Quick breakouts and dropped balls may be a good way to sum up Friday’s 36-14 New Westminster Hyacks’ win over the Notre Dame Jugglers.
Head coach Farhan Lalji noted he didn’t feel great after the victory. But as imperfect as it was, it was still more momentum for last year’s finalist.
New West vaulted into the lead early, scoring three times in the first quarter off a pair of huge runs by speedster Michael Udoh, and a fumble recovery by lineman Owen Stark.
Up 22-0 before the opening quarter ended, the Hyacks appeared to ease up but still benefitted from a few bobbles and fumbles that halted a couple of Notre Dame marches. While the visitors did get into the end zone in the second quarter and entered halftime trailing 22-8, they were unable to capitalize despite having some success running the ball.
While the final score was for the home team, Lalji admitted the overall performance left something to be desired -- even if it resulted in them leapfrogging into the No. 1 spot of the B.C. 3-A high school football poll.
“Our athletes made some big plays – the first two touchdowns were long runs by Udoh and (also) a fumble recovery in the end zone,” noted Lalji. “We didn’t move the ball as consistency as we’d have liked …. (Notre Dame) did some good things scheme-wise but they also were probably at times more physical than us in certain areas. The score was deceiving because (Notre Dame) did a really good job.
“We have to get better on both sides of the ball.”
Knowing that Notre Dame would be well-prepared to match the Hyack wing-T offence system, since adopting it as their own in preseason, made it a challenge from the get-go. But a couple of quick strikes helped knock the Jugglers off point early.
Udoh’s first major, on a 65-yard race on the team’s first possession, gave the home crowd an immediate reason to cheer. It was followed by lineman Owen Stark pouncing on a fumble recovery for the second major on the next series.
It didn’t take long for Udoh to strike again, this time on a 62-yard dash. Both rushing TDs were followed by successful two-point converts.
“We’ve had some big plays for sure,” remarked Lalji of the start. “We don’t need a lot but we still want to be consistent. We’ve been blessed, we have speed, we have the athletes, but we need to be a little bit better.”
Notre Dame got on the board with a successful pass by quarterback Carmello Renzullo to receiver Matt Battad.
In the second half, Greyson Planinsic carried it in from five yards out to make it 30-8.
A penalty kept a lengthy Juggler drive alive later in the frame, with the visitors crossing New West’s 20-yard line before a fumble off a snap returned the ball to the Hyacks.
In the fourth quarter, the Jugglers finally put up their second major on a short yardage run with 9:39 to play.
Both teams saw decent marches erased over fumbles and botched snaps.
“I’m sure they feel the fumbles hurt them a lot and they did, but they also hurt us too. The conditions weren’t that bad,” said Lalji.
The Hyacks’ Austin Galbraith put an end to any wild hopes of a Jugglers comeback with a 28-yard scamper along the left field line to make it 33-14.
“Bascally we came in not too confident,” said Stark. “We knew (Notre Dame) was a good team and that their (offensive) line had potential and they’d come out strong. But we definitely felt we were equipped and bigger and stronger and were ready to take them on.
“The main goal coming in was to play as a team and play all together. Do our best in every single position – it’s all pieces of the puzzle and without each one the puzzle wouldn’t be full.”
Udoh finished with a game-high 158 yards on 11 carries, and added 41 yards on two catches. Taran Birdi’s lone carry was an impressive 26-yard run early in the final quarter only to see the ball turned over to Notre Dame one play later off one of the squad’s four fumbles.
Notre Dame came out on the short end of that stat, with eight turnovers, including seven fumbles.
Payton Myers, while not asked to throw often, completed four of six attempts for 55 yards.
New West finished with 284 yards to the Jugglers’ 254, although the visitors racked up 18 first downs to the home team’s 11.
On defence, Deakon Young returned to the lineup after missing the game in Mount Doug with an injury and was in on 10 tackles, including six solo, and an interception. Vishaan Narayan, Andros Dancey and Stark tallied up four tackles apiece, while Pavan Kainth was in on eight tackles and a pair of fumbles.
“I don’t want to take winning for granted because winning is hard, and that’s what I just said to the guys, but I just don’t feel great about (Friday’s win). I just feel – I’m always a process guy, and I would have preferred we didn’t fumble the ball the way we did, we would have controlled the ball a little bit better, instead of just big-playing teams. That’s fleeting, because you can’t always win with big plays,” added Lalji.
At 2-0 in conference action and 3-1 overall, the Hyacks have averaged 38 points per game over the past three contests. They’ll head to the North Shore on Friday, looking to improve on their consistency against the 1-1 Carson Graham Eagles.
“We’ve got some momentum I guess but they’ll be a completely different challenge because of how much and how well they throw the ball,” the New West coach said of their next opponent. “Evey year you play them they come out with a completely different defence and we have no idea. You go out and prepare and they come out and it’s completely different. It’ll be a challenge for sure.”