The lessons learned in preseason can be put in the bank for when the real games get played.
New Westminster Hyacks coach Farhan Lalji hopes to see some of those hard knocks pay dividends sooner than later.
New West launched the 2019 B.C. 3-A football season last Friday with a mixed salad in terms of results – a 15-6 loss to Lord Tweedsmuir at Mercer Stadium.
Last year’s provincial finalist and ranked No. 4 in preseason poll, the Hyacks displayed some good instincts and work on the defensive side of the ball and flashed glimmers on offence.
But the big plays in the game mostly came through turnovers and penalties, creating scoring opportunities that the visiting Panthers – ranked No. 2 overall – took to the bank.
“It was a disappointing start, where we just seemed to gift them the ball,” said Lalji. “We had it in their zone for much of the first half but just turned the ball over and took too many penalties. We just shot ourselves in the foot.”
Both of Tweedsmuir’s touchdowns came off turnovers. They took the lead late in the first half after New West fumbled the ball at their own 20, followed by a penalty that cut that distance in half.
When the first half ended, the Panthers had achieved just one first down of their own, but led 6-0.
In the second half, Lord Tweedsmuir added a field goal and scored another major before the fourth quarter on Noah Anderson’s 70-yard fumble recovery.
For New West, Deakon Young put six on the scoreboard in the final quarter with a three-yard run.
“Offensively, we just weren’t good enough,” said Lalji. “We didn’t move the ball consistently.”
Greyson Planinsic carried 18 times for 89 yards in the loss, while Grade 12 linebackers Pavan Kainth and Owen Stark set an impressive tone with eight and six tackles, respectively. The six-foot-four Kainth added a quarterback sack.
“(Kainth and Stark) really stood out. I have a certain thing for players who have a metamorphosis for their senior year, and Owen’s come in bigger, stronger. He’s a physical kid and playing with intensity and focus that we hoped to see,” noted Lalji.
“Pavan is primed for a dominating season at outside linebacker. He’s so athletic, and he was all over the field.”
The Hyacks now turn their attention to G.W. Graham, the No. 2-ranked team in 2-A, who lost their season opener to No. 1 Vernon last week.
“Our captains took some ownership of the (loss) and had a good practice (on Tuesday),” noted Lalji. “We take a lot of pride in playing well at home, and last year we saw a 20-game win streak snapped. With (this Friday’s) Homecoming game it’s important that we turn the page and come out strong.”
The Homecoming game festivities start at 5 p.m., with an alumni flag football game taking to the turf at 5:15 p.m., before the 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Mercer Stadium.