The Meadows Ridge Atom Gold Knights team capped off a perfect 20-0 season with a provincial championship celebration over the weekend in Kamloops.
The local atoms met teams from Prince George and Kelowna, the top teams in their Interior leagues, and both having gone undefeated – just like the Knights. Ridge head coach Joe Kalinich said he didn’t know what to expect from the opposition.
But the Ridge squad quickly established themselves as the team to beat, after a 30-0 win over the Prince George Marauders, and a 34-6 win over the Kelowna Lions.
The format for the tournament added an element of randomness. Even after the Knights had thoroughly beaten their two opponents, they had to win an overtime “shootout.”
The format was similar to U.S. college football, where each team attempts to score on a drive that started from the defence’s 20 yard line.
Kelowna beat Prince George in the first shootout, and went up against Ridge. Kalinich gave the Okanagan squad the ball first, and watched as his team drove them back 15 yards.
Then the Knights drew up a play, executed it to perfection, and watched Jacob Brass sprint 20 yards for the championship-winning touchdown on a single play.
Brass was awarded the most valuable player of the tournament trophy, after he scored six touchdowns in the two games and running in the shootout–winning score.
Daniel Kalinich, the coach’s son and quarterback, threw two touchdowns and ran in another.
Kian Zahibi was a force to be reckoned with on both sides of the ball, and Alex Statton played great defence. Kicker Michael Diniz tacked two-point converts onto many of the Ridge scores.
Blake Hebert found the end zone with a 50-yard touchdown run, while Jamie Huurman scored on a reverse play.
The defensive standouts were Colby Van’t Hullenaar and Hayden Cote along with the outstanding Zabihi and Statton.
The Knights are a team of seven-, eight- and nine-year-olds, some who had never played organized football before the season. The 16 man squad included Troy Breault, Aiden Moore, Tyler Sanderson, Tristan Maas, Noah Berg, James Launder, Kaiden Exner and Axel Statton.
“I am so very proud of the hard work and dedication these boys showed throughout the season as rarely did we have a player miss a practice and that was the reason for their success” said Kalinich.