Oceanside Youth Football’s Jr. Bantam Titans came up on the short end of a fiercely contested 21-14 final in Nanaimo last weekend at the Mid-Island Co-operative Football League’s championship game, but the loss doesn’t take away from what has been a terrific season for the local team says their coach.
In action at Merle Logan Field last Saturday against the number one seeded, unbeaten Barsby Bulldogs, the Bulldogs took their opening possession and had driven the ball down to the one yard line when the Titans’ Matt Giroux intercepted a pass in the end-zone and returned it close to midfield. Oceanside scored on the next play, a 66-yard run to paydirt around the right side by Evan Penzel. Oceanside missed the point after but led 6-0.
The Bulldogs responded on the next drive and took a 7-6 lead. Barsby would score again to take a 14-6 lead in the 2nd quarter, and were able to score again at the end of the 1st half on a 22-yard pass play which they converted to take a 21-7 lead into the break.
“We lost our composure a little bit at the end of the half, and we gave up a late score that could have been avoided,” Head Coach Brad Burns admitted, “And as the coach I take responsibility for that”.
The Bulldogs took the opening drive in the 2nd half down to the Titans 10-yard line, but a fumble recovery Penzel prevented the score.
In the second half the Titans’ lineman-turned-running back Austen Hunt took over on offence with eight carries “for a very tough 60 yards.
“He is one of our biggest and strongest players, and one of our best linemen all year” said coach Burns, “and he has been dying to carry the ball all year. It was his last game at Junior Bantam so I figured what the heck.”
The Bulldogs found themselves deep in Titans territory again early in the 4th quarter, and again the Titans’ defence came up big with a 4th down stop on the seven yard line.
The Titans drove the ball downfield and scored on a 7-play, 93-yard drive that was capped off by a fantastic 47-yard TD run by Ben Robinson around the right side. A crucial kicked point after brought the Titans back into the game at 21-14.
The Titans needed another big stop on defence, and they got it, regaining possession after stuffing the Bulldogs on three straight plays, and forcing a fumble recovered by Hunt on a crucial 4th and six.
With just over two minutes left to play, the Titans had put themselves in possession to win the game. According to coach Burns his team drove the ball from mid-field to the Bulldogs’ five yard line in just three plays only to see the Bulldogs jump on a fumbled snap and then kneel out the clock.
“I don’t care what the scoreboard says, our boys played like champions,” coach Burns said of his team. “The way they came out in the 2nd half, I knew they weren’t going to go down without a fight.
“The most impressive thing was how resilient our defence was,” he said after, pointing out Barsby had the ball inside their 10-yard line three times and were turned away all three.
“We made some mistakes, but when their backs were against the wall, our defence stepped up huge,” said Burns, adding “it was a fantastic season, and we capped it off by playing our best game of the year. If just a couple things went differently, who knows. But that’s football. I am very proud of every last one of our boys, they are all champions in my mind.”