Even after a 35-23 loss to Langley ended their season with a 2-8 record for the third straight year, the Westshore Rebels found reason to celebrate.
Do-everything player Hunter Lake, one of five Rebels who played their last junior football game Saturday at Westhills Stadium, had a big smile pasted on his face.
With a number of family members gathered round, including his dad, Ryan, who drove down from Clinton in the B.C. Interior earlier in the day, Lake said he felt a combination of “happiness and heartbreak” knowing his time with the B.C. Football Conference club had drawn to a close.
“It’s heartbreaking to know you’re not going to pull on a Rebels jersey again, but I couldn’t have done it with a better group of guys,” said Lake, who played most of the game at quarterback in place of starter Talyn Davies.
Lake connected on 16 of 26 pass attempts for 258 yards, with the three touchdowns. He also rushed nine times for a team-high 44 yards, including an impressive 25-yard run in the second half that set up a TD pass to fellow graduating veteran Nick Spindor.
“The level of commitment we’ve had this year is unlike anything I’ve ever played with,” Lake said. “You can tell this team is going to be one to deal with; the level of no-quit, nothing but just pure fight and heart out of every single guy on this team.”
He enjoyed how teammates went all out to make sure veteran guys like Spindor and fellow receiver Joe Barkhouse got the ball.
Spindor, injured for much of this season with ailments ranging from a torn hamstring and broken hand to torn ligaments in his ankle, made the most of his last game in a Rebels jersey, catching four passes for 84 yards.
While the ankle was still tender, he wasn’t about to sit this one out. “This was my last game, so I thought I’d push through (the pain),” he said. He plans to heal up, start training again and try for a walk-on spot in the B.C. Lions’ camp next summer.
Barkhouse had seven catches for 80 yards, while Michael Peverelle added 69 yards on two catches, one of which went for 67 yards.
The Rebels led 8-7 after one quarter with Lake finding Davies with an eight-yard pass for a touchdown. Langley picked up the tempo and scored a pair of TDs and a field goal in the second quarter to take a 24-8 lead into the locker room. The teams went back and forth in the third period, with the Rams’ Wayne Palmer connecting on a 35-yard field goal, but the Rebels showed in the final quarter they weren’t done.
As well as the TD pass to Spindor, Lake hit Darcy Cherneff in the end zone and found Noah Rogers for a two-point convert.
Despite the loss, Rebels head coach J.C. Boice was thrilled with the effort of his players.
“At the end of this game you saw graduate players compete to the bitter end, making great plays and setting a tremendous example for the young guys coming up,” he said.
“Hunter Lake, Nick Spindor, Joe Barkhouse, Cohen Sassaman, those guys set a great example making plays. And then you saw the young guys – and we had to play a lot of young guys – you saw them out-experienced, out-physicaled a little bit, yet they didn’t stop, they kept competing. The thing for the Rebels is we have to compete and we’re starting to do that.”
Among the priorities for the club this off-season, Boice said, will be to find a dedicated Rebels weight room in the community to be able to add strength training to their running regime.
“We need to get bigger, faster, stronger,” he said.