The football season has come full-circle for the White Rock-South Surrey Titans.
Back in the summer – before the regular-season had even officially kicked off – the Titans junior bantam squad hit the field at the North Surrey Football Association’s Bronze Boot tournament, defeating the Chilliwack Giants in the championship game.
Now, months later, the two teams are set to square off again – this time for a provincial title.
The Titans, who are made up of 12- and 13-year-old players, advanced to this weekend’s final – which will be played at Langley’s McLeod Park at 11 a.m. – after a 24-16 victory over the Nanaimo-based South Side Dawgs last Saturday on Vancouver Island.
“It was pretty special,” Titans head coach Ryan Quintana said of the team’s semifinal win.
“We weren’t expecting to have this good of a team when we started putting things together in July, but as we started getting rolling, they just started winning and it just went from there.
“When we went to the Bronze Boot, we went in knowing we’d be up against some really strong teams, but we won and then we were like, ‘OK, maybe we should move up our expectations for this season a little bit here.’”
The team finished its Vancouver Mainland Football League regular season with a win-loss record of 8-2.
The team – which Quintana said is a pretty even split of first- and second-year junior bantam players, along with some who are in their first year of organized football at any level – got off to a hot start, winning their first four regular-season games before suffering a defeat. From there, the team reeled off four more victories before a Nov. 3 loss to Cloverdale.
Adding to the team’s surprise run was the fact that they were playing in a 12-man league for the first time. Last year, Quintana coached the Titans peewee team to a nine-player-per-side championship.
“We anticipated that we wouldn’t be as dominant, just because of that adjustment. Then once we found out who was in our division, it was all the big guns – Cloverdale, North Surrey, Coquitlam,” Quintana explained.
“If you had told me that halfway through the season that we would have been 4-1, I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Last weekend’s semifinal was a true back-and-forth affair, with the teams trading touchdowns in the first half, before White Rock was able to score one touchdown – on a run from Hudson Bromley – in a low-scoring second half to escape with the eight-point victory.
And though Bromley was the man of the hour after his go-ahead touchdown, Quintana was quick to praise a group of less-heralded players – the team’s offensive linemen, who may not get the glory that comes with scoring touchdowns, but are instrumental in the team’s success nonetheless.
Specifically, he singled out Carter Martin, Keanu Rentiers and Asher Roling.
“Oh man, without those guys, this wouldn’t be possible, that’s for sure,” Quintana said.
“All year, we talk about guys being a blocker or a tackler. You preach that as much as you can, but most of the time, with most teams, you get to the end of the year and all the awards go to the quarterback, the running back, the receivers – all the guys who are bringing the ball into the end zone.
“Against (Nanaimo), the line controlled the game, and all of a sudden, we get Hudson into the second level of defenders and then good luck (to the defence).”
The Titans will need a similar performance this Saturday if they are to again defeat Chilliwack, who went 6-1 during the Valley Community Football League season.
“They’re definitely a powerhouse. We’re just going to get our guys fired up one more time and see what we can do,” Quintana said.
“After the (Bronze Boot) tournament, me and the Chilliwack coaches had a laugh and they said, ‘You guys get your job done, we’ll do ours, and we’ll see you in the finals in a couple months. And here we are – it’s pretty cool.”