They've beaten two of the best teams in the province in recent weeks, but the G.W. Graham Grizzlies Grade 8 football squad still has one monumental mountain to climb.
The Grizzlies will take on the Notre Dame Jugglers Saturday in the Grade 8 Subway Bowl provincial championship at BC Place.
For a high school football program that only started this year- and a AA school at that-making it all the way to BC Place is a huge accomplishment, not to mention a surprise.
But having beaten top-ranked Vancouver College and third-ranked St. Thomas More in recent weeks, the Grizzlies and head coach Laurie Smith aren't resting on their laurels.
"It's such a huge opportunity, you don't want to let it go to waste," Smith said. "We're not just happy to be in the game-we're excited about that, but we'd like to win."
And Smith and his players have no reason to think they can't complete the Cinderella story.
"I think, given the character of these kids and the way that they've played so far, that they'll be successful," he said. "Like we've reminded them a hundred times: keep doing what you're doing, keep doing your job, and if we execute on offence and are positionally sound on defence, we'll be successful."
After using a passing-oriented spread offence to finish top among AA teams and earn passage to the AAA playoffs, the Grizzlies have shifted to a running attack that relies on running back Emilio Pineda to follow his blocks and grind out first downs.
Knowing that Notre Dame will be ready for their running game, the Grizzlies have also been preparing to go back to the air if need be. Smith is confident he has the weapons-quarterback Wyatt Uzick has an accurate throwing arm and receivers Gabe Mannes and Noah Dubosoff have shown the ability to make big plays.
Smith also thinks that his team can improve on their semifinal win over St. Thomas More. He said poor execution on defence handed the Grizzlies' opponent three touchdowns that made that game closer than it should have been. So Smith and his coaching staff have been stressing fundamentals to prepare for Saturday's test.
But the biggest challenge might be the situation between the ears of the young Grizzlies.
"The thing that concerns me a bit is all the hype," Smith said. "Being in BC Place and having all the people there and being in the dome and having some distractions."
And then there is the fact that the game will start at 8 a.m., forcing the Grizzlies to leave Chilliwack at 5: 30 a.m.
"On their body clocks it's going to be different," he said.
While Smith says the players are nervous-justifiably so, perhaps- they're keeping up a good front.
"We're really excited," Pineda said during a break in practice Monday. "It's probably going to be a really close game. I don't think it's going to be easy. But that's why we're practicing: so we know what to do."
Linebacker Dakota Mathers agreed.
"We just beat the third best team right after beating the first best team," he said, speaking with the resiliency that Smith has seen from his young players throughout the year. "We're just going to have to not slow down, keep going, not give up.
"It's a great opportunity. We didn't have that many players to start the year; we barely had enough to make a team and our players just kept willing and we made it."
And any nervousness about what is to come is coupled with a heavy dose of anticipation for Saturday's big game. Ask either player about what it will be like to walk onto the field at BC Place, and they quickly grin.
"It's going to be amazing," Mathers said. "I can't believe how good it's going to be."
? The Grizzlies take on Notre Dame Saturday at 8 a.m. in the 2012 Subway Bowl High School Football Championships. Tickets are $10 for students, $15 for adults.