How the Prince George Kodiaks fared in their first youth football home game

Former DP Todd Trojan Chris Finden delivers a pair of game-changing plays that pave the way to victory for visitors to Masich Place Stadium in Prince George’s home opener

Returning to the town where he grew up, where his family still resides, Chris Finden felt right at home at Masich Place Stadium on Saturday night.

Playing for the visiting Kamloops Broncos against the Prince George Kodiaks in their home opener to a packed house, the 23-year-old Broncos wide receiver picked the perfect time to play the game of his life.

His efforts to shred the Kodiaks secondary and find open territory ultimately paid off in two crucial plays that helped the Broncos to a 35-20 victory. Finden, in his sixth season of junior football, used his speed and six-foot-three wingspan to catch an onside kick late in the first quarter that kept Kamloops in possession. James Hubbard and his 39-yard catch then set up a two-yard touchdown run from Cameron Grzegorczyk to give the Broncos a two-touchdown lead.

But the best was yet to come for Finden, former DP Todd Trojan, who stunned the Kodiaks and their raucous crowd when he took over for quarterback Reid Vankoughnett in the opener of the second half and took off on a 47-yard sideline. in the end zone. Finden’s first touchdown of his junior career put the Broncos up 28-14 and they never looked back.

“Our boys killed him, our offense killed him, our defense killed him, our special teams were on fire,” Finden said. “I was a bit lucky; our quarterback and my teammates made it easy for me.

“Prince George and the Kodiaks did a hell of a job, the atmosphere was so fun to play. I don’t think we’ll ever have another crowd like this. It’s really fun to see football in PG again. J was a villain this time but that’s okay, I liked it.

A nearly packed crowd of around 1,100 gathered in the stand at Masich Place for the first BC Football Conference league game ever played in the city, and what a party it was, watching two teams renewing the Kamloops-Prince George rivalry on a hot August evening. The teams meet twice more in the 10-game season and Finden is hoping for the sweep but says it won’t be easy.

“They’re a hell of a team and once they clean up their stuff they’ll be there too,” he said.

Finden left Prince George in 2017 to join the Vancouver Island Raiders for two years and has been with the Broncos since 2019.

“For a guy who was born and raised in Prince George, to come out and play the way he did, I’m proud of him,” Broncos head coach Braden Vankoughnett said. “He had a rough start, lost that first hold on his way, but he regrouped and put on a hell of a play and it was great to see Chris play up to his potential. I think he’s a CFL-related player. He is very quick and gets things done and we are going to give him the ball in different ways.

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The Broncos coach said the Kodiaks organization got it right and made the game a spectacle his players would long remember.

“Thank you to the Prince George Kodiaks, man what a show they put on tonight – everything from the pre-game, the way they handled the organization, I’m thrilled to have this team in the league,” he said. said Coach Vankoughnett. “It was a lot of fun coming to play here and I can’t wait to be back here in a few weeks.”

Grzegorcyzk rushed for 97 yards on 17 carries and scored two touchdowns to help the Broncos (1-1) earn their first win of the season. Kaleb Senz and Colton Meikle each connected to Vankoughnett for touchdown passes.

The Kodiaks (0-2) trailed 21-14 at halftime. Keanu Brown erased an early 7-0 deficit with a 49-yard touchdown run that knocked the roaring crowd out of their seats. Duchess Park graduate Andrew Johnson took the Kodiaks within a touchdown when he scored on a four-yard run with two minutes left in the first half, after a 50-yard run from Andrew Brown.

The Kodiaks’ other major came with four minutes left in the game when Jerome Erickson caught Liam Oczkowski’s 35-yard pass in the end zone. Erickson, a former high school quarterback with the College Heights Cougar, now plays with the Kodiaks — whatever it takes to wear that jersey. As a PG boy, he loved just about every minute of Saturday’s game.

“It was exciting, it was great to hear the crowd and have the energy,” said Erickson, 19. “I’m a little mad at the fireworks at the end, though, because we lost, but that’s okay. I’m not going to dwell on this defeat because we have so much room for improvement. Anything we mess up, like two weeks ago, is fixable. It just comes with more time and more reps, that’s all we’re missing.

“I don’t think any other team is more talented than us – the teams are older and more experienced than us and that’s where we’re falling short at the moment. Week after week we’re getting there, but unfortunately it will take us longer than the other teams. We only have one guy over 19 starting the attack. The reality is that we are young.

The Kodiaks head back to Chilliwack on Saturday to face the Valley Huskers, the team that beat them 31-5 in their inaugural BCFC game on July 23.

Kodiaks head coach Keon Raymond knows there’s still plenty of room for improvement and that will come with more games and more practice time on the field.

“From the first game to this one we got better but football is a game where you have to take care of the details and we being young these guys need to know that the details matter,” said Raymond.

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The Kodiaks coach was encouraged by the insurance under pressure from Oczkowski, an 18-year-old rookie from Calgary who now has two junior starts under his belt.

“Liam made shots he needs to make and he missed a few too, but at the end of the day he’s the general in the field for us and we need to do a better job of giving him chances and putting some balls in our playmakers’ hands,” Raymond said. “He finished the game and that’s what got me excited. We had a few pushes and we set up some practice and he was moving the ball well and he looked good, we just have to finish.

Oczkowski injured his ankle in the third quarter of his opener two weeks ago in Chilliwack and showed no ill effects from the injury whenever he had to find quick downforce to dodge the Broncos’ run. He knows he will improve with age and experience.

“I have to improve myself and make better decisions and we’ll be back next week,” said Oczkowski, who had his mother Arlene watching from the stands. “The fan support was amazing, I can’t believe how many people were away, the atmosphere was great and I’m sorry we couldn’t make it.”

Kodiaks offensive lineman Will St. Hubert, a BCFC star last year for the Vancouver Island Raiders, was a beast in the trenches all night protecting Oczkowski. The 23-year-old from Ajax, Ont., sets an example for his teammates on the field at left tackle. He knows there will be growing pains as the Kodiaks develop their skills.

“The Broncos set the tone early on and we just had to follow after that and we just need to come together as a team and set the tone first because that’s usually what ends up winning a football game, as well as consistency – we’ve got to work harder,” said St. Hubert, 22.

“I see our guys and they’re not happy that we didn’t get the ‘W’, but I see the potential in this team, especially if we train hard, and the commitment we have to each other. to other people. It’s just going to be a scary team when it comes to the playoffs. I don’t take losing well, but at the end of the day, I’m grateful to play every game.

The fan reactions sent shivers down St. Hubert’s spine.

“That energy was amazing, it was honestly one of the biggest crowds I’ve ever played in front of,” he said. “I kept watching them and just wanted to do it for the city, do it for them and I’m grateful for all their support. Honestly, I’ve never seen football seen as such a culture until what I come here.

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