The South Kamloops Titans varsity football season came to an end in crushing fashion last night (Nov. 8) as the team lost their wildcard playoff game with the Robert Bateman Timberwolves by a single point.
Timberwolves quarterback Ty Martens ran in what would stand as the winning score in the third quarter, as the Titans turned the ball over on their final two drives in the 8-7 loss at Hillside Stadium.
But while it was a sad night for South Kamloops, particularly their graduating players, head coach JP Lancaster says in the big picture, it was a successful season.
"As much as this stings, we want to look at the positives of getting back to the provincial playoffs, being competitive, losing by one in a tough game: that's something we're going to build on," says Lancaster. "We've got our junior team up for a playoff game (in Prince George this afternoon). The immediacy of this is very difficult but they're going to be remembered for the guys that got us back on the map, got us provincially ranked, played in a competitive playoff game and we're just going to go from there."
South Kamloops finished the regular season 3-1, good for second place in the Interior AA Conference.
The team made noticeable strides over the course of just a few weeks. On Sept. 27, the Titans lost a preseason game to these very Timberwolves in Abbotsford 49-20.
"The intensity, the grit and the heart that they were playing with was way different than the first time we played them," said Robert Bateman head coach David Mills. "We certainly didn't play our best ball, a number of fumbles and dropped passes and that kind of thing, but they played easily twice as good, three times as good as the first time we played them. So big hats off to those guys, they certainly came to play."
South Kamloops defence set the tone for the game. Sandy Phillips and Xavier Tedford ended the Timberwolves first two drives of the night with a pair of forced fumbles. They held almost every aspect of Robert Bateman's offence in check, except for a few big runs by Martens.
In the 3rd quarter @BatemanFootball stormed back with a blocked punt for a safety then a rushing TD by Ty Martens. But with this missed XP, they only lead @SKSS_Titans by 8-7. Should be a fun finish! #Kamloops pic.twitter.com/nC38ptkbuC— Kamloops Matters (@KamloopsMatters) November 9, 2019
"We knew in crunch time, we wanted his hands on the ball. He's our leader, he's our guy and he was going to get us what we needed... and they were doing a great job shutting everything else down," said Mills. "There wasn't a lot else we had going on on the ground, they did a great job of keying in on our running backs and taking away everything outside, inside. I mean (Jacob Bond) had a great game on the inside, (Mike MacDonald) had a great game, (Sheldon Gerlib) had a great game. There was nothing else to do but really let our quarterback just be an athlete."
Offensively, South Kamloops didn't produce much after MacDonald plunged into the endzone to put the team up 6-0 in the second quarter. Cohen Freeze nailed the extra point, but that would be the end of the scoring from there.
"We identify as a tough, physical football team," says Lancaster. "(The defence) played great, they gave us a chance to win the ball game. We just couldn't get going on offence and that's the story of the game, I feel."
Trailing in the fourth quarter, the Titans had a promising drive that started near Robert Bateman's 30-yard-line following a blocked punt. But Kayden Crawford fumbled and the Timberwolves recovered. South Kamloops would get one last drive, but a desperation heave from quarterback Eric Crawford was picked off by Martens.
"We have just improved as a football team as the season wore on," says Lancaster. "We had a lot of room to improve between then and now and I think we looked like a playoff calibre team, we just couldn't quite get the job done tonight."
For Robert Bateman, their postseason continues as they're off to play the Ballenas Whalers in Parksville next week in the quarterfinals.