Hyacks have room to improve after first win

It wasn’t exactly a dry run for this week’s Homecoming Game.

In fact, a bit of west coast wetness reflected how a less-than-ideal start could dampen what was an overall winning performance for the defending B.C. High School AAA football champion New Westminster Hyacks.

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Despite registering a respectable 36-14 decision over visiting Carson Graham last Friday, the takeaway, at least from the coach’s perspective, was how much work needs to be done.

“It wasn’t really the prettiest win, but we found a way to win,” remarked head coach Farhan Lalji. “We typically have these weird games against Carson (Graham) where we leave not feeling really good about ourselves. We really shot ourselves in the foot for much of the first quarter. We had some large drives, turned it over on the first one, took a bunch of penalties on the second and third one, then all of a sudden, (Graham) hadn’t done anything offensively and then they hit us on a seam pass and scored a long touchdown out of nowhere.”

The Eagles opened the scoring in the second half when quarterback Charlie McMillan fired a 59-yard touchdown pass that gave a jolt to New West’s starters. They responded with a series of majors that lifted the home squad to a 22-6 lead at halftime, a lead they’d never relinquish.

Still, some rough patches at the start, in what was the official regular season opening game for both clubs, gave the Hyacks a yardstick to measure future gains with.

“It was really a disappointing game as far as penalties and being clean (goes),” said Lalji. “We went to Liberty (Wash., two weeks ago, losing 28-12) but came home feeling good about it. We lost but we only took three penalties in the (Liberty) game, didn’t turn the ball over – it was clean from that perspective. We just figured we could kind of move forward but it didn’t go that simply. Hopefully we got it out of the way now.”

Rushing majors by Broxx Comia, a 25-yard dash, followed by a two-point convert, and Michael Kingsley, from 20-yards out, propelled New West in front of Graham on back-to-back drives. The Hyacks punctuated that momentum when Grade 10 defensive tackle Vishaan Narayan corralled a fumble and carried it 60 yards to cap a 22-point half.

New West continued the offence in the third quarter when Kingsley dashed 13 yards for six more points, followed by a Zachary Northgraves convert.

While Carson Graham would score on another passing play, Kinsale Philip delivered the final blow for the Hyacks, scampering 18 yards for the final TD.

Although less than a perfect evening, from his standpoint, Lalji complimented a handful of newcomers for their first game at Mercer, including Grade 10 secondary players Deakon Taylor-Young and Andros Dancey, who were tested by the Eagles’ passing game.

“We were missing a few of our (defensive backs) and both of them stepped up and played very well. Deacon tackled very well and made a fourth-down stop, and
Andro was physical,” said Lalji.

Titgol Jok, who played with the Byrne Creek Bulldogs en route to the B.C. AAA basketball championship final, has looked good as a linebacker for New West, as did fellow senior Shaye Rathjen.

The tandem of Comia and Kingsley proved very effective against the Eagles line, racking up 102 and 114 yards respectively on nine carries each. Philip, meanwhile, completed three of eight pass attempts and added 77 yards on the ground. On defence, Evan Nolli collected a game-high eight tackles and a QB sack.

Now all eyes are focused on Friday’s Homecoming game (7:30 p.m. at Mercer Stadium) against the Abbotsford Panthers. While the Panthers fell 35-7 to Terry Fox last week, Lalji expects them to provide a serious challenge.

“(Abbotsford) is a very different type of team (from Carson Graham) and has a very different type of attack. They’re very big and very physical and they run the ball well,” said Lalji. “They’re very run heavy. ... I do think this is for us a very tough test. In the past, we’ve had some real easy Homecoming games but this is not that.”

Homecoming festivities begin at 4 p.m. with a Hyack alumni flag football game, followed by a pre-game party at 5 p.m., featuring a family fun zone with a tug-of-war and mascots, including members of TV’s Paw Patrol team.

The 6 p.m. reception includes the annual skydiving performance and a prize draw for a car.

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