If the Pemberton Grizzlies are able to produce a win out of this weekend's season-ending game, they'll keep their perfect home record intact and finish their second season of high school-aged football with an even record.
Pemberton dipped below the .500 mark for the first time this season after a 27-14 loss on the road to the Correlieu Secondary School Clan in Quesnel on Sunday, Oct. 27. Dustin Lander scored two receiving touchdowns in the second half for the Grizzlies, who had fallen behind in the first half and couldn't make up the deficit over the final two quarters.
"For the second week in a row, we just figured out how to give them the game," said Pemberton head coach John Burleson, whose team dropped a decision to Howe Sound the previous weekend.
"We seem to have grown into a habit of being a second-half team."
The team was without six starters in Quesnel. Making his first-ever start at quarterback, Kex Nelson finished with over 200 yards passing. The offence moved the chains in the first half but never found the end zone, and the Clan took a 13-0 lead into halftime.
Nelson found Lander through the air for a 55-yard touchdown in the third quarter and again later on a 35-yard strike.
Lander nearly had a third touchdown on defence when collecting a fumble off a sack and taking it to the end zone in the fourth quarter. In a call that didn't sit well with Burleson, Lander was flagged for interference on a scramble for the loose ball and the score was called back. The penalty negated a game-changing play and the Grizzlies ran out of time trying to close the gap on their hosts.
Though Nelson was intercepted twice in the loss, he threw for the Grizzlies' highest passing totals in a game this season and Pemberton coaches were impressed with his ability to read defences.
"I thought he did a tremendous job," said Burleson.
Newcomer Daniel Klier had another strong day defensively in just his second outing with the team. On offence, Burleson said Mitch McCullough had his best game as a Grizzly, leading the team in catches and making a number of good kick returns.
Pemberton now sits at 2-3 going into a Saturday, Nov. 2 matchup with the Burnaby Central Wildcats at Pemberton Meadows Field.
The Grizzlies are returning home after three straight road games in which they've struggled in the first half. Starting lineman Eduardo Hudson is expected to return to the team.
The Grizzlies had strong starts in both of their victories at home this season, and Burleson said they'll need another on Saturday, especially since the Wildcats will have twice as many players on hand for the contest.
"We've been very resilient and for whatever reason have just played better at home," said Burleson. "We're certainly hoping going into this last week that (we) can be better prepared and come out and get a faster start."
Fans are encouraged to come out for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.
Flag team sits first
The Whistler Saints shut out the highest-scoring team in the North Shore Football League's flag division to grab sole possession of first place on Sunday, and can clinch the No. 1 seed with a win in this weekend's regular season finale.
Whistler topped the North Vancouver Hawks 14-0 as the Saints defence controlled the game, getting key interceptions from Liam Forsyth and Griffin Brown. Benyon McKeen, Logan Anderson and Quinn Goertson all added to Whistler's sack total in the win.
McKeen scored both Saints' touchdowns and Anderson booted one convert. The 7-1 Saints will face the winless Vikings on Sunday, Nov. 3 in North Vancouver.