The Ballenas Whalers Senior Varsity football squad started strong but faded down the stretch, dropping a 15-8 decision to the visiting Holy Cross Crusaders in B.C. Secondary Schools Football AA Coastal Conference action Friday.
The Whalers already qualified for the playoffs but hoped to lock up their position in the standings, with fourth spot giving them home-field advantage in the first game of the post-season. They have one final regular-season game, against the top school in the conference, Robert Bateman Timberwolves, still unbeaten with a 6-0 record.
The defence kept the Whalers in contention against the Crusaders, who used their size and played a physical game. Led by offensive/defensive linemen Mason Muelleder and Will Dubesky, Ballenas was able to contain the Crusaders’ running game for the most part. But mistakes, unfortunate penalties and missed assignments led to the Whalers’ downfall, which head coach Jeremy Conn said they cannot afford to make against a good team.
“We didn’t execute well,” said Conn. “We missed a couple of tackles with a couple of our coverages, and we took penalties, twice at the seven-yard line. That’s a good football team and we got to make more plays.”
The Whalers opened up with a running back Kooper Chambers scoring a 49-yard touchdown and Brayden Harvey adding a two-point conversion to grab an 8-0 lead. They had another opportunity to add to their lead when they brought play close to the goalline, just seven yards away. But they took a 15-yard penalty and lost momentum when Holy Cross recorded an interception.
The Crusaders were able to tie it up 8-8 using their running game and later using the pass play to score a touchdown and two-point convert.
The Whalers had another chance to score near the goalline. But the squandered the opportunity by committing a five-yard penalty and fumbled the ball.
Conn commended the play of his defensive lineman Muelleder, who recorded 10 huge tackles.
“It’s one of the best performances I have ever seen by a defensive tackle,” said Conn.
Dubesky and Damon Stone were also at the heart of the defence, disrupting the flow of the Crusaders running offence with each making seven and six tackles, respectively. Defensive back Dylan Vigneault had two interceptions.
Chambers led the offence for the Whalers carrying ball 14 times for 107 yards, including a touchdown. Quarterback Brayden Jupe when 12-for-21 for 136 passing and two interceptions.
The Whalers will now prepare to face the conference-leading Timberwolves next week on the road. Conn said they will be reviewing the game tape to determine where the team failed and hopefully correct them.
“I think we can beat them,” said Conn. “If you want to be the best you got to beat the best.”
The Whalers are in fourth place in the Coastal Conference with 6-3 record. Three other teams, John Barsby Bulldogs, third place, Holy Cross Crusaders (fifth) and Argyle Pipers (sixth) have identical records are vying to place better going into the playoffs.
Conn said they could end up in sixth place and possibly end up playing the Bulldogs first the playoffs. But Conn added, all will depend on the last games of the season.
Meanwhile, the Junior Varsity Ballenas Whalers’ quest for a spot in the playoff ended when they were eliminated by host Windsor Dukes 41-8 on Oct. 19.
The Whalers play their last game against the leaders in the AAA/AA Coastal Hybrid Conference Handsworth Royals at Ballenas field on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at 3:15 p.m.