Darlington Murasiranwa had to be peeled off of the ground by coaches and teammates, with tears in his eyes and his mangled right hand taped together.
The South Kamloops Titans had just beaten his Westsyde Blue Wave into submission and out of the playoffs in a B.C. Secondary School Football Association rivalry game under the lights at Hillside Stadium on Friday.
Westsyde would have advanced to the post-season with a win. Instead, South Kam triumphed 35-18 to claim the city championship and end the Blue Wave's season.
“That guy is a sensational athlete,” Titans’ head coach J.P. Lancaster said of Murasiranwa. “We prepped for him all week. He played with a dislocated finger and still got a score late.
“But our linebackers (Mike MacDonald and Callum Gorman) did a good job. Everything came together.”
South Kamloops executed its game plan, which centred around limiting the running back from Zimbabwe on defence and igniting an explosive passing attack on offence.
The Titans did slow Murasiranwa, who pushed the Blue Wave (2-2) to the brink of the post-season, but he still scored three touchdowns and rushed for more than 100 yards.
Westsyde was one-dimensional on offence, unable to get much going through the air, while the Titans (2-2) put on a passing clinic.
South Kam’s Grade 11 quarterback Eric Crawford was excellent and benefitted from outstanding performances from his receivers.
Ryan Zamudio was KTW’s player of the game. The wideout finished with four catches for 138 yards and three touchdowns — the Titans’ first three majors of the game.
Perhaps the tilt’s most pivotal play came about halfway through the third quarter. The Blue Wave were struggling with quarterback-running back exchanges and a muffed handoff gave the Titans the ball.
On the next play, South Kamloops, which led 15-6, dialled up a go route to Zamudio down the left side of the field. The pass hung in the air and turned into a jump ball between receiver and defensive back.
Zamudio wrestled the pigskin away from the defender and scampered 64 yards for his third touchdown of the game.
“This is a rivalry game we lost last year,” Zamudio said. “I think we all played as a team and it’s just really fun. It’s amazing, but, once again, I couldn’t have done it without the boys.”
The Titans came to Hillside knowing Murasiranwa could wreck the game.
South Kamloops, already eliminated from playoff contention, wanted to wreck Westsyde’s season.
But on the Blue Wave’s first drive of the game, Murasiranwa accepted a handoff on 4th and 1, bounced outside and tore through the Titans’ defence for a 30-yard touchdown.
All the game planning looked as if it were for naught.
But the Blue Wave’s one-dimensional offence caught up to them. Murasiranwa tired. South Kamloops forced turnovers and capitalized on offence. Without a potent passing game, a comeback became unlikely.
South Kamloops’ hecklers became more vocal late in the third quarter, with the Titans holding a 29-6 lead and cruising toward victory.
Murasiranwa was target No. 1.
“Give us a smile, Darlington!” they yelled. “Hey, nice game, Darlington! Go home, Darlington!”
He responded with a 70-yard touchdown run. Early in the fourth quarter, a collision left the Westsyde running back writhing in pain on the ground.
Those with weak stomachs dared not look at the index finger on his right hand, which was dislocated and broken, according to medical personnel on the sideline.
He was carted off, but came jogging out of the Tournament Capital Centre dressing room area in the fourth quarter with fingers taped together.
Murasiranwa scored the game’s final points, his third touchdown run of the contest.
“I have no words,” he said after the game, wearing openly the emotion of a devastating loss. “I love the team, man. I don’t know. It’s a family out here. The fans might hate us, but I had to do it [come back into the game] for them. I do it for my brothers. Every play is 100 per cent.”
Gorman made sure his last high school football game was memorable. The Grade 12 Titan caught nine passes for 112 yards on offence and added nine tackles and two fumble recoveries on defence.
Per Anneman also scored a touchdown for the Titans, whose kicker, Cohen Freeze, booted one field goal and connected on two extra-point attempts.
Cameron Treadwell had an interception on defence for the injury-plagued Blue Wave, who were battered by an aggressive Titans’ defence.
“The effort was there,” Westsyde head coach Cory Bymoen said. “Full credit to South Kam. They deserved the game tonight. We ran out of steam a little bit.
“It’s tough [to fall short of the playoffs], but, at the same time, playing next week would have been a tough chore. We were hanging by a thread coming in.”
The Vernon Panthers (4-0) are the class of the Interior AA Varsity Conference. The Clarence Fulton Maroons (2-2) will join the Panthers as the conference’s representatives in the playoffs. Valleyview finished 0-4.
South Kamloops, which will return a strong Grade 12 corps, plans to be in the post-season in 2019.
“Next year, we want to bring it all home and beat Vernon,” Crawford said. “I’m proud of myself and I’m proud of the boys. We couldn’t do it without everybody out there.”