The St. Thomas More Knights were outmanned, outsized and supposed to be a patsy for the unbeaten Terry Fox Ravens in the B.C. high school junior varsity football final - yet, they were anything but.
Despite the odds against them, it was two big plays by Fox and too many turnovers on offence that proved the difference in STM's 14-7 loss to the Ravens at B.C. Place on Saturday.
"When you turn the ball over, it's difficult to get any momentum to come back," said STM head coach Dave Ruzycki, who has taken the Burnaby independent school to the JV final four out of the past five years.
"The forecast was we were supposed to lose by three or four touchdowns, but we kept it close. (Fox) scored on two big plays, and one was a gadget play," Ruzycki added.
The latter TD followed a high snap on a punt that gave the Port Coquitlam squad excellent field position at the Knights' 28 yard line.
On Fox's first play from scrimmage, eventual MVP Conner McKee hit wide receiver Dylan Foulds all alone in the end zone on a perfectly executed flea flicker play.
The Ravens got the ball right back on a Tavin Grant fumble after a catch, but the Burnaby NOW's player of the game, Nick Favaro, and lineman Ben Steele combined to snuff out the ensuing Fox drive with a big stop that turned the ball over on downs to the Knights in their own red zone.
But that was not the end of it for STM.
Quarterback Andrew Flett tossed up the first of four interceptions to McKee. Three plays later, McKee and Mike West teamed up for a 62-yard pass-and-run for the Ravens' second TD.
STM marched the ball downfield with the help of two tough catches by Favaro. But the Knights were unable to punch the ball over the goalline on a fourth-and-two.
The Knights forced Fox to punt deep and Grade 9 returner Terell Jana ran the ball back 22 yards to give STM first down on the Ravens' 28.
Favaro, who was named the game's outstanding back with seven catches for 83 yards, later scored on a five-yard toss. Matthew Duda converted to close the deficit to seven points.
But it was STM's stingy defence that held Fox to just 200 total yards that gave the Knights life.
"Our defence, as far as I'm concerned, was outstanding," Ruzycki said. "In all the years I've coached, this defense gave up the fewest points in my 30 years. But too many mistakes will kill you, and unfortunately that's exactly what happened."
In the second half, STM got inside the Fox 10-yard line, but were turned back, and late in the game a long ball from Flett slipped through the hands of its intended receiver with nothing but empty real estate ahead of him.
"From day one, we've always been a fighting team. We never let down," said Favaro after the game. "If we played them again, I think we could beat them. After their second touchdown, we got right back at it. "