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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

December 1, 2013, Vancouver, BC (ISN) – A 34-yard touchdown pass from Brody Taylor to Cole Virtanen and a gutsy 2-point conversion from Kyle Vollet with just 1:28 left in the game, gave Nanaimo’s John Barsby Bulldogs a thrilling 21-20 win over the Carson Graham Eagles in the 2013 BC High School Football AA Varsity Subway Bowl Championship Saturday afternoon at BC Place Stadium in Vancouver.

While the late touchdown score was dramatic, the Eagles would then cause some late dramatics of their own, driving quickly into field goal position, but then, with no timeouts remaining, watching the time on the clock click to zeroes before they could get the snap away, handing Barsby their second Provincial title in the last four years.

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AA Varsity leading rusher, the Eagle’s AJ Blackwell, was on his game early against Barsby on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

This game was a battle from the get go between two teams who came into the game sporting identical 9-1 records, and it was the Eagles who jumped into an early 7-0 lead, as they took the opening possession and went on a 67-yard scoring drive that was highlighted by key runs from tailback AJ Blackwell – the AA leading rusher this season – and capped by a 5-yard plunge by Russell Tolentino.

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Carson Graham’s Lucas Bill looks for a route upfield on this play against Barsby in the AA Varsity final Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The teams would then battle for field possession the rest of the quarter and early in the second, the Bulldogs would convert a 4th and 1 gamble deep into Eagles territory, which would set up a scoring run from North Rainey, tying the game at 7-7.

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Although he took a spin at quarterback here, the Bulldogs North Rainey would score a rushing touchdown from the tailback position to get the Bulldogs on the board on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Eagles would not waste any time in regaining the lead, as they would take possession of the ball on their own 30-yard line and then give the ball to Blackwell, who would promptly scamper 70 yards for the score. The convert was missed however and that 13-7 score would hold until the half.

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Barsby’s Kyle Vollet hits the gap on this run against Carson Graham on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Bulldogs would answer back on their opening possession of the third quarter, driving 70 yards downfield and capping the drive off with a 7-yard strike from Taylor to Kalven Kellock. They would also miss their convert opportunity and the game was knotted at 13-13.

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Barsby Quarterback Brody Taylor would lead his team to a thrilling 21-20 win over Carson Graham to capture the AA title Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The game would stay that way until midway through the 4th quarter, when the Eagles would convert two 4th down opportunities and then cap off the drive with a 2-yard scoring plunge from Lucas Bill to move ahead 20-13 with 6:36 to play.

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Carson Graham running back AJ Blackwell shoots through the hole on this running play against Barsby on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

The Bulldogs would take over possesion on their own 35-yard line, but a pass attempt by Taylor was picked off by the Eagles defence, giving Carson Graham squad possession of the ball on the Bulldogs 48-yard line and a chance to run out the clock.

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Carson Graham’s Russell Tolentino had a stron game Saturday, scoring the first touchdown of the day against the Bulldogs (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

It was not to be however, as the Bulldogs defence would hold – stopping Blackwell cold on a 4th and 2 chance – and Barsby would take possession on downs on their own 42-yard line with 3:30 remaining. That then set up the thrilling pass from Taylor to Virtanen that brought the Bulldogs to within one, 20-19 and the gutsy decision by Barsby Head Coach Rob Stevenson to go for the 2 points, instead of the single and the chance to win in OT.

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Barsby’s Kyle Vollett looks for an opening on this open field run Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

“I hesitated for a second or two about the decision,” said Stevenson after the game. “But my feeling was that we were here to win, so why not go for it. I didn’t want to take our chances with the OT format and I was confident we could punch it in.”

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Barsby’s North Rainey stays one step ahead of Carson Graham defender Sam Williams on this pass and run play Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

That decision turned out to be a good one, as tailback Vollet would literally battle his way in for the two-point score, ending up injured on the play, but elated to have given his team the go-ahead points.

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Barsby’s Kyle Vollett drives forward for the game-winning two-point conversion against Carson Graham on Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

As noted, the final 1:28 of the game was then chaotic, as the Eagles scrambeled to get into position for the winning kick. After a bit of confusion, and one “false start” when the Barsby squad had felt the game was over, the time finally did run out on the Eagles and the Bulldogs mobbed each other on the field in celebration.

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The Barsby Bulldogs (left) and their fans (right) celebrate their AA Varsity Championship victory (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

Barsby Head Coach Stevenson, who could not bear to watch the final seconds of the game, instead, pacing behind the Bulldogs bench, was elated with the win. “I am on top of the world for everybody, our team, our coaches, but most importantly for all those Moms, Dads, Aunts Uncles, teachers, school administrators, friends of the progam and alumni…John Barsby Community School is just that, all about community. We are a part of that and get to represent that on the gridiron and what a fabulous honour to do it on this stage, in front of all our friends. Days like this will last a lifetime for all of us.”

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Barsby’s Tyler Harvey (left) was named Outstanding Lineman, while quarterback Brody Taylor (right) was named Outstanding Back for the game Saturday (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)

“I was confident near the end there that our defence would get the ball back after they picked us off and that confidence proved out,” added Stevenson. “We managed to slow Blackwell down when we needed to and that made a difference. I didn’t predict a winner or loser today, I predicted valor. You can’t go through your life judging yourself as “number one” or “no one.” It’s more about the journey to get there. I think while it’s fun to hold your hand up and the trophy up, the thing that all the boys will remember is the grind to get here, the practicing in the rain, the early morning practices…I think those things will resonate through all these kids lives and this [the championship] is just the icing on the cake.”

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The 2013 BC High School Football AA Varsity Champion Barsby Bulldogs (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / Island Sports News)