A strong running game and a pair of impressive defensive stops late in the game was enough to propel the White Rock-South Surrey junior bantam Titans to a provincial football championship last weekend in Langley.
The team of 12- and 13-year-olds – who were the top team in the Vancouver Mainland Football League this season – won the B.C. final Saturday, 26-22 over the Chilliwack Giants, who cruised to a first-place, 6-1 (win-loss) record in the Valley Community Football League.
The Titans advanced to the provincial championship after a late-November win over Nanaimo’s South Side Dawgs. They won a VMFL title in mid-November, beating the Cloverdale Cougars.
Prior to the title tilt, White Rock-South Surrey head coach Ryan Quintana called the Giants – who the Titans beat in a preseason tournament – “a powerhouse,” and both teams were at the top of their respective games on Saturday at McLeod Park.
There were four lead changes in the game, with White Rock jumping out to a 6-0 lead before the Giants bounced back with a touchdown – and two-point conversion – of their own to take an 8-6 lead. From there, the game swung both ways – with the Titans up 12-8 then down 16-12 – before they pulled away in the fourth quarter to win by four.
“It was definitely a tight one,” Quintana told Peace Arch News. “But going back to our (VMFL) league final, that was a back-and-forth game, and the provincial semifinals were back-and-forth, and there was this one – so it was familiar territory for us.
“These last three weeks, they’ve all been dog fights right till the end.”
Against the Giants, the Titans’ offence came along the ground, with running back Hudson Bromley scoring three touchdowns while also reeling off what Quintana called “some huge runs,” while quarterback Alexander McCrank also scored one TD on a short quarterback sneak.
“Definitely, our running game was the key to our success. Our offensive line controlled the game, and Hudson… came through for us,” the coach said, adding that the team didn’t abandon the passing game altogether despite the rushing success.
“We tried to have a balanced attack, just to keep the defence on their toes.”
Bromley was named the game’s most valuable player.
Speaking with PAN after their semifinal victory a week ago, Quintana heaped praise upon his linemen – specifically, Carter Martin, Keanu Rentiers and Asher Roling – and on Saturday, they came up big late in the game on defence. With the Titans holding onto a four-point lead with six minutes left in the game, the Giants began moving the ball downfield, largely on the strength of their own running game, led by Yapo Conteh, whom Quintana called “probably the best (junior bantam) player in all of B.C.”
In the final two minutes, the Titans twice stopped Chilliwack from scoring from within the Titans’ own 10-yard line. On both plays, it was Martin who broke through the Giants’ offensive line to stuff Conteh.
“We had two defensive stands – it was an amazing effort by the defence to make those stops,” Quintana said.
“Anytime you’re winning at the end of the game, the clock can’t go fast enough… and they were moving, but Carter just came through that O-line and just really buried them.”
For many members of the Titans, Saturday’s victory was their third consecutive season that ended in a championship. In 2017, as peewees, they won a B.C. nine-man-a-side title, and last year they won a league title.
“Last year, we won the league championship but there was no draw for us to go to provincials. A lot of the kids were disappointed that they didn’t get to represent the VMFL last year, so they were extra motivated this year, and it definitely showed.
“It was a great way to end the season.”
While some players will move up to the bantam division next season, a handful of the team’s younger players are already looking to the future, Quintana added.
“Some kids will move up, but the other ones, they’re already taking about building for next season.”