When it came to bantam nine-man football in 2014, no team in B.C. was able to top the North Langley Bears.
The Bears are provincial champions after a hard fought 38-13 victory over the Salmon Arm Chargers.
The North Langley squad defeated the Chargers at Hillside Stadium in Kamloops, in frigid conditions on Saturday night.
The game didnâ€™t start well for the Chargers after a bad snap sent the ball over their punterâ€™s head, giving the Bears fantastic field position inside Salmon Armâ€™s red zone.
Then, Zander Baileyâ€™s first carry took him across the goal line for the first of his four touchdowns on the night.
While the convert attempt hit the upright, the Bears quickly found themselves with a 6-0 lead.
Only minutes later, Bailey scored his second touchdown, putting the Bears up 12 points with what appeared to be all the momentum they needed for an easy victory.
But the Chargers answered back with a long drive of their own to tighten the score, and later added a second touchdown after capitalizing on a rare North Langley turnover.
Suddenly, Salmon Arm had a one-point lead and the Bears found themselves in the unfamiliar position of being behind.
With winter conditions leaving neither team able to mount much of a passing attack, victory hinged on an effective running game and that gave North Langley the advantage.
While Bailey was the Bearsâ€™ primary offensive weapon, eventually carrying the ball 24 times for 228 yards, the introduction of Pablo Wigwigan into the backfield completely overwhelmed the Chargers.
While Wigwigan only carried the ball three times, he used his breakaway speed to gain 109 yards and score a pair of second half touchdowns.
Caleb Nielson added another dimension to the Bearsâ€™ attack with nine punishing carries for 35 yards.
Throughout the season the North Langley defence proved almost impossible to score upon in second half play, and this game proved no exception as they shut down the Chargers.
If the Chargers managed to get past Mason Block, Jacob Price, and Jake Evans on the Bearsâ€™ line, they were quickly brought down by Connor Hurley, Riley Jones, or Wigwigan.
Jacob Stebbings and Jones contributed touchdown saving tackles on the two occasions when Salmon Arm running backs appeared to break free downfield.
When Andy Hanlen slammed a Chargers ball carrier to the ground to end the game, the Bears officially finished the season undefeated while earning their first provincial championship.
Bears head coach Chad Henderson and his staff assembled the team and ensured the players were well prepared for each and every game, according to North Langley Minor Football.
The pressure will be on the coaching staff next year to top their perfect season.
â€“ by Chris Hurley