The Ballenas Senior Whalers finally snared their first win of the season after shutting out the Holy Cross Crusaders 14-0 at home on Saturday.
After suffering three losses in a row, the Whalers needed this win badly to keep their playoff hopes alive.
They did it with three of their key players missing due to injuries and also with Grade 10 junior quarterback Ben Chomolok leading the offence against the Crusaders, who were also seeking their first win of the season.
It was a good day for the Whalers, who prior to the game honoured the players’ mothers and capped it off with a much-needed victory.
Head coach Dan Smith said the Whalers came out ready to play, and were motivated.
“We had some kids today step up that hadn’t stepped up before,” said Smith. “We played very mistake-free football. If you noticed, we didn’t fumble. We played good football. Good enough to win.”
Smith said the Crusaders weren’t the strongest team Ballenas faced this season but gave credit to their defence and strong linebackers, who came out hard against the Whalers. They denied Ballenas two good scoring opportunities in the first half when Ballenas was just 10 yards away from the end zone. The first half ended in a scoreless tie.
When game resumed, the Crusaders, who had few players i=on the bench and who lost a couple of players to injuries during the game, committed two costly turnovers that paved the way for the Whalers to score early in the second half.
Damon Thompson, who did most of the rushing for the Whalers in the game, scored a 40-yard rushing touchdown to finally put Ballenas on the scoreboard.
A couple of minutes after that, the Crusaders erred during the snap on fourth down. The ball sailed too high for the Crusaders’ quarterback to catch and the pigskin ended up landing just a foot away from the end zone. The Whalers capitalized by driving into the Crusaders’ defence, allowing Chomolok to dive into the end zone for a touchdown. Ayden Chambers went 2-for-2 on point-after kicks.
Smith commended Chomolok for his leadership after he took over the quarterback role from senior Ben Robinson, who did not play due to a concussion he suffered more than a week ago.
“(Chomolok) didn’t try to win a football game for us,” said Smith. “He just executed and did a very good job. I talked to him quite a bit over the week, particularly in the game. I just wanted to just put that out of his head that I didn’t want him to feel that he was carrying the senior team on his shoulders. I told him we weren’t going to ask him to do anything today that he is not capable of doing. He came out today and excelled. He didn’t try to do too much.”
Smith said the Whalers simplified things for the team to be able to adapt to a different quarterback and allow Chomolok to play with confidence.
“Our team rallied behind him,” said Smith. “When Ben Robinson was around, everybody expected him to make the big plays, and sometimes you fall off your own job. With Chomolok, we went back to basic football. It’s kind of what I like.”
In order to keep the Crusaders from zoning in on the Whalers’ rushing game, Smith said, they stretched the field a number of times.
“We threw the ball so they have to worry about it and they can’t just jump in the box and try to slow us down,” said Smith. “It also gave us confidence in throwing. That helped us today.”
The Whalers will be preparing for their last game of the regular season against the Windsor Dukes from North Vancouver. They will be taking on the Dukes Friday, Nov. 3 at 3:45 p.m. at Windsor.
While the senior boys scored an important win on Saturday, the junior varsity Whalers suffered their first loss of the season, 12-9 to Holy Cross in Surrey last Wednesday.
“We just gave them the game,” said Smith. “There’s no way we should have lost that football game. But what it really came down to is their defence and linebackers were very aggressive. So they put a lot of pressure on us. Our quarterback and our tailback didn’t have a good day. They said after the gave they were really nervous. They didn’t really play well.”
The Whalers had a lot of chances in the first half but was unable to finish.
“If they had just played their normal game,” said Smith. “It was an awful day but it was also a wake-up call. I don’t like the fact that we lost to Holy Cross but I want to see what we’ve learned from it.”
The Junior Whalers will play their last regular season game in Victoria against the Spectrum Secondary Thunder Thursday, Nov. 2 at 3 p.m.