Ballenas Whalers battled their way back but fell short of stopping their biggest rivals, the John Barsby Bulldogs, in the annual Border Battle under the floodlights at Nanaimo District Secondary School Community Field on Friday night.
It was a Western AA Conference BC High School Football matchup that was closely contested. The game was tied 14-14 in the fourth quarter but lapses in the Whalers game led the Bulldogs to score a touchdown and a field goal to win 24-14 and retain the Border Battle trophy. The last time the Whalers won Border Battle was in 2016.
The Whalers were down 14-0 in the first quarter but came up with two big touchdowns — one a 20-yard pass that was well-executed by quarterback Ben Chomolok to Nate Robinson. It was easily the play of the night.
Robinson outsprinted a Bulldog covering him and as he crossed the end zone, he turned his head around just in time to see the pigskin soaring towards him and with stretched hands, and made an exciting touchdown catch just before he slid out of bounds.
The second touchdown was a 21-yard pass from Chomolok to Adrian Friesen, who was able to get open at the end zone. Chomolok booted in all the extra points.
“I was very pleased with how we responded after being down 14-0,” said head coach Dan Smith. “It was obvious our kids were nervous to start the game. It put us in a bit of a hole. But we came back and ended the half 14-14.
In the second half, the Whalers struggled to get their running game going.
“They wore us out a little bit,” said Smith. “They are a big, physical team. Most of our games this year, we’ve been going to the second half with the lead and finished strong. Last week was the first time because the competition was such, that we had a difficult time getting going. Then we made some crucial mistakes on a lot of key passes and key situations. We had some people open but couldn’t quite get the ball through.”
Smith commended the Whalers defence as they had some very big plays to stop the Bulldogs on some key drives. But errors led to the Whalers demise as it resulted in one Bulldogs touchdown and a late 35-yard field goal to seal the game.
“Against a team like Barsby, that is well-coached and that competitive you can’t make a few mistakes and expect to beat them,” said Smith then told his players although it was a tough loss, he was proud that they competed hard and have nothing to be ashamed of.
“We might have another chance to play this team so go and review the tapes and learn from this game,” Smith said.
The Whalers this season are 4-1 but in the conference games they have one win and one loss.
This week, the senior boys have a bye but the juniors had a non-conference game against a Triple A school, Earl Marriot Mariners at Merle Logan Field in Nanaimo on Wednesday, Oct. 10.
The Whalers will go on road trip to visit the UBC Thunderbirds football facility and also get the opportunity to train there.