Despite an intense second-half effort from the W.J. Mouat Hawks on Saturday, the Triple-A Abby squad succumbed 43-30 to the Vancouver College Fighting Irish, ending their playoff run.
The Hawks entered the game as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference with a 2-5 record, and were heavy underdogs to the 5-2 Fighting Irish (third seed in the Western Conference). Still, just as they did for last week’s 48-20 victory over Rutland, the Hawks showed up to play.
Down 20-0 early, Mouat fought back with an extended drive culminating in a touchdown pass to Elijah Falconer. The Hawks successfully ran in the two-point conversion to narrow their deficit to 20-8.
“We felt that we could move the ball on them,” said coach Dennis Kelley, who explained that although the Hawks had trouble defending against Van College’s size and speed, the Mouat offence found ways to put points on the board.
Slater McCrae produced a big play for the Hawks in the third quarter when he broke through for a 70-yard major off of a short screen pass.
“Its a credit to the kids to basically have gone through a tough season in terms of our overall standing … and showed a lot of character in not only the game but the preparation for the games in the last few weeks when it was becoming obvious that this wasn’t a great year for us in terms of performance on the field,” said Kelly.
This year’s Hawks were significantly younger than the squad that lost 17-6 to the Terry Fox Ravens in the Subway Bowl semifinals last season, and lacked the formidable talents of former star Maleek Irons on the ground.
“We were largely a new team,” said Kelley. “The team in 2013 was mainly Grade 12s. We were low on returning players [this year], and some of them were injured. Some kids dropped out during the strike and we lost a few others once school started … it was a tougher grind for us. But I think the seniors that did carry through showed a lot of grit.”
Three Mouat seniors, Slater McCrae, Kieren Testa, and Jacob Dodd, were given all-conference team nods.
Another bright spot for the Hawks was the performance of Grade 10 running-back Nelson Lokombo, who scored two rushing touchdowns against the Fighting Irish in the fourth quarter. Lokombo is the younger brother of Mouat graduate and current B.C. Lion Boseko Lokombo, as well as the star of the Hawks junior varsity squad.
“He was a guy that we’ve identified as being that breakaway threat for us, even though he’s in Grade 10,” said Kelly, who thinks Lokombo will be a “blue-chipper” just like his brother in a couple years.