October 16, 2016 Langford, BC ( ISN ) – To witness a 6’, 245 lb defensive lineman do a cartwheel, you’re guaranteed that something special just happened on the football field, and that was exactly the case as the Westshore Rebels Jamel Lyles scored two TD’s and QB Ashton MacKinnon rushed for three TD’s of his own, including the game winner with 23 seconds remaining, to claw back from a sure loss to snatch a berth to the BCFC Cullen Cup Championship game with a 34-29 win over Nanaimo’s Vancouver Island Raiders.
For the Westshore team, the win is history making. It will be the first appearance for the Rebels in the Cullen Cup final, and the first time the final is played in Victoria. With one eye on the Cup, and another on the Canadian Bowl Championship game, also to be played on the Cullen Cup champion’s home field, the Rebels are now in uncharted waters going forward.
Westshore’s running back Jamel Lyle’s was inspirational again. Despite being carried off the field late in the first quarter with an apparent injury, the conference’s all-time leading single season rusher wouldn’t be denied the game, coming back in the second quarter to lead the rushing charge, helping spark the Victoria team with his electrifying rushing ability and speed.
In his team’s last minute performance, Lyles would comment, “ I believe in my team so much, there’s never a doubt. When we’re on the same page that’s what makes us successful.”
With the win, the Rebels will now play for the BC conference championship Cullen Cup October 29th, at Westhills Stadium.
It didn’t take long for the Rebels to make a statement in the game, as Jamel Lyles would take the ball on opening kick off from his own ten yard, running back 90 yards to the Raider’s house to set the visitors back on their heels early.
Raiders, looking still to contend with the running abilities of Lyles and Trey Campbell would find themselves playing catch up most of the opening quarter down 7-0. A Rebels touchback would put the first points on the board for the Nanaimo 7-2 to close out the first quarter of play.
The Raider’s would put their own first earned points on the board early in the second quarter as QB Jake Laberge would start to navigate through the Rebels defense with some success. In a big defensive stand the Rebels would hold the Raiders to a field goal 7-5. After a Raiders safety and Rebels field goal to put the home side up 12-5, Laberge would throw to a sprinting Dustin Rodriquez downfield, hauling down the rock with 2:40 remaining in the second quarter to run it into the end zone to close out the 1st half of play with the score knotted 12-12.
The Raider’s would continue to test the Rebel’s defense coming out in the 3rd quarter, putting the ball in the hands of RB Nathan Berg to drive the VI Raiders downfield, but, as the Rebels defense has done all year long when their back was against the wall, they would stiffen up and turn away a pair of scoring attacks including a third and one denial to force the Raider’s into field goal position. The Raiders kicker James Parker would make good on a pair to give the Raiders a 18-12 lead.
With two minutes remaining in the third quarter, Rebel’s QB MacKinnon, putting the ball in the hands of Lyles and Campbell to do the heaving lifting, would run a hurry up offense to string together a series of plays to put the Rebels on the Raiders one yard line. Calling his own number, MacKinnon, using every inch of his 6’6” frame, would dive in from the one-yard line to regain the lead 19-18. A field goal to end the third would give the lead back to Raider’s 21-19.
With the wind at their back, the Rebel’s, as they have done many times in the regular season, found the grit and push needed to answer adversity with a score. MacKinnon, would once again engineer a drive, putting it in the hands of a Lyles in relentless ground attack that left the Raider’s without answer. After a inopportune Raider’s penalty would back them up into their red zone, MacKinnon once again, against a Raider’s goal line stand, with 12 minutes remaining, would launch himself over his own offensive line to regain the lead 26-19 as the 13th man in the stands would erupt in frenetic cheer.
That cheer was dampened, not by the periodic rainsqualls, but by the Raider’s tenacity for the ball. After a conceded safety by the Rebels, Laberge would throw a strike over the middle to receiver Hugh Rainy, pulling the ball down at the Rebel’s twenty yard line and run it the rest of the way for the TD to retake the lead 28-26 with 2:30 remaining in the game.
With points at a premium, and the Raider’s in range for a field goal to create some distance on the scoreboard, would elect a kicking attempt that would go wide, but profit from a safety and the single point to extend the Raider’s lead 29-26 with 1:30 remaining.
With some Raiders players already celebrating the victory, a Raiders coach’s overheard sideline advise to a player that the game was not done yet held no truer to the fact.
With time against the Rebels, starting play in their own end from the thirty-five yard line, MacKinnon would go to receiver Kane Melchoir in two successive, sideline strikes, the second pulled in in highlight reel-fashion as Melchoir would have to climb his ladder and land inbounds for the completion.
Running out of the shotgun formation from the thirty-five yard line of the Raiders, MacKinnon after looking to Lyles to pound the rock home, would look to Nathaniel Pinto in the corner. A Raider’s pass interference call in the end zone with 25 seconds remaining would put the Rebels in prime scoring territory at the one-yard line.
With time running out, MacKinnon would call his own number one final time, stabbing the ball past the outstretched arm of Raider’s linebacker Todd Campbell and across the goal line for the winning TD. In a strategic call from Rebels head coach JC Boice to run time off the clock, the Rebels would run the ball into the house for the extra points to seal the 34-29 win.
In the last minute victory, Rebels head coach JC Boice, was seemingly relieved and overwhelmed by his team’s poise to pull out the win. “ I’m incredibly proud of the grit of these kids. It’s just shows the resiliency of these staff and these kids. We never doubted ourselves. The ball didn’t bounce our way a few times, but again, just a huge testament to these kids. They fight and fight and fight. You can never count them out no matter what happens.”
*** Stats not available at deadline