Playoffs offer clean slate for Hyacks

It’s not the way to end the regular season, but it’s possibly a good way to ignite a lengthy playoff run.

That was the New Westminster Hyacks’ takeaway from Friday’s disappointing 28-0 loss to the South Delta Sun Devils, who with the win claimed first place in the Western Conference, along with the rivalry Kushnir Boot prize.

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For now, the focus is on Friday’s first round of the playoffs, when New West hosts the Eastern Conference sixth-place Terry Fox Ravens (7:30 p.m., Mercer Stadium).

"Everyone would love to have a bye to rest up and get a little healthier," head coach Farhan Lalji said of the playoffs. "At the end of the day we need to play to get better."

Although they were unable to get on the scoreboard last week, the host Hyacks had their chances. After South Delta took an 8-0 lead in the first quarter, on backup quarterback Hunter Norman’s 36-yard touchdown pass to Evan Patterson, followed by a two-point convert, New West did move the ball downfield, only to get stopped.

South Delta, which was playing without all-star QB Ben McDonald after the player broke his collarbone on a late play the week prior, scored on a blocked punt in the second quarter to make it 15-0.

They’d add a nine-yard pass for a third major a handful of minutes later.

Trailing 22-0 at halftime, and despite a more resolute effort over the second half, New West was unable to puncture the Sun Devils’ defence.

“It wasn’t that we didn’t have opportunities,” Lalji said, remarking how they got into the red zone three times. “For (South Delta), it was a couple of plays where they were in the perfect position and their guy made the play. When we had our chances, we didn’t have that fall into place.”

New West quarterback Payton Myers completed just three of 11 pass attempts for 33 yards, with South Delta defence doing a stellar job of limiting his options.

They also held New West runners to just 111 yards – with the usually dynamic tandem of Michael Udoh and Greyson Planinsic held to a combined 91 yards. The Sun Devils’ Norman passed for 152 yards, going 13-for-26, as the squad proved successful on 50 per cent of its third-down conversions.

In total yards, undefeated South Delta held a 261-144 advantage.

Defensively, New West got six tackles and a QB sack from Grade 10 Robert Preda, and four each by Andros Dancey and Planinsic.

“The second half we were better, and our defence gave us good field position but we didn’t take advantage of it,” noted Lalji. “Full marks to them; (South Delta) was the better team and they deserved to win.”

At 5-2, New West now enters the playoffs with something to prove – which Lalji said could be a useful motivator. He noted last year’s run to the B.C. Subway Bowl final was fuelled by the team’s sluggish performance over the final month of the regular season, losing three of the final four games.

“The playoffs offer a chance to hit the reset button,” he said. “Last year we were able to reset and go on a run. … We believe as a group we can play with anybody, but now we’ve got to do it.”

Friday’s opponent, Terry Fox, may not be the powerful squad that they’ve met the past two playoffs, but is still a dangerous squad, said Lalji.

“I think their (2-5) record is deceiving. (Terry Fox) is well-coached, they will be motivated and they know how to play us. Believe me, we know we will have to play our best to beat Fox.”

The Ravens have only scored 66 points over seven games, but are 2-2 over the past four games. The Hyacks, meanwhile, have put up 176 points on the board, in a tougher division.

“We have to be able to play in all areas of the field,” added Lalji. “We can’t be one dimensional. Our guys are smart and we have to play smart.”

FROM THE HUDDLE: The B.C. High School Football League announced its all-star teams this week, with three New West players receiving honours. Making the list were offensive lineman Pavan Kainth, defensive lineman Vishaan Narayan, and defensive back Taran Birdi.

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