Ballenas Whaler Devon Harach

Whalers recalibrate as post-season begins

Ballenas senior football team travels to Lower Mainland for quarterfinal contest Saturday at 1 p.m.

After the Ballenas Whalers senior football team pounded previously unbeaten and top-ranked Hugh Boyd Secondary in a record-breaking performance two weeks ago, Trojan coach Bill Haddow responded by thanking Ballenas counterpart Dan Smith.

Hugh Boyd was coming off a big, emotional win over previously top-ranked Seaquam a week earlier and fell flat against the charged-up Whalers in the home loss.

“He thanked me for giving them a wake-up call,” Smith said.

Now, it’s the Whalers’ turn to make sure they’re not riding too high when Ballenas (4-2) travels Saturday to open the B.C. AA playoffs with a 1 p.m. quarterfinal game against Holy Cross (6-3) in Abbotsford.

“We can’t dwell on the big win,” said Ben Robinson, the Ballenas quarterback who ran for four touchdowns and threw for three more in the romp over Hugh Boyd. “We have  to think about, this is the playoffs now; it’s totally different. Everybody’s good. Everybody’s in playoffs for a reason.”

Ballenas Whalers football players huddle around assistant coach Mike Seselja as he shows a play diagram during a recent team practice at the Arbutus Meadows indoor arena in Nanoose Bay. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS

The Whalers have had an extra week to decompress after the impressive win, drawing a bye week to close out the season.

The team has used it to practise on the turf at the Arbutus Meadows indoor arena and Merle Logan Field in Nanaimo to replicate conditions on the turf field at Abbotsford Collegiate School, where Saturday’s game will be played.

“I spent the last week dialing them in; I don’t know how popular I am right now,” Smith joked. “I was warning them against the complacency, even subconsciously, of coming off a big game and now you’re into sudden death.

“And you don’t have the luxury of getting a wake-up call.”

Ballenas is led by the speed and athleticism of Robinson, the running of tailback Dayton Coles, and the receiving corps of  Callum Jasinski, Braydon Hemsworth and tight end Liviano Canil, along with the bruising play of Austin Hunt at fullback and linebacker.

But Smith said the key to the Whalers’ win over Hugh Boyd— and the team’s prospects going forward — is the emergence of the offensive line.

“In some of the early games we had problems, but with the Hugh Boyd game everybody clicked,” Grade 12 guard Carson Chambers said. “The switch inside everyone turned on and we went, hey, this is what I gotta do.”

Ballenas Whalers linemen drill during a recent team practice at the Arbutus Meadows indoor arena in Nanoose Bay. — Image credit: J.R. Rardon/PQB NEWS

Robinson said the Whalers’ 607-yard day on offense rests firmly on the shoulders of the front five, including 5-foot-7, 160-pound Grade 11 backup Liam Howard, who was thrust into a starting role due to an injury.

“We needed to win the game, and our whole team just jelled,” said Robinson. “I have to give credit to the O-line. The line played fantastic and I loved it.”

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