The British Columbia Football Conference has a new all-time single season rushing record holder and his name is Jamel Lyles.
The Westshore Rebels running back passed vaunted Canadian football names such as Andrew Harris and Greg Morris – a former Rebel – before finally topping the 1,592 yards put up by Valley Huskers rusher Matt Medwick in the 2000 season. He set the new standard with a 16 yard dash midway through the fourth quarter and his mark now stands at an unofficial 1,604 yards following a 158 yard effort Saturday night.
The Surrey native admits the record was on his mind heading into the Rebels’ final regular season game against the Kamloops Broncos, which the Rebels won by a 34-25 score to finish the regular season at 8-1-1.
“It definitely crossed my mind, a lot of the players were thinking about it…we just tried to stay focused on getting the (win),” Lyles said.
The chance for BCFC history wasn’t lost on head coach JC Boice either, although winning remained the first order of business for him as well.
“We all wanted Jamel to get the record, for Jamel, for that o-line, for this entire team, for this entire community. It was definitely there, but we were playing to win today and for us winning is running the ball and taking vertical shots,” Boice said.
Following his record-setting rush, Lyles was removed from the game and he later had a chance to celebrate with his offensive line.
“My numbers speak for itself and my name’s going to go in the record book but all 10 of my offensive lineman, second string and third string, I can’t do it without them and that’s as simple as that,” he said.
The record is a nice feather in the cap of a line that has been a big part of the Rebels’ stunning turnaround this season, having helped Lyles to a record year and paved the way for running back Trey Campbell to have a big year of his own.
“It’s huge because everything we bring to the table helps him rush down the field. As long as we’re making our blocks, it’s game over at that point…(The record) means the world to us,” said lineman Christian Krause.
Before the record fell, it was a sluggish start for a Rebels team that was heavily favoured over the fifth-place Broncos. After an early field goal, the Rebels surrendered the game’s next 16 points, which included a safety and two touchdowns.
After a Nathaniel Pinto score late in the first half, a Rebels drive in the third quarter appeared to stall.
Instead of kicking a short field goal, the Rebels opted for trickery with a fake, throwing for a short pass that resulted in a highlight reel play by defensive lineman/punter Kent Hicks, who made a diving, one-handed grab to secure the first down.
“What an amazing play by Kent Hicks. What a graceful athlete,” Boice said, adding that it was a big play for team morale. “I think it was pretty huge. It made me jump up and pump my fist.”
Later on the same drive, the Rebels managed a short touchdown run from quarterback Devoun Hallums. Boice’s team had the momentum and a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.Receiver Brandon Ihanza and Hallums later added scores for Westshore.
Hallums played well in relief of banged up starter Ashton Mackinnon, but it’ll be Mackinnon’s huddle when the Rebels begin their quest for a championship in two weeks. The Rebels’ second season will begin with a home playoff game against the rival Vancouver Island Raiders on Oct. 15, with the winning club going on to face the winner between the Langley Rams and the Okanagan Sun.