In the aftermath of Monday’s clash between two up-and-coming Abbotsford high school football programs, Robert Bateman Timberwolves head coach Rick MacDonald came away extremely impressed.
With his own team, not so much.
With the Abby Collegiate Panthers, very much so.
“They out-played us, plain and simple,” said MacDonald, whose T-Wolves dropped a 25-21 decision to the Panthers. “I’ve been warning our guys for two weeks – this team is for real. They never quit. They come hard all the time.”
Both local squads came in with undefeated records in AA Eastern Conference play – Bateman at 2-0, Abby Collegiate at 1-0. The Timberwolves were an honourable mention in the provincial AA rankings last week – an impressive accomplishment for a school in its first season of full-fledged AA varsity football.
But the Panthers’ aerial attack proved more effective than Bateman’s vaunted ground game on Monday, as quarterback Carter Williams (pictured right) completed 21 of 39 passes for 223 yards and four touchdowns. Those went to Jesse Neufeld (2), Dallas Yassinsky and Dillon McGuire.
The T-Wolves got two TDs from Jorden Best, and QB Ryan Kaethler broke loose for a long scoring run on the last play of the fourth quarter.
“It was a good test for us – they’re a good run team, so let’s see if we can stop them,” Panthers head coach Jay Fujimura said. “We’re not a big team, but we’re a physical team, and we love taking on that challenge.
“Our guys definitely stepped up. I’m very proud of them today.”
Abby Collegiate, now in its fourth year of senior AA ball under Fujimura, is a fledgling program in its own right. Monday’s win is yet another sign they’re on the right track.
“We definitely have some skill, but what we try to build our program on is a lot of character, a lot of heart, a lot of hard work,” Fujimura said.
“That sets the groundwork for a successful program, and we’re seeing it this year.”
The T-Wolves were a banged-up group, as impact running backs Justin Douglas and John Beckerleg both sat out with knee injuries. Douglas, a national U18 rugby player, has torn ligaments and is done for the season.
But MacDonald wasn’t about to use that as an excuse.
“We’ve got enough talent on this team to win,” he said. “I hope we take a lesson out of this, and realize people aren’t going to roll over for you because of what’s written in the newspaper. You still have to beat the guy across the line from you, and we didn’t do much of that today.”