The Ballenas Whalers kicked off their football season last weekend amidst the teachers’ strike and after three weeks of hitting each other on the practice fields, reports indicate it felt good to go up against some competition.
Both the junior and senior squads were in action, the juniors playing a double header in Nanaimo against the NDSS Islanders and the John Barsby Bulldogs. Game one came against the Islanders and saw the Whalers come away with an 8–0 victory. The games were shortened, with no kicking for either team in each game. Game two, against the rival Barsby Bulldogs, saw the teams play to a 14–14 tie.
Matt Giroux had two scores on the day, one in each game, to go along with four tackles, a sack and a fumble recovery on defense. Cole Morrison also had a score for the Whalers in game two, hauling in a 29-yard pass for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, the senior Whalers kicked off exhibition action against the NDSS Islanders and looked dominant from the opening kick-off, taking the game 41–8. The offensive and defensive lines looked sharp, creating problems for the Islanders all game and allowing the Whalers to run rampant on both sides of the ball.
“Both of our lines looked good in the game, it was nice to see,” defensive coach Trevor Shields said. “Our offensive line opened up a lot of big holes and blocked very well, which allowed us to execute like we wanted to.”
Coltin Laplante scampered for 110 yards rushing, scoring a touchdown and added seven tackles and a sack on defense. A.J. Messner ran for 88 yards, collecting two touchdowns on the day. Garrin McDonnell threw five passes for 131 yards and three touchdowns, while Brendan Harstad caught three touchdown passes for a total of 75 yards. Cobby Stubbins had himself a game as well, reeling in two passes for 57 yards.
“It was good to see the kids have a chance to play against another team,” Shields said. “We’ve been practicing for three weeks now and to have the chance to actually hit someone else, instead of your team, really showed how bad they’ve been waiting for it to happen.”
With the school strike ongoing, the team has been splitting practices between their home turf and the fields behind Springwood Elementary School. It’s been a tough situation and with the regular season right around the corner, it’s a situation that could get a lot tougher if the strike continues.
“We want to be completely respectful of what’s going on,” Shields said. “The problem with that is the only other place that has uprights for us to kick through is at Springwood. It’s tough because of the strike but then with the baseball fields still set up too, it makes it that much harder to know where we’ll be playing our home games.”
Both teams are on the road this week with the juniors taking on Spectrum and the seniors taking on Belmont, both in Victoria.