Panthers fall in first-place showdown

Abbotsford Collegiate dropped a first-place showdown to Semiahmoo last Thursday, but don't expect them to hang their heads about it.

The Abbotsford Collegiate Panthers dropped a first-place showdown to Semiahmoo of Surrey last Thursday, but don’t expect them to hang their heads about it.

The Panthers fell 36-8 at Exhibition Park in a match-up of the top two teams in the Fraser Valley AAA Tier 1 league. The game wasn’t as lopsided as the score suggests – Semiahmoo scored four tries in the late going – and Abby Collegiate coach Sean McLaughlin called it a “useful setback” as his team pushes for a berth to the provincial championships.

“It helps us ground ourselves and see what we need to do to compete at that level,” McLaughlin explained. “This group has really made strides this season. It’s been part of our two-year plan to make it to provincials, so we’ve been working with this core since they were in Grade 10 and 11 to bring them up.”

Abby Collegiate and Semiahmoo came in tied for first in Tier 1 with matching 5-0 records, though two wins apiece came via forfeit against teams who dropped out due to work-to-rule job action by public school teachers.

The Panthers trailed 12-8 at the half, with all of their points coming from Cody Follett via a try and a penalty kick. But Semiahmoo pulled away after the break.

“We knew we were in for a tough game,” McLaughlin noted. “We had some pretty serious handling errors, and in terms of defensive organization, we couldn’t organize quick enough.”

The Fraser Valley’s AAA Elite and Tier 1 leagues now funnel together for the regional playoffs, with 4.5 provincial spots up for grabs. This Thursday, Abby Collegiate plays the winner of Yale and Sardis in the quarter-finals at Yale, with a guaranteed B.C. berth on the line.

Next Thursday, May 17, the Valleys wrap up at Yale with the placing games. The Robert Bateman Timberwolves and Earl Marriott Mariners have already reserved their spots in the final, since they were the top two finishers in the Elite league during the regular season.

The Valley’s fifth-place team will play the Lower Mainland’s sixth-place finisher for a wild card berth to B.C.’s.

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