Despite a heartbreaking exhibition loss to the Pemberton Grizzlies on Saturday (Aug. 31), Howe Sound Sounders coach Jim Errington liked his team’s effort and where the team is at heading into its regular season opener.
The Sounders dropped a 20-14 decision to the Grizzlies when Pemberton connected on a 35-yard touchdown bomb from quarterback Eldon Finck that deflected into the hands of Grizzlies receiver Dustin Lander.
Errington gave Pemberton full marks for the win in its first-ever home game.
“Coach [John] Burleson, his players, and all those involved need to be congratulated — not just on the win but on what they have accomplished in establishing a football program in Pemberton,” Errington wrote in an email. “Many have said this will never happen or this will never be allowed. Grizzlies — you are what this game is about.”
The Sounders scored on the game’s opening drive when Cam Dare punched it in from the 4-yard line and quarterback Scott Messier scored on the two-point conversion to give Howe Sound the early 8-0 lead.
Pemberton got on the board later in the first half on a 60-yard interception return by Lander but missed on the conversion to make it 8-6. Dare scampered 64 yards for another score and the half ended with Howe Sound up 14-6.
It was a strong defensive effort for the Sounders in the first half, as the team held the Grizzlies to only two yards total offence. Errington admitted he was a little worried that his team was only up by eight after such a dominant first half.
“We knew we were in tough,” he said. “We missed two scoring opportunities and we came with a short bench. We were down to 13 players, of which seven had not gotten off the field once in the first half.”
The Grizzlies scored on the first drive of the second half to make it a 14-12 game and neither team could move the ball forward until the fourth quarter. With less than three minutes to go, Pemberton scored on a long touchdown pass to Lander and then held on for the 20-14 win.
Errington said he was happy with his team’s effort, especially with a short bench in the Pemberton heat.
“No doubt we have a lot to work on, but I don't think I’ve been prouder of any team we’ve had to date,” he said. “Nobody has ever asked me to play every single down, every play, of a game in over 30-degree temperature and that’s what we asked of all them and that’s what they did.”
The Sounders were led offensively by Dare, who had 171 yards rushing and a pair of touchdowns. Adam Stangowitz was the top receiver with five catches for 47 yards. Stangowitz also led the way defensively with five tackles, with Rolan Mendoza grabbing the team’s lone interception and Calvin Elliot recording the Sounders’ only sack.
Howe Sound kicks off the regular season against Eric Hamber Secondary on Saturday (Sept. 7) on Howe Sound field at 1:30 p.m.
— With files from Eric MacKenzie, Whistler Question