Parksville’s Ballenas Whalers football teams posted bruising bookend wins on home field Saturday against the Belmont Bulldogs from Victoria.
The JV’s took to the field for game one of the BC High School Football double header, and a short-benched AA Ballenas team showed a lot of moxie in a 34-6 win.
Hometown fans were then treated to their first look at this year’s varsity squad, which dismantled their Triple-A counterparts 41-zip.
All Ballenas both games, standout senior Dustin Rodriguez continues to be a handful for opposing teams no matter what position he’s playing and burnt the Bulldogs numerous time.
Rogriguez, confirms Varsity Whalers co-head coach Jeremy Conn, “has been outstanding. Normally he is a wide receiver but due to injury we need him at running back and he has led the province in rushing yards while still having great games catching the ball, playing on defense, and specials teams as the kicker, punter, and as a returner. What really impressed me (Saturday) was when he caught a defender from behind who had scooped up a fumble of ours. This saved us as they did not score a touchdown even though they started with the ball in our red zone. It truly was a touchdown saving tackle and it was due to Dustin’s hustle and determination.”
Also earning props for their play was Gr. 11 quarterback Liam O’Brien and the offensive line. Liam and company looked razor sharp on Saturday.
“Liam has been outstanding,” agreed Conn, pointing out O’Brien is currently the leading passer in the province, “and our O-line gave him all day. Liam is only a Grade 11 but is very mature beyond his years and makes great decisions with the physical ability to throw the ball all over. Our O-line has really jelled and stepped up.”
Beyond that, “I was really proud of the players as we met our goals of improved execution and leadership,” said Conn, adding “we had some early fumbles that set Belmont up in scoring position but our defense was able to shut them down as our players executed an aggressive blitzing style very well. I am very excited as we also have a balanced offense that can attack the field anywhere with anyone. It truly was a team effort as we are trying to not lean too much on any one player.”
IN JV ACTION
Despite going into the game short-benched, Ballenas led 6-0 at the half and scored four unanswered touchdowns in the second half for a 34-6 win.
That game was not the Whalers’ regular season home opener as advertised, but it was a big win nonetheless.
“All things considered it was a great win… lots of adversity in the last 48 hours,” said first year JV head coach Mike Di Giacomo; “guys sick, guys hurt, I think we were six regulars out and that’s guys that play both ways, so we had to mix and match, sort of a make a patchwork out of the guys we had.
“We just had no choice, we were so shorthanded we had guys playing their first game ever… it just came together, it really did, and kudos to the coaches too because when you’re handed a list of no-shows like they were, you’re scrambling. We were definitely undermanned today that’s for darn sure but the our players really rose to the challenge.
“I’m really proud of how our guys stepped up… they played great.”
Standouts on the day for the Whalers said their coach included quarterback Josh Bouchard and Scott Childs who pulled down two touchdown catches and took an interception 40-plus yards the other way for his third TD on the day and Adam Droog who did a great job filling in at centre and also played linebacker.
The Whalers defence was stifling and looks to be a big part of the Ballenas game under defensive co-ordinator longtime local volunteer football coach Jim Lynch.
The senior Whalers travel to Coquitlam Saturday to take on the Centennial Centaurs. The varsity Whalers have two pre-season games remaining. The JV Whalers play their regular season home opener at BSS on Thursday against the NDSS Islanders from Nanaimo. Kickoff is 3:15.