To Ted Kirby, there is no such thing as a mean-nothing game.
The Langley Rams head coach bristled a little at the suggestion that Saturday’s game at Chilliwack’s Exhibition Stadium against the Valley Huskers – the final contest of the B.C. Football Conference regular season for both teams – had little impact one way or another.
The junior Rams entered the day with a 6-3 record and were going to finish third in the BCFC standings, no matter what the outcome.
They had no chance of catching the frontrunning VI Raiders from Nanaimo or Okanagan Sun from Kelowna, who both entered the weekend with 7-2 records.
And with identical 2-6-1 marks going into their respective regular season finales, both the Huskers and Kamloops Broncos were far behind the Rams.
The Rams did as expected, hammering the Huskers 59-24 in a game highlighted by a performance for the ages by star defensive lineman Evan Foster.
And Kirby couldn’t be happier.
“It was a very meaningful game for us because we didn’t perform very well off against VI,” Kirby said, referring to the Rams’ 22-12 home field loss to the Raiders the previous Saturday, Sept. 28. “Getting confidence back in our players… I considered it one of the most important games of the year.”
Kirby added, “That’s the question: do you rest guys or do you go in [to the playoffs] with momentum? It didn’t matter who we played, we were going to go in and play as hard as we could, and show that we’re ready to execute in the playoffs.”
Plus, records were at stake.
With four sacks, Foster broke both the BCFC (previously 12.5) and Canadian Junior Football League (15) record for most sacks in a single season.
His CJFL record-breaking 16th sack of the season came on the final play of the game.
The record has a special place in the heart of Kirby, who doubles as Langley’s defensive line coach.
“Everyone knew there was a possibility [for the Canadian record to be broken] and for it to happen on the last play of the game, the whole team went crazy. They went nuts,” Kirby said. “He’s a captain, he’s a leader, and he’s such an unselfish player.”
So unselfish, Foster told Kirby that he didn’t care about the records.
“He puts the team on his back,” Kirby said. “He puts a ferociousness into every play. He’s an amazing kid, on and off the field.”
And when Foster picked off an errant pass and started on a 70-yard journey to the end zone late in the second quarter, he had a convoy of teammates nearby to block for him.
“Evan, for a defensive lineman, is an extremely in-shape man, but at the end of the run he was hoping for oxygen,” Kirby said.
Foster also added two solo tackles, three assisted tackles, and one forced fumble to his totals.
“It was of the most dominating defensive performances ever,” Kirby said.
Foster wasn’t the only member of the Rams’ front-four who ran an interception back for a touchdown on the day.
Brandon Klein also accomplished the feat, picking off the ball and taking it 25 yards to pay dirt.
On the season as a whole, there were several standouts.
Kicker Steve Thomas booted a 35-yard field goal and added five converts against the Huskers. He easily led the BCFC in points with 102 (20 more than the second leading point-getter, VI kicker Ryan Jones), field goals with 14, and converts with 49.
Running back Kyle Albertini led the league in rushing yards with 838.
Quarterback Jahlani Gilbert-Knorren finished fifth in the BCFC in rushing with 571 yards on the ground, and led all players with 12 rushing touchdowns. He also threw the ball for 1,945 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Looking back at Saturday’s game, the Rams led 17-0 after the first quarter, 38-17 at halftime, and 52-17 after three quarters of play. The teams scored seven points each in the final quarter.
Nathan Lund ran the ball for 179 yards and three touchdowns. His longest run covered 91 yards.
Receiver Kyle Pich caught two touchdown passes while fellow pass-catcher Malcolm Williams hauled in one touchdown reception.
Pich has recovered from a shoulder injury and is, Kirby said, “one of the most talented receivers we have.”
Backup kicker Matt Riley saw game action, kicking one field goal and three converts.
POST-SEASON UPON US
The Rams will travel to Kelowna’s Apple Bowl to take on the Sun on Sunday, Oct. 13 in the BCFC semifinal.
The Sun and Raiders both won over the weekend and finished with 8-2 marks, but the Raiders had a better points for/against ratio during the season series between the teams, which secured them top spot.
Meanwhile, this Sunday marks the Rams 25th consecutive playoff appearance.
Historically the Rams play well in Kelowna, and have won more games in the Apple Bowl than any team in league history.
The Rams and Sun have a long playoff history.
The teams went head to head in the BCFC championship game for six straight seasons, 1990-1995, with the Rams winning four of the contests.
The Sun defeated the Rams 13-1 in the 1995 title game and won the next four playoff games between the two teams, all B.C. semifinal match-ups.
The Rams and Sun returned to the BCFC championship game in 2005, when the Rams scored on the final play of the game to take a 31-27 victory at the Apple Bowl.
The last playoff game between the teams was the 2011 B.C. semifinal in Kelowna, again going down to the final seconds when a Sun two-point convert attempt to tie and force overtime was denied by the Rams’ defence.
If the Rams win this Sunday in Kelowna, then it’s back to Caledonia Park in Nanaimo on Oct. 19 (barring a Kamloops semifinal upset win over the Raiders on Sunday) for a repeat of last year’s BCFC championship game.
In the event the Rams win the Cullen Cup (BCFC title) again, they would travel east for the Jostens Canadian semifinal on Oct 26 against the Ontario Football Conference champion.
A win in the Jostens game would put the Rams back in the national championship game for the second year in a row.
The title game will be played Nov. 9 at the home of Prairie Conference champions from Saskatchewan.
Kirby isn’t looking that far ahead. His and his team’s sole focus is the Sun.
“There’s no tomorrow,” he said. “If we win, we get to play again; if we lose, we’re going golfing. I can’t get to Kelowna soon enough.”
@ Copyright 2013