June 25th, 2019. Victoria, BC (ISN) – On a day when some football dreams are realized, and others are put aside for another season, the Vancouver Island Canadian Football Association, run by the Island Football League, crowned their 2019 spring football champions Sunday at Forrest Field in Ladysmith, BC.
After a grueling, ten game schedule, it came down to the top two teams in each of three divisions to decide who would raise the VICFA Cup and claim bragging rights as Vancouver Island football champions.
The Westshore Warriors and the Cowichan Valley Bulldogs would both secure two berths on the championship day. The Warriors would go head to head with the Bulldogs and the Saanich Wolverines in the Atom Division, while the Bulldogs would take on the Junior Division Gordon Head Raiders in the marquis match up of the day.
The day would get under way as the 9-1 atom division Westshore Warriors would take on the 6-4 Cowichan Bulldogs. The Bulldogs would enter the final after a narrowly defeating the Victoria Spartans 19-14 in the semi-finals one week prior. Warrior’s starting QB Jacob Hansen would lead his team to a decisive 28-7 championship win.
A defensive battle early in the game would eventually see Cowichan take the lead in the game late in the first half 7-6 on a rushing TD by Cruiz HeemSerk and successful convert after replying to a game-opening TD by Warrior’s Alijah Kardos-Campbell, who would run the ball sixty yards for the major to kick start the game’s scoring.
Unfortunately, that would be only lead in the game for the Bulldogs as the Warrior’s aggressive defensive line would shut the door on Cowichan in the second half, holding them out of the end zone. The Westshore offense would explode for four TD’s in the second half on the legs of Danny Garcia and Phillippe Linfoot, each scoring a pair of touchdowns to run away with the championship win.
The PeeWee tilt would see starting QB Keegan McAllister’s Saanich Wolverines (8-2) take on undefeated Westshore Warriors (10-0) led by running talent of Austin Perry.
Despite the running effort out of the back field by Wolverine’s Heath White, Westshore would dominate offensively and defensively the entire game on route to a 36-0 Cup victory. Warrior’s Austin Perry would lead all scorers with three touchdowns, while teammates #60 and Cash Amos would add a pair of majors to shut out the Saanich Wolverines.
The final matchup of the day, one that many were anticipating, pitted the undefeated Gordon Head Raiders (10-0) against the Cowichan Bulldogs (8-2). After the Bulldogs 30-8 loss to the Raiders in the regular season, the championship stage couldn’t be a more fitting time to exact a little revenge for the May 12thloss at Windsor Park.
From the opening kickoff, Cowichan’s overall team size would prove an advantage, having their way with the Raider secondary to open up a sizeable 24-0 lead on the abilities of Niko Harris and Dillon Wilson late into the first half of play to put the Raiders back on their heals. Gordon Head’s QB Malik Gagne-Smith, ever-dangerous in the air and on the ground would orchestrate a late drive down field with the help of Malcom Fraser and Jacob Greenaway for field position to set up Gagne-Smith rushing TD, diving for the end zone pilon to erase the donut before halftime. Bulldogs would lead comfortably 24-8 at halftime.
Gordon Head would mount a comeback to open the third quarter on a ball return the length of the field by Evan Fox, and a rushing TD by first year Junior Bantam player Noe Jelk to pull even with the Cowichan Bulldogs. The Bulldogs would reply with a pass from Niko Harris downfield to Davin Reithuag, using his size to pull down the ball, would beat the Raider’s defenders to the end zone to regain a precarious lead going in to the final quarter of play.
Both sides would battle defensively much of the fourth quarter, hoping for the other side to blink. Cowichan would do so first, as Raider’s Evan Fox, scoring his second TD of the game, would equal the score with less four minutes remaining.
Cowichan, not willing to go to overtime, and looking confident with their play, would put the ball in the hands of their “bigs” to carry themselves into the Raiders red-zone territory. Putting the ball in the hands of Niko Harris, he would carry the ball out of the back field and down the side line from thirty yards out to stab the ball across the line for what would be the winning touchdown of the game.
With two minutes remaining, the Raiders would attempt another comeback. With the ball in hand of QB Gagne-Smith at the Bulldog forty yard line, Gagne-Smith, equally adept on the ground as in the air, would run the ball up the middle after the Cowichan defense would deny the downfield pass to Jacob Greenway, in a last attempt only to be taken down by the Cowichan secondary with time expired.
Cowichan, in a true team effort, would claim the 40-32 win and the VICFA Championship.
In Saturday football action for the Dogwood Cup, the atom division Saanich Wolverines would defeat the Nanaimo Bombers 21-14, while in the peewee division the Ladysmith Steelers would get the best of the Oceanside Lions 44-6. Rounding out the afternoon, the junior bantam Westshore Warriors would dominate over the Ladysmith Steelers 40-20 to hoist the Dogwood Cup.