A chance at clinching second place slipped past the Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers in wet, slippery conditions Friday afternoon on their home field.
Plagued by four turnovers, the Cloverdale team fell 26-14 to the St. Thomas More (STM) Knights, and dropped out of the race for second place in the Southern Conference of Senior AAA high school football.
“We fumbled seven times and lost four of them, including one on our five yard line shortly before half. They scored three plays later to make it 7-0 at halftime,” said Panthers head coach Kurt Thornton. “You can’t win when you turn the ball over that much.”
The win left the Knights with a 6-1 won-lost record while Lord Tweedsmuir fell to 4-2 with one game still remaining on their schedule. The Panthers will play in Kelowna Friday night, against an Owls team which is also at 4-2.
Against St. Thomas More, Panthers running back Caleb Abraham carried the ball 21 times for 212 yard, scoring on a 9 yard touchdown run. Christian MacMillan added the second major score on a one-yard quarterback sneak, and Jeff Godard caught a pass for a two-point conversion. Hayden Hamilton led the defence with 13 tackles, including four sacks.
“It was miserable weather, but both teams had the same conditions,” said Thornton. “We thought that playing at home in the same conditions we practice in would be an advantage. In the end, STM held the ball much better than we did.”
With second place and a first-round bye now out of reach, Tweedsmuir will now go to the Okanagan seeking a win that would clinch third place and home field advantage in the opening round.
“Kelowna has improved over the course of the season as much or more than any team I can remember,” said Thornton. “They have some big wins including their win over Mt. Boucherie (Bears) last week.
“Our kids will have to be very disciplined on defense to contain their run game and solid on the back end against the pass. Offensively, we will have to present a bit more diversity and take advantage of what they give us.”
It will be the second time in three weeks the Panthers will be in Kelowna’s Apple Bowl on a Friday night. On Oct. 24, they topped the Bears 28-18.
“We will have the challenge of game day travel to Kelowna,” said Thornton. “(The Owls) present some of the same strengths that STM has, a very athletic quarterback who likes to run, some talented receivers and a strong running back.
“It should be fun as there is quite a bit on the line.”
In the Senior AA category, the Frank Hurt Hornets clinched third place in the Southern Conference and a playoff position with a 7-0 win over the Moscrop Panthers.
The Hornets (2-2) and the second-place Seaquam Seahawks (3-1) will begin playoffs Nov. 14-15 against opponents still to be determined.