Panthers, Timberwolves looking to go deep

Abbotsford and Robert Bateman high school football teams look ahead to 2015

Bateman defenders smother the competition at a game from last year. The Timberwolves have high hopes for 2015.

Bateman defenders smother the competition at a game from last year. The Timberwolves have high hopes for 2015.

By: Ben Lypka, Abbotsford News

Robert Bateman Secondary Timberwolves

The Wolves are hoping that a first round exit in 2014 leads to one big step forward in 2015.

Bateman finished with a record of two wins and four losses in AA Varsity play in 2014, good for fourth place in the competitive Eastern Conference. This year marks just the sixth year in the history of the football program at Bateman, but they’ve never missed the playoffs. Co-head coach Dan Village expects another playoff appearance this year, with the threat to make some noise in the postseason.

“Things are going pretty good for us so far,” he said. “We have 33 on our roster the most we’ve ever had for seniors. I think we’re going to be better than last year and are hoping to make top three in our division and make a run in the playoffs.”

Village said one of the strengths of the team this year are its returning players. He pointed to key members such as quarterback Keegan Vicklund, linebacker/running back Dawson Davis, linebacker Devin Sidhu, receiver Tyson Gibson and receiver Keenan Adams-Barausse as leaders for 2015. Vicklund, Gibson and Sidhu are all Grade 12s and Village said they’re motivated to end their high school careers with a bang.

According to Village, making an impact in the playoffs is a goal for the team.

“We want to finish top three in our division and if we can make it out of the first couple of rounds in the playoffs that would be a good goal for us,” he said. “We’ve made playoffs every year but we want to win the first couple of games.”

The Timberwolves spend the rest of the month playing exhibition games, having already tangled with Abbotsford Senior Secondary on Sept. 11. They take on Handsworth this weekend, play Carson Graham next weekend and close out the exhibition run against Holy Cross. Village said the last two exhibition games should give an indication of where his team is at.

Bateman kicks off the regular season at home on Oct. 9 against Chilliwack’s GW Graham. Bateman’s Junior Varsity team also returns to the gridiron, opening the season by hosting Mission on Sept. 23.

Abbotsford Senior Secondary Panthers

The Panthers were rolling in the regular season last year, winning the AA Varsity’s Eastern division and compiling a record of five wins and one loss.

They beat the Frank Hurt Hornets 35-0 in round one of the AA playoffs but then ran into a strong Vernon team and lost 36-6 in Kamloops to dash their championship dreams.

Abbotsford head coach Jay Fujimura said this year is the culmination of four years of hard work for his seniors.

“I think they’ve worked really hard in the off-season and they’ve come together and got a little bit better every year,” he said. “This group has been together for four years now, I think all the players have developed into a solid unit.”

At the forefront of the team’s offence is wide receiver Chase Claypool, who verbally committed to Notre Dame in July. Fujimura said the team employs a spread offence and tries to get Claypool involved as much as possible.

“With him in the offense, we try to get the ball to him as much as we can,” he said. But Claypool isn’t the only weapon in the Panthers arsenal, as Fujimura pointed to running back Richard Tshimpaka, quarterback John Madigan and a strong offensive line.

“We have two seniors Jesse Clifford and Harjot Lalli on the line and I think it’s one of the better offensive lines we’ve ever had,” he said.

“Our hopes for this year are to definitely go farther,” he said. “We have a good opportunity and they’ve worked hard enough and I believe we’re good enough to make a good run.”

The Panthers kick off the regular season on Oct. 10 when they battle Mission Secondary in Mission. Regular home games are Friday nights at 7 p.m. Abbotsford’s Junior Varsity kicks off the regular season on Sept. 24 when they host Samuel Robertson Technical.

Read next Friday’s edition of the Abbotsford News for previews of both the WJ Mouat Hawks and the Rick Hansen Hurricanes.