Win propels Hyacks into underdog role against Panthers

New West returns to B.C. Place for quarterfinal matchup against No. 1 Lord Tweedsmuir

The last time they ventured to B.C. Place to play, the New Westminster Hyacks exited as champions.

It’s going to be slightly different heading into Saturday’s quarterfinal.

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New West will enter this weekend’s game as underdogs when they face No. 1-ranked Lord Tweedsmuir (Saturday, 5 p.m. at B.C. Place), after launching the B.C. Subway Bowl playoffs last Friday with a resounding 44-7 victory over the Abbotsford Panthers.

What the Hyacks accomplished against the Panthers of the Fraser Valley was a glimpse into what they’ll need to put together against the undefeated Surrey team, which also bears the Panther moniker.

To keep the drive alive, they need to deliver a near impeccable performance, as they did in the playoff opener.

“Our kids played well, although Abbotsford was a little under-manned,” remarked New West head coach Farhan Lalji. “We did some good things offensively, and we stood up very well against (Abbotsford’s) run.”

The defence shut down what had been a strong rushing game, holding Abbotsford to just 116 yards on 41 carries on the night.

Meanwhile, the Hyacks’ attack capitalized on its first two possessions, with Broxx Comia dancing in from 35 yards and quarterback Kinsale Philip making a one-yard TD plunge, followed by a two-point convert.

Ahead 14-0 after the first quarter, the hosts saw the Panthers reply to start the second frame, but New West came right back with a long march that ended with a three-yard run by Comia. The polished Grade 12 rusher boosted the lead to 30-7 with a 36-yard TD catch from Philip before halftime.

In the third quarter, Shaye Rathjen scored on a 41-yard interception, followed by Himmat Garcha’s 15-yard dash into the end zone.

Philip returned at linebacker after a three-week absence and packed on a team-high nine tackles, while completing three of eight pass attempts. He also gained 60 yards rushing. Comia ran for 79 yards on six carries and two majors, while Greyson Planinsic also ran for 60 yards, off five carries.

Collecting five tackles was Matthew Lalim, while Vishaan Narayan was in on six tackles, including three assists.

Having dropped three of its previous four games, New West looked like a team that had effectively turned the page and was primed for a new run. Lalji said although Tweedsmuir is an immensely talented team, he feels good about the matchup.

“We believe in our talent (and) in our linemen overall,” he said. “(Lord Tweedsmuir) is a very strong team, but I look at each (quarterfinal) game this weekend and I can see any team winning. We’re capable of winning this.”

The Panthers, who went 7-0 in the Eastern Conference and gave up just 62 points, are led by quarterback Trey Jones, who posted a 57.7 pass completion rate, and conference MVP Kojo Odom at defensive back. Their roster also includes all-star
receivers Yosef Drysdale and Kaiden Lilley, lineman Noah Bedard and linebacker Nathan Gernon. They also expect to have receiver Jaden Simon – son of B.C. Lions legend Geroy Simon – available after missing time to injury.

As formidable as their record and stats are, Tweedsmuir is a test New West’s players are eager to take on, said the coach.

“I think they’re excited. They know each other through community and other football events, and there are no secrets between them. We haven’t played them since 2012 but I think there is a familiarity.

“(Tweedsmuir) is very talented and dynamic across the board, but this is the kind of matchup you’re going to get as you go in the playoffs.”

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