The Vernon Panthers ran and threw their way to the Subway Bowl B.C. Junior Varsity AA championship game.
Ayden McDonald ran for two touchdowns on offence, and picked off three Luke Hall passes on defence, as the Panthers won their ninth straight game, downing Abbotsford’s Robert Bateman Timberwolves 35-14 in a semifinal matchup Wednesday, Nov. 23, at Greater Vernon Athletic Park.
In their last five regular- and post-season matchups, the Timberwolves had only given up 12 points. Vernon scored 14 in the opening quarter to take a 14-0 lead.
After McDonald’s first interception, Panthers quarterback Cole Budgen hit receiver Jeff Curtis two plays later with a scoring strike for a 7-0 Vernon lead.
The Cats extended the advantage before the end of the quarter when Jonah Lee took a pitch from Budgen and rumbled five yards for the major.
Bateman got on the board in the second as Brady Doucette ran 30 yards on a reverse and Tristan Sloboda booted the convert to cut the VSS lead to 14-7.
The Panthers had a 56-yard pass-and-run for a touchdown called back later in the quarter due to a holding penalty, and the first half ended with Vernon up by seven.
McDonald scored his first touchdown late in the third quarter on a nine-yard run and Keltyn McAreavy – a perfect five-for-five on the day – added the convert to give the Panthers a 21-7 lead.
That lasted until the opening minute of the fourth quarter, when the Timberwolves pulled to within seven again as Hall scampered in from five yards out. With the convert, Vernon’s lead was down to 21-14.
That would be as close as Bateman got.
McDonald made it a two-score game, picking up his second TD on a 25-yard run, and receiver Anderson Bicknell hauled in a 48-yard pass from Budgen to round out the scoring.
The Panthers will face the Windsor Dukes of North Vancouver in the provincial championship Saturday, Dec. 3, at B.C. Place in Vancouver. The Dukes edged the John Barsby Bulldogs 14-13 in the other semifinal Nov. 23.