By Paul ESAU
The provincially top-ranked Double A Mission Secondary Roadrunners football team aren’t used to losing. Actually, they aren’t even used to being behind on the scoreboard, but they had to deal with both realities last Friday night on the road against the Abby Senior Panthers.
The Roadrunners fell behind in the second quarter after Panthers quarterback Jordan Fox found receiver Chase Claypool for the first touchdown of the game, putting Abby up 7-0 going into halftime. The Panthers were all over Mission star Jessie Walker, who has been key to the Roadrunners’ game plan all season.
While Mission got on the board early in the third quarter with a long touchdown run down the left flank, the Roadrunners couldn’t make the two-point conversion and continued to trail Abby by a point. Then the Panthers threw another long connection to the streaking Claypool for their second score of the night.
Claypool was a force offensively and defensively for the Panthers, who used his speed in a number of contexts on both sides of the ball.
The Roadrunners fought back in the fourth, almost capitalizing on a Fox interception before coughing it up themselves a mere ten yards downfield. On the next drive, Mission gambled on a fourth and long, deceptively passing out of a double wing formation (which is normally used only for runs) to keep their hopes alive. The Roadrunners’ Walker managed the quarterback sneak for another touchdown, but Mission was again denied on the all-important two-point convert. The Panthers ran out the remaining clock to win 14-12, handing Mission their first loss of the season.
“All night long it was a chess game,” said Mission coach Daniel Jakobs. “It was a great high school football game.”
Jakobs’ team (5-1) will still enter the post-season as the Eastern Conference champs, ahead of Abby (5-1) and Pitt Meadows (5-1) on head-to-head point differential.
“It’s never easy to win this conference,” said Jakobs. “Pitt, Graham, Abby—they’re all great football programs. It’s an achievement to win this conference, we went years without doing it. I think this conference is the strongest in B.C. this year.”
Panthers coach Jay Fujimura watched his team’s post-game celebrations with a smile that couldn’t quite be hidden by his professional demeanor.
“We came in with a game plan on how we wanted to handle Walker,” he said. “We watched a ton of film over the last week … We had a couple blips in the game but we stayed true to what our goals were and what our objectives were on defence.”
The Panthers were able to maintain their focus for four full quarters against one of the best teams in the province, and never trailed to the Roadrunners.
“I was proud of our composure,” said Fujimura. “A lot of other teams in the past come to a game like this, and because of the hype and the pressure … it’s hard to keep focus. I was proud, and it makes me hopeful going into the playoffs that we were able to keep our eyes on the prize.”
The Roadrunners will take on the Robert Bateman Timberwolves on Friday, Nov 14 at 7:30 p.m. in the first round of the Subway Bowl AA playoffs.