To win a zone high school championship is bliss. To repeat is divine. But three wins in a row? That's dynasty territory.
For the third year in a row, the Banff Community High School boys rugby team has been crowned zone champions.
The Bears defeated the Strathcona-Tweedsmuir Spartans 31-29 in dramatic fashion, Wednesday (May 30), as they held on for dear life against a massive come-from-behind attack from the private school squad.
The three-peat is a first in Tier II high school rugby and the team will now play for a shot at its second consecutive provincial title, June 8-9 in Edmonton.
“The boys started incredibly strong in the first half, but got caught resting on their laurels in the second,” said co-coach Alex Boston.
Going into the match, Banff had only allowed five points against all season. With swagger in their step, they had plenty of reason to expect victory as the Spartan squad has been the Washington Generals to Banff's Harlem Globetrotters in recent years.
Banff burst out to an early lead when Yannis Soukas put the Bears on the board. Bungo Mizusaki then used his blinding speed on the outside to run in two tries of his own, and Banff was cruising.
Winning scrums, stealing lineouts and generally intimidating their opponents with beasts like Braam Botha and Jordy Barry patrolling the field, Banff cruised to a massive lead. By the time Reid Wilson, who had an unbelievably strong game, blew past the Strathcona backs, Banff scouted out a 26-8 lead by the beginning of the second half.
Proving the first half was no fluke, Connor Sorensen managed a try of his own five minutes into the second half. The rout was on in Banff's heads.
However, the Spartans had other ideas. Banff's defence got lazy, then sloppy, then nearly comatose as Strathcona scored two tries off defensive miscues in quick succession. With the score 31-22, the Banff players knew they had to quash the comeback effort and take back the game.
“It came down to people not doing the basics,” Boston said.
Strathcona scored another and Banff's confidence was replaced by worry. The team that only allowed five points against all season had given up 21 in a half and appeared ready to give up more.
However, the clock struck its final second just in time, allowing Banff to hold onto the win and advance to the provincial championship with their third zone title in a row.
“We killed it in the first half and got a little nervous in the second,” said team captain Jonah Hann.“But we play well as a team. Most of us have grown up together and we know each other very well.”
Hann said the team was well-coached and owed a lot of credit to the staff for getting them through to the provincial tournament.
“We're going to ride this train aslong as we can. At the end of the day, we won the match,” said co-coach Sinclair Hunt.
Head coach John Petroff said the game was a good wake-up call for his club.
“We were cruising and had that 31-8 lead, but many players let up and we lost our intensity level. They started waiting for others to do things. This was a wake-up call because we've cruised through our opposition thus far. We needed a tough opponent.”
This will be Petroff's final year of coaching and he'll have a chance to go out on top in the eight-team elimination round at provincials beginning on June 8 at Ellerslie Rugby Club in Edmonton.
“It's a difficult tournament to win.You have to play flawless rugby.”
However, with 10 players returning from last year's championship club, Banff has as good a shot as any to come home with its second provincial banner.