Sheldon Gerlib was reliving the final few minutes of his last B.C. Secondary Schools Football Association game, which ended in defeat and elimination from the playoffs.
The Grade 12 South Kamloops Titan, whose squad fell 8-7 to the Robert Bateman Timberwolves of Abbotsford on Friday in AA varsity action at Hillside Stadium, was proud of his team, but wondering what might have been.
“That was probably our best game of the season,” Gerlib said. “We had one unlucky fumble.
“We probably could have kicked a field goal and Cohen [Freeze] with his insane leg would have made it. I guess it wasn’t fate.”
South Kamloops was down one point when it blocked a punt and took possession near Bateman’s 30-yard line with about seven minutes left in the game.
The Titans picked up a first down and opted to shift into hurry-up offence at Bateman’s nine-yard line, but the plan backfired when the ensuing running play resulted in a fumble that was recovered by the visitors.
Quarterback Ty Martens, who rushed 15 times for 115 yards, picked up a few key first downs before Bateman punted to give the Titans the ball with one minute and 28 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.
The last-gasp drive ended when Martens snared an interception.
South Kamloops head coach JP Lancaster spoke to his dejected charges after the game, offering words of encouragement to Grade 12s and asking Grade 11s to remember how much the defeat stings.
“We forced fumbles, blocked kicks on special teams,” Lancaster said. “At the end of the day, the chips didn’t fall our way.
“The immediacy of this is very difficult, but they [the Grade 12s] are going to be remembered as the ones who got us provincially ranked, played in a competitive playoff game and we are going to build from there.”
Lancaster said his players need to become accustomed to big-game nerves and trumpeted a burgeoning junior program.
South Kamloops, which fell 49-20 to Bateman in pre-season action in September, led 7-0 at halftime on Friday on the back of a Mike MacDonald rushing touchdown.
Bateman tallied eight unanswered points in the third quarter.
Quan Michaels blocked a Titans’ punt to force a safety and Martens scored on a QB keeper, the play that ended up being the downfall of the Titans’ defence.
“We had man coverage,” Martens said after the teams shook hands. “Our O-line did a good job making holes and pass blocking and receivers did a good job running their routes. It opened up for me.”
Bateman will square off against No. 2-ranked Ballenas of Parksville in the quarter-final round of the Subway Bowl playoffs.
The Titans posted a 3-1 regular-season record to finish second in Interior Conference play, their only loss coming against the undefeated Vernon Panthers (4-0).