A tremendous run came to an end for the Ballenas Whalers on Saturday.
The Ballenas junior varsity side held a 14-13 lead heading into the final quarter of the Subway Bowl B.C. High School Football Double-A championship game at B.C. Place, but ended up on the short end of a 25-14 decision to the Windsor Dukes.
Ayden Chambers had a pair of touchdowns for the locals, picking off a pass and taking it 90 yards to the house, and also running one in from six yards.
— BC HS Football (@BCHSFB) November 30, 2019
“I’m incredibly proud of our season and how our junior players have played throughout,” said Whalers head coach Dan Smith. “They’re a real resilient group and have high expectations for themselves. They played lot of teams bigger in numbers and size and never backed down, particularly in this championship game.”
The Whalers were banged up heading into the conest, down three starters. This forced a variety of players to suit up out of position.
“The effort they put in was unbelievable,” said Smith.
After the break, the Whalers were simply worn down by the Dukes. Chambers, named the top AA JV back in the province after the game, suffered a broken arm on the go-ahead touchdown. He had surgery on Sunday.
“He’s a tough, brave kid,” said Smith. “He wanted to keep going.”
Losing Chambers, a key piece on both sides of the ball, left the Whalers using linemen at running back, and they weren’t able to maintain a sustained attack in the second half.
“I will tell you the courage I saw those kids play with against a very talented Windsor team was awesome,” said Smith.
He said that type of effort bodes well for the program as a whole.
“We have a program where kids are really excelling,” said Smith. ” We always put in them very competitive situations. We played some Triple-A schools this year. Our big challenge is trying to attract more kids out to play, especially some of the bigger kids to play the line. We had some kids out there playing against guys that were six-foot-four and outweighed them by 100 pounds. The effort was phenomenal.”
Smith said he was also proud of the school’s senior varsity squad, which advanced to the Subway Bowl semifinals before losing 37-0 to the powerful Vernon Panthers.
“It was an awesome season,” said Smith. “We were undefeated throughout, and that included games against Triple-A teams. Our kids played very well.”
Five Whalers were named provincial all-stars, with Ben Chomolok named as AA offensive MVP. Receiver Jacob Stockton, defensive lineman Demar Hohnstien, linebacker Adrian Friesen and offensive lineman Gage Geiger earned the other all-star accolades.
Smith said the players will take some time off (“get away from football for a while”), and then a banquet will be held in January, to honour the 20th year of the program and celebrate the efforts of this year’s squads.
Then, off-season training begins.
“I think one of the reasons for our success this year was our off-season work,” said Smith. “Coach (Jeremy) Conn did a great job with that. If we can get some new kids out, it will really help.”
— NEWS Staff