New West launches playoffs with strong statement

Just at the right time, the New Westminster Hyacks reclaimed their winning mojo.

The senior AAA football team launched the 2019 playoffs Friday with a well-rounded and completely dominating 45-6 victory over the Terry Fox Ravens at Mercer Stadium.

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It sets the stage for Saturday’s Subway Bowl quarterfinal match-up against Lord Tweedsmuir (noon, at BC Place), where more of the same will be needed.

There wasn’t much doubt Friday, as New West effectively put the previous week’s disappointing effort in the rear view mirror and looked like a team with a purpose.

“I’m really proud of our guys. This is the group that I believed we could be,” remarked New West coach Farhan Lalji. “We haven’t been this team since the league opener against Mount Douglas, and it was nice to see. Regardless of opponent, we couldn’t have played a better first quarter, a better first half really.

“We were disciplined, we stayed within ourselves, we executed. This is the team I believe we can be and it’s the right time of year for it to happen.”

Injuries created some key opportunities for players, and most took a shine to their bigger roles. With running back Greyson Planinsic ailing and starting quarterback Payton Myers requiring some rest, Deakon Young and Andros Dancey stepped up and led a strong united group.

Young scored the game’s first major, off a 14-yard run on the team’s first possession. A few minutes later, Dancey carried in a three-yard major, then followed up by returning an interception 22 yards just 10 seconds later.

With two minutes left in the quarter, Michael Udoh caught a 20-yard Dancey pass to make it 27-0, with Alex Beschea’s second successful point-after attempt rounding it up to 28-0 after 12 minutes.

The Hyacks would add another major via the run, with Mahtab Garcha going in from two yards out, and Young capping the half by scampering 60 yards immediately after the team counted a two-point safety.

Beschea would add a 32-yard field goal in the third quarter, while Fox scored its lone major on the last play of the game.

“Last week we really underperformed,” said Dancey, recalling the team’s 28-0 setback to South Delta. “Moving forward after this big win, especially against a team like Terry Fox, who we have disagreements with, I think it will be a rolling point in how we’ll do in the playoffs moving forward.”

Dancey finished 3-for-3 from the pocket, and added 26 yards rushing. Four other players racked up 20-plus yards on the ground, led by Young’s 59 yards on eight carries. Udoh picked up 46 yards on eight carries, while Garcha, with 38 yards, and Tyson Black gained 20.

“Generally we executed very well on both sides and they gave us some breaks and we took advantage of some breaks. The big thing for us is if we don’t take penalties and we don’t turn the ball over we’re tough to beat,” noted Lalji.

Tweedsmuir, who kicked off the playoffs with a 57-7 win over W.J. Mouat, handed New West its first loss of the season in Week 1, a 15-6 decision on Sept. 6. Since then, both teams have had better days, as the two were placed fourth and fifth, respectively, in the last provincial poll.

As far as opponents go, the Panthers will be a whole new test that the Hyacks will need to tackle.

“We’re just going to try and come out and do everything we didn’t do in the first week. We’re rolling with a lot of confidence and we’ll be prepared. We just need to play as a team and not take dumb penalties,” said Young.

“They play at a different level and we played them at the start of the year and we know how good they are,” added Lalji. “It will be tough and we just need to continue to get better. I like the fact that we’ve kind of gotten into a habit as a team that when November hits and its playoffs, we play our best football. That’s what I expect on Saturday.”

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