Whether they’re playing three downs or four, the Pemberton Grizzlies have already made their home field a tough place for opponents to play.
When the Grizzlies’ scheduled opponents from Kamloops were unable to make it to Pemberton Meadows Field due to transportation issues on Sunday (Sept. 8), the Coquitlam Chargers stepped in to fill the void. And although taking on a Vancouver Mainland Football League team instead meant a switch to Canadian rules, it didn’t matter much, as the Grizzlies remained perfect at home by recording a 34-6 victory.
But despite the lopsided final score, head coach John Burleson said the Chargers were a challenging team to play against, and it wasn’t until quarterback Eldon Finck hit Dustin Lander with a 45-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the second half that the Grizzlies really got going.
“We weren’t too happy with the first half,” said Burleson. “We drove up and down the field probably as well as we ever had with our ground game — I know we were over 100 yards — but we just couldn’t punch it in. We had about five red zone opportunities and the drives stalled.
“It was the first time we’d played Canadian football rules … so we had to make some adjustments, but really I didn’t think that was an excuse. We just didn’t execute as well as we needed to in the first half.”
The Grizzlies seemed to find their stride when coming out to start the third quarter, as Lander ended up with three touchdowns on the day and Wesley Finck found the end zone twice himself. Burleson said he was pleased with how well Eldon Finck was able to get a number of receivers involved in Sunday’s win.
“He distributed the ball fairly well,” said Burleson. “Aaron Ryan did really well as a fullback coming out. We got him involved in the passing game and he made some really nice plays.”
Ryan, who missed the previous week’s opener with an ankle injury, also resumed his regular kicking duties and went 4-for-4 on extra point attempts.
The Chargers had a big quarterback with an impressive arm for the Grizzlies to contend with Sunday, but Pemberton’s players in the trenches turned in another fine effort and recorded a half-dozen sacks in the win.
“The offensive and defensive line continued to dominate the line of scrimmage and put a lot of pressure on their quarterback,” said Burleson.
Pemberton is off this week and preparing for an upcoming trip to Alaska. The Grizzlies will travel to take on the Juneau-Douglas Crimson Bears on Sept. 21.
Juneau-Douglas is currently ranked No. 3 in the state and have opened its season with a 4-0 record.
“It’s going to be a hostile environment,” said Burleson. “It’s going to be in downtown Juneau at a brand new field with 1,500 screaming fans. We’ve got our work cut out for us, for sure.”
Burleson said the Crimson Bears quarterback might be the best the Grizzlies have faced in their history, while they also have dangerous receivers and a running back that nearly hit 200 yards on the ground in their last outing.
That said, Burleson figures Juneau-Douglas will be about on par with teams the Grizzlies see during their annual preseason trip to Oregon, leading him to believe that Pemberton can put up a good fight on the road.
“They are a good club, but we are capable of beating them,” said Burleson. “One thing we really need to improve on is that we tend to get off to a little bit of a slow start. We don’t want to get into a habit of just coming alive in the second half, because against a team like Juneau-Douglas, that would be a tragic mistake.”
Saints open with win
The Whistler Saints flag football squad opened its North Shore Football League season with a 26-12 win over the North Vancouver Raiders on Sunday. Benyon McKeen and Liam Forsyth each scored a pair of touchdowns for the Saints, while Logan Anderson kicked a two-point convert for Whistler. The Saints are back in action Sunday (Sept. 15) in Squamish against the Vikings.