They were bruised, battered and torn but the Ballenas Whalers junior football team did not give up in a tough 21-18 loss to arch-rival John Barsby Bulldogs in high school football action on Oct. 2 in Nanaimo.
The Whalers started strong as they scored a safety early to go up 2-0. Then later Riker Pearson caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Bruce McCabe and also got the extra point to give Whalers a 10-0 first half lead.
In the second half, the Whalers, who already had a short bench, suffered injuries to key players that made it tougher to stave off the surging Bulldogs, who eventually went on to score three converted touchdowns to lead 21-10.
The Whalers, despite being dominated, continued to battle and in the last three minutes with the Bulldogs zoning in to add to their lead, Gage D’Lerma intercepted a pass and took Ballenas 10 yards closer to the end zone. The Whalers nearly scored in their first attempt but got stopped just at the one-yard line. The Bulldogs denied the Whalers three times but on fourth down the Whalers executed a quarterback sneak that saw McCabe forcing his way for a touchdown. They went for the two points, with McCabe getting the job done.
With still over a minute left to play, the Bulldogs let the time ran out, taking the knee at each snap.
Ballenas head coach Dan Smith said it was a very physical game against a team that had size, depth and speed.
“They (Bulldogs) played really well in the second half,” said Smith. “We came out pretty well but they wore us down. Then we lost some key players and the players that hanged in there were beat up a bit. It was a physical, tough game and I am really proud of the kids for coming back and scoring late in the game. There’s no quit in our kids but we were up against a real physical team.”
Losing Wylee Frank to injury during the game significantly affected the Whalers’ game both offensively and defensively, said Smith.
Frank rushed a total of 83 yards, had four tackles including one sack before he left the game.
“Wylee gives us so much speed that they can’t just get in the box and come after you and pound on you,” said Smith. “So they have to really respect the outside speed so when we lose that speed outside, then they can just come after us in the box. We lose a lot of speed when Wylee is off the field.”
McCabe also did a lot running, rushing for 112 yards while Jack Giroux added 103 yards.
The junior Whalers are now 2-2 so far this season. Wednesday night’s clash against the Bulldogs, said Smith, was an important one because it was a conference game.
“It does set us back but we still have room to go to here we just got to get healthy again.”
Smith, who is a UBC Thunderbird and BC Football Hall of Famer, told his players that what they went through was a learning experience.
“I learned more from losing than winning and failure is an opportunity to learn and get better,” said Smith. “We now understand what’s it like to play a big, physical team and what we need to do is learn from this.”
Smith said they are going to give some players a break in the next few days to allow them to heal and recover. The junior Whalers will be back in action on Oct. 10 against Earl Marriot at Merle Lgoan Beban Park Artificial Field at 1 p.m.