time they realized they were in a football game, it was a little too late. But they didn’t give up.”
Kelly noted that the T-Wolves’ outside speed hurt the Hawks in the second half.
“They’ve got a nice team,” Kelly said. “At the AA level, they have the talent to compete with anyone.”
HANSEN 45, HANDSWORTH 6
Speaking of explosive rushing performances, the Rick Hansen Hurricanes showcased an impressive array of weapons in a 45-6 road win over the Handsworth Royals.
The Hurricanes rolled up an eye-popping 494 yards of total offence on Saturday afternoon, 308 of which came on the ground. Reagan Doucette led the rushing attack with 149 yards and two TDs on just seven carries, while Jasnoor Dhaliwal (eight carries, 74 yards, one TD) and Devin DaCosta (14 carries, 74 yards) also found room to roam.
Quarterback Alex Ho added a rushing major of his own, and racked up 186 passing yards, with scoring throws to his brother Brandon Ho and Jeevin Uppal.
“We’re quite pleased with the outcome of the game, obviously, but also with how we played up front, winning wars in the trenches,” Hansen coach Paul Gill enthused. “Our guys up front were moving bodies.”
Defensive end Arsh Gill led the ‘Canes defence with five tackles and a sack, while Brandon Ho and Lucas Schwab were dominant from their linebacking spots.
“There’s room for improvement,” Paul Gill noted. “But as far as mentally starting on the right foot, winning that first game is vital.”
NEW WESTMINSTER 40, ABBOTSFORD SENIOR 0
Like their AA division rival Bateman, the Abby Senior Panthers moved up a weight class to play a AAA opponent on the road to open the season.
The New Westminster Hyacks took it to the Panthers, winning 40-0 on Friday.
“I wanted to put some tough opponents in front of us to get us ready for the regular season,” Abby Senior coach Jay Fujimura said. “They’re fast on the edge, and they have decent size up front, so I knew it was going to be a test for us. We stuck with them for the first quarter and a half, and then they just wore us down.”
Fujimura was pleased, though, with what he saw from several of his first-year starters. Running back Mansa Mandagi eclipsed the 100-yard plateau on the ground, while outside linebacker Corey Winkler led the team with seven tackles.
HAWKS AIM FOR PAYBACK VS. MISSION
In high school football action this weekend, the Hawks figure to be highly motivated as they head across the Fraser River to play the Mission Roadrunners on Saturday (11 a.m. kickoff). Last season, the Roadrunners stunned Mouat 22-15 in non-conference play, foreshadowing an eventual AA provincial title.
Bateman and Hansen both play at home this week. The T-Wolves host South Kamloops at 1 p.m. on Friday, while the Hurricanes take on Duchess Park of Prince George at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.
Facing the Hyacks’ wing-T offence figures to set up Abby Senior well for their road game against the John Barsby Bulldogs in Nanaimo on Friday. The Bulldogs, last year’s AA runners-up, use an offensive system that’s similar to New Westminster’s.