At some point, the B.C. Community Football Association may want to consider naming its provincial midget championship trophy after the White Rock-South Surrey Titans.
Such an idea is a bit of a stretch – and suggested in jest, to be clear – but renamed or not, the Titans have left no doubt about who truly owns the trophy lately. And the point was driven home Sunday in Kamloops, when the Semiahmoo Peninsula squad defeated the Chilliwack Giants 39-17 to get their name engraved on the prize for a third consecutive provincial year.
Sunday’s victory comes a year after the Titans – coached by John Martins and his son, Avery – defeated Cowichan 37-1 in the championship game, and two years after an even more lopsided title tilt, a 50-0 shellacking of Prince George.
Martins-led midget teams haven’t only be strong over the past three seasons, either – the association’s oldest team also won a provincial crown in 2011 after going undefeated the entire season. A few months after that victory – the midget program’s first-ever – John Martins was named B.C. community football coach of the year at the BC Lions-hosted Orange helmet awards.
Unlike the road to the previous two titles – which often found the Titans rolling over their competition and winning by lopsided margins – this year’s path was more challenging, Avery Martins told Peace Arch News, as a larger-than-usual roster turnover left the team with a 5-3 win-loss record during the season.
Only a handful of players remained from the previous season, and just two Titans – JunJun Cadacio and Tae Young Ahn – were members of the 2016 championship squad.
“This year was just a lot different. We brought in a couple guys from high school teams who hadn’t really ever won games before, and we combined them with the (Titan) bantam players… who were on a team last year that went 3-5,” Avery Martins said.
“They came from so many different places to kind of merge together and learn how to win, and really get that team mentality.
“It took time. This year, in comparison to other years, we actually lost a few games, but you build character when you go through those tough periods. We lost three in a row during the season and to get through that, you really have to come together as a group.”
This year, the Titans qualified for the championship after beating the Vancouver-based Westside Warriors 18-1 earlier this month in semifinal action. After that win, John Martins said “the whole team played with their hearts on their sleeves and were mentally prepared.”
Ironically, two of the Titans’ three regular-season losses came at the hands of Westside and Chilliwack, the two teams they ended up defeating en route to the provincial title.
With so many new faces on the roster, Avery Martins said the early weeks of the regular season were spent trying to figure out what players best fit in certain positions, and some of the team’s struggles were simply a result of that uncertainty – a trial-and-error period, of sorts.
“The first two years, we had a big stud of a running back, but unfortunately he tore up his knee before the season even started, so it was a matter of changing how we run our offence,” he said.
Injuries at key positions also threw a wrench into the team’s plans – the Titans starting quarterback, Joseph Vance, was injured early in the year, causing him to miss the rest of the regular season.
In his place, the team rolled with two signal-callers – Cadacio and Jacob Scardera.
“It was just a case of questioning where guys fit, and putting them in the right positions to succeed, and it took a little while to find out what puzzle pieces fit best where,” Martins said.
On Sunday against Chilliwack, that roster flexibility actually came in handy, when Joseph – who had returned from injury to play quarterback in the semifinal win over Westside – “tweaked” his injury during pre-game warm-up.
“It was literally the last (practice) rep before the game started,” Martins said. “So JunJun had to step in at quarterback with like two minutes of prep.”
With Cadacio under centre, the Titans played the Giants close in the first half of the game. They trailed by six points for a time in the first half, before scoring late to take a four-point lead into halftime.
After the break, Martins said “we just put the gas pedal down and didn’t let it go” en route to the 22-point win.
Cadacio wasn’t the only player who made a late position switch, Martins noted.
After splitting quarterbacking duties all season, Scardera volunteered to move to centre – from the most glamorous position in the game to perhaps the least – in order to help the team. The selfless offer wasn’t lost on his coach after Sunday’s victory.
“For your quarterback to step up and volunteer to play on the O-line if it helps everyone else play where they need to, it says a lot about a guy. He was willing to hurt his own stats just to give his team a better chance to win.
“Everybody had to buy in, and they did.”
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