The G.W. Graham Grizzlies Grade 8 football team stunned the top-ranked AAA football team in the province 24-18 Tuesday to advance to the provincial semifinals next week.
The Grizzlies, in their first year of high school ball, had earned a berth in the AAA playoffs after topping the regular season AA standings. They entered Tuesday's game against Vancouver College heavy underdogs but left victors, thanks in large part to running back Emilio Pineda, who carried the ball 40 times for 201 yards and three touchdowns.
"This is the big moment for our program," Grizzlies head coach Laurie Smith told the Times Wednesday.
Vancouver College has long been one of the best football programs in the province and developed 45 professional players.
"They did not expect a game," Smith said. "We went in there and I'm sure they thought it was going to be pretty easy."
Instead, the Grizzlies began running a single-wing formation that relied on Pineda to grind out four-and five-yard gains. It helped that Pineda could follow the blocks of a huge offensive line-led by Jake Troyan and Gibson Hardie-with an average weight of more than 200 pounds.
"We used our strength, our offensive line . . . to patiently grind out yards, and we kept telling the boys to stay calm and do their jobs, and they responded like seasoned veterans," Smith said.
The Giants scored on all three of their drives, as did Vancouver College. The difference, though, was that Graham converted all three of their attempted two-point conversions, while the Grizzlies defence foiled all three of Vancouver's tries.
The Grizzlies defence was led by Jaren and Michael Lengert, who registered 13 and eight tackles respectively.
Troyan, McKormick and Spencer Breslin each added five tackles.
But it was Ethan Mastin's crucial sack that ended the game. With Vancouver College driving late in the game, but facing fourth-and-five, Mastin brought down the opposing quarterback to spark the Grizzlies celebration.
Graham will take on the St. Thomas More Knights next Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Burnaby.
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