Conventional football wisdom holds that teams must be able to run the ball on offence and stop the run on defence in order to succeed in the playoffs.
That’s rarely rung more true than in the lead-up to Saturday’s B.C. AAA high school championship game, when the No. 2-ranked W.J. Mouat Hawks meet the No. 3 Mount Douglas Rams at B.C. Place Stadium (7 p.m. kickoff).
Last weekend, the Victoria-based Rams flexed their muscles in an eyebrow-raising 54-7 semifinal win over top-ranked St. Thomas More of Burnaby, as star running backs Terrell Davis and Mason Swift spearheaded an impressive ground-and-pound attack behind a well-drilled offensive line.
For the Hawks to bring home their fourth B.C. title – they also won it all in 1992, 2002 and 2005 – they have to figure out a way to slow the Rams’ relentless run game. Of particular concern is Davis, the Washington State University-bound senior who was named provincial AAA player of the year after leading the league with 1,355 rush yards and 23 total TDs.
“We know that St. Thomas More is a pretty good football team, and to see that kind of performance from Mount Doug (last week), it was kind of a shock,” Hawks head coach Denis Kelly acknowledged Wednesday. “You’ve got to be very impressed with their blocking and their running. Those running backs are going to be tough to contain.”
Kelly said that it will come down to “basic fundamental football,” though defensive co-ordinator Gary Naylor is surely planning some schematic curveballs to throw at the Rams.
The Hawks can take heart in the fact their defence has emerged as perhaps the best in the province, having allowed just 13 points over the course of three playoff wins.
The unit has come a long way since being lit up by the Rams in the season opener back on Sept. 9 – a 53-47 Mouat win in Victoria.
“Having 47 points scored on you was a little bit deflating,” noted Mouat middle linebacker Jake Heathcote, who ranks second in the province with 92 tackles. “But we knew the next time we played them, we’d be a lot stronger and we’d be ready to give them a better shot.
“They (Davis and Swift) are really good, but I think you’ve just got to stay confident. They’re the same age as me – they’re just kids. They’re not superhuman or anything. We’ve just got to be confident and make the tackles.”
The Hawks have a marquee running back of their own in Devin Logan, who was named to the all-province team after rushing for 1,129 yards and 16 TDs. With all the hype surrounding Davis heading into the B.C. final, he’s going in with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.
“They say he’s the best, but when it comes down to it, we’ll see who’s the best at the end of the game,” Logan said. “That’s what I’m thinking in my head. Ever since last year, it’s been like that – it’s been ‘Terrell Davis, Terrell Davis.’
“That gets my edge going a little bit.”