It’s nearly impossible to improve upon a championship season, but the Earl Marriott Mariners senior football team found a way to do just that.
On Saturday at BC Place, the senior squad defeated the Howe Sound Tigers 40-14 in the BC AA Tier 2 championship game, completing an undefeated run through the regular season and playoffs.
It was the second consecutive title for Marriott, but the first time they’d won it without suffering a league-play loss; in 2014, they lost once.
“Getting the first one was special, but this one is just as special, just as great,” said Mariners head coach Michaal Mackay-Dunn. “It’s a win that these kids will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Though they cruised through much of the season undefeated – the team’s only losses came in exhibition play, against schools in higher tiers – Saturday’s championship game was far from a cakewalk, despite the 26-point margin of victory.
EMS led just 7-0 at halftime, when running back Al Vergara scored on a two-yard run, just minutes after the Mariners’ special-teams unit had blocked a Howe Sound punt to give the offence the ball on the Tigers’ 13-yard line.
In the second half, Howe Sound scored a touchdown of their own, and after a successful two-point conversion, led 8-7.
The score served as something of a wakeup call for the Mariners, however, as the team reeled off 33 unanswered points, and led 40-8 before a late Howe Sound touchdown.
“I guess we just got ticked off,” said Mackay-Dunn, trying to explain his team’s second-half outburst. “They got mad, and then just went out there and lit it up.”
Quarterback Owen Dickie was 16-for-30 passing, totaling 275 yards and four touchdowns, while Jackson Silvester-Lee was the team’s leading rusher, with 63 yards and a score.
Four different receivers caught touchdowns – Allan Hogg, Rhys McMartin, Lukas Frers and Wylie Gillette.
But it was the team’s special-teams unit – led by veteran coach Matt Phillips – that ignited much of the comeback, Mackay-Dunn said.
In addition to the blocked punt that led to the team’s first touchdown, the team also successfully recovered two onside kicks.
Though the offence sputtered early, Mackay-Dunn said he never doubted his crew would be able to come back and win.
“No, I wasn’t worried. I knew the team we had. It wasn’t the first time we’ve been down this year,” he said. “We just have so many good athletes, and we were focused.”
The Mariners advanced to the championship game after a 13-7 semifinal victory the week before against Spectrum Community School, from Victoria.