The Langley Rams withstood a furious fourth-quarter rally attempt, holding off the Kamloops Broncos 48-46.
The victory advances Langley to the Cullen Cup, the B.C. Junior Football Conference championship game, for the fourth consecutive year.
The Rams hosted the Broncos on Saturday afternoon at McLeod Athletic Park, and early on, it was all Langley.
Langley led 21-3 after one quarter and 31-17 at the half. And by the end of three quarters, had stretched the lead to 45-24. But the fourth was all Broncos as they out-scored the Rams 22-3.
But Langley was able to kill the final 1:38 on the clock after Kamloops pulled to within two points.
“We got a little complacent maybe,” said Langley coach Jeff Alamolhoda.
“And Kamloops fought for the entire game and brought it right down to the wire.”
The teams were separated by just one game during the regular season, with Langley placing second at 7-3 while Kamloops was third at 6-4. But in their lone meeting back in August, the Rams had won convincingly, 70-24.
The Rams rushed for 268 yards in the playoff victory, led by Nathan Lund (152 yards) and Jordan Traversy (63 yards) with Lund, Jacob Patko and quarterback Jordan McCarty all rushing for one score. McCarty also went 8-for-16 for 232 yards and three touchdowns, with Patko, Daniel English and Malcolm Williams hauling in one apiece.
Steve Thomas also kicked two field goals and all six converts.
And that was just enough offence as the Broncos desperately tried to throw their way back into the game.
Kamloops quarterback Steve Schuweiler went 28-for-45 for 543 yards and three scores. He also scored a pair of short-yardage touchdowns himself.
Receivers Derek Yachison (eight catches, 178 yards, two touchdowns) and Devin Csincsa (10 catches, 144 yards, one touchdown) did the bulk of the damage.
Langley’s defence did manage four turnovers: an interception from John Beckerleg, fumble recoveries by Tore Corrado and Brock Gowanlock and a turnover on downs. Ryan MacDonald forced the first of those fumble recoveries on special teams while Dylan Roper generated the other on one of his two quarterback sacks.
Gowanlock also had two sacks while Alex Agnoletto had another.
The win sets up a showdown with the Okanagan Sun on Sunday afternoon at Kelowna’s Apple Bowl with a berth in the national championship game at stake.
The Sun dismantled the Vancouver Island Raiders 47-16 in the other semifinal.
The Rams and Sun have met three times this season, with Okanagan winning twice. The home team has won all three times.
Alamolhoda said the semifinal scare against the Broncos can serve as a learning experience for his team.
“We took away from that game that in the playoffs, every moment, every inch counts,” he said.
“And there is no possible way we can let our guard down a moment.
“We also learned that our team has a fight in them and they are willing to fight back and fight hard to the very end and ensure that they get the win. And our guys did ensure that we got the win.”
The Broncos finished with 653 yards of net offence, including 362 in the second half. By comparison, Langley had 496 yards of offence, but just 158 in the second half.
While the second half should serve as a good reminder for the Rams as they focus in practice this week, there were drawbacks as well.
“Because it was such a big fight, we lost a couple of key bodies and that is going to hurt us moving forward,” Alamolhoda said.
“But in the end, the need to fight through this game is definitely going to give us some experience and some valuable lessons moving forward for the next game that we can learn from and that we can build off.”