Whalers tested in last game before regular season

If the Ballenas Whalers were looking for a good test before the start of the new senior high school football season, they got it Saturday.

Ballenas Whaler T.J. Tudball (number 36 in white) tries to drag down Belmont Bulldogs running back Jordan Worth during a senior high school exhibition football game Saturday in Parksville. Belmont won 48-35. The regular season starts Friday for the Whalers

If the Ballenas Whalers were looking for a good test in their last exhibition game before the start of the new senior high school football season, they got it Saturday in a big way.

The triple-A Belmont Bulldogs of Victoria came to play double-A Ballenas and left with a 45-38 victory.

“Their O-line was a lot bigger than our D-line and their running backs were bigger than our linebackers so it was a bad case of physics,” said head coach Jeremy Conn. “And it exposed a lot of things we need to work on, on defence.”

Tipping the scales at more than 220 pounds each, Belmont running backs Sam Varao and Jordan Worth caused all kinds of problems for the Whalers defence. But Belmont is one of the largest football-playing schools in the province, and Conn said the size differential won’t be as large a factor when Ballenas starts the double-A regular season Friday at home (3:30 p.m.) against North Vancouver.

Conn said he was pleased with many aspects of his team’s game on Saturday, especially on offence and specifically the play of running back Coltin LaPlante.

“He’s a tough kid,” Conn said of LaPlante, who rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries Saturday. “He plays both ways (offence and defence) pretty well — he’s one of the spark plugs of our team.”

The Whalers have made it to the provincial double-A semi finals two years in a row. How is Conn feeling about this season?

“I’m a little nervous because we have some key injuries,” said the coach. “We have to make some changes and see how guys step up.”

On Saturday, the Whalers fought back time and time again and were within five points of the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter but couldn’t stop Belmont’s run game, which chewed up both yardage and precious clock time.

Quarterback Garrin McDonnell played the entire game for Ballenas and was 14 for 24 passing for 177 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. He also scored a touchdown on a quarterback sneak.

Grade 11 running back A.J. Messner added a rushing TD. Messner, roughly 150 pounds, made some courageous plays on defence to help stop the 230-pound Varao and the equally large Worth. Ballenas receiver Scotty Childs grabbed five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown. Childs also had an interception while playing defence and centre/defensive lineman Brandon German had a strong game in the trenches.

Adam Droog was a leader on the Ballenas defence with six tackles. Cobby Stubbins and Nick Cessford both had five.

• Prior to the senior game, the junior Whalers played their first regular season game of the year and hammered Belmont 55-0.