STM to play Van College in provincial semifinal

St. Thomas More running back Nick Favaro fights for yardage in the first half of their BC High School Football AAA junior varsity playoff game against Mt. Boucherie at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex West. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
St. Thomas More running back Nick Favaro fights for yardage in the first half of their BC High School Football AAA junior varsity playoff game against Mt. Boucherie at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex West.

The St. Thomas More Knights could consider their provincial semifinal high school football clash with their Catholic school rival Vancouver College this coming Saturday a chance to redeem themselves from a few losses that have stung over the years.

The current crop of Knights lost to the Fighting Irish in the Grade 8 playoffs four years ago, and the junior varsity playoffs two seasons ago. In addition earlier this year, VC downed an injury-depleted STM squad 17-7. All of those games were played at Vancouver College’s O’Hagan Field, although Saturday’s encounter will be close by at UBC.

Despite those losses, the Knights head into the Final Four seeded second and the Irish fourth.

“Teams change over the course of high school, but this gives us an opportunity to show how much we have changed,” said STM head coach Bernie Kully on Monday.

Both schools had four players named to the provincial all-star team, but the one the Knights will have to pay particular attention to is six-foot-2, 210-pound running back Liam Mahara.

“Their whole offence goes through him. We’re very familiar with him,” said Kully. “He likes to finish his runs.”

Back in September when the two teams met, the Knights were without running back/linebacker Elliott Nelson, running back/defensive back Jalen Jana and linebacker/running back Noah Usherwood. They’re all healthy now, which should help STM’s cause.

“It’s going to be a big one,” said Kully. “From a health perspective we’re pretty good, we’re about 95 per cent which is about as good as you can be at this time of the year given the nature of the sport. We’re coming together at the right time.”

The Knights advanced to the semifinal by downing another Catholic squad, the Notre Dame Jugglers 40-14 at UBC last Saturday. STM was well rested having received a first-round bye and came out by scoring on their first offensive drive on a Nelson three-yard run less than three minutes into the game.

“Having two weeks, it’s almost like having a training camp before playing a playoff game, so we were eager to get it going,” said Kully on Monday. “It was a good, all-round game.”

Nelson went on to rush for 97 yards and another two scores on runs of nine and two yards. Jana had 93 yards, including a 44-yard TD romp in the third quarter while Usherwood scored from three yards out late in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Chase Malco.m threw for 187 yards including an 11-yard TD toss to Gio Trasolini to give STM a 21-7 halftime lead. “He had a very efficient game,” said Kully of Malcolm.

Kickoff for Saturday’s semifinal game is scheduled for 8 p.m. at UBC, following the other semi between the top-ranked Mt. Douglas Rams of Victoria and Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Hawks.

• For the third consecutive year, a STM player has been named Grade 11 football player of the year. This year the honour went to Malcolm. He was following in the footsteps of Nelson, who won last year, and quarterback Mikey Carney in 2010.

Trasolini was also selected as the recipient of the Team Radio $1,000 scholarship.

Receiver Malcolm Lee, who is also in Grade 11, and offensive lineman Nico Repole were named to the provincial all-star offensive team while Nelson made the defensive team as a linebacker and Jana as a defensive back.

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