The Meadow Ridge Knights came into the season with very few people believing they had what it takes to run with the big dogs. But for the coaching staff of the midget boys team, their first inkling they were all grown up came on the last play of preseason.
The defending champion White Rock Titans, perennial powerhouse North Delta Longhorns and the Coquitlam Falcons all entered the season as viable candidates to win it all. The Knights, for their part, have only been playing in the Vancouver Mainland Football League for thee seasons, after competing in the Fraser Valley for years. So a run to the finals wasn’t necessarily in the cards for the Knights.
But on the final play of their exhibition schedule, the Knights defence were able to stuff the Langley Stampeders on the goal line, preserving a victory and setting the tone for the season.
“It seems like every game they’ve been calling for us to lose,” said Jeff Boyce, first-year head coach of the Knights. “We’ve got a great mix of kids here who just love playing the game, and it’s shown.”
The Knights are looking to carry the momentum they’ve built throughout the season as they get set to host the Stampeders in the semi finals of the VMFL on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Samuel Robertson Tech School.
Coach Boyce said his 9-2 team is playing technically sound football, especially after a hard-fought 23-21 win over the Longhorns, a five-time VMFL champion. The Knights used three touchdowns through the air from quarterback Joe Schuster and a safety from their defence to knock off North Delta. Jaimal Gill, Sergio Cabrera and Spencer Hanbly all recorded TDs for the Knights.
The rematch with Langley was made possible when the Stampeders pulled off their own upset, sending the Titans home for the season with a surprising 22-7 win. The Stampeders are the lowest ranked team left in the playoffs, sporting a record of 6-6. The Knight are ridding a seven-game winning streak after opening the season 2-2.
Assistant coach Duane Goerzen said his team’s success comes from the fact that most of them have played together since they starting playing at the age of eight. He’s hopeful his team’s defence can keep up its strong play.
Lead by the likes of Travis McCrea, Brock Loewen and his son Elija, the assistant coach says he’s impressed with how his team has stepped up its play this year. The Knights have allowed just nine points per game over the course of the sea on. They are going to need another strong game if the hope to shut down the surging Stampeders. The Langley squad has scored an average of 21 points per games this year.
Boyce, who has been coaching minor football for the past 10 years, said he’s hopeful his balanced attack on offense and strong play of the other side of the ball can propel them to their first-ever appearance in the finals.
One thing that is guaranteed this year: there will be a first-time champion crowned. The winner of Saturday’s semi final will take on the winner of the Cowichan Bulldogs against the Coquitlam Falcons. None of the four teams remaining has a championship under their belt.
The finals are set for Dec. 2 at 4:30 p.m. at McLeod Stadium in Langley.