In 2021, the Langley Rams finally won it all.
On Dec. 4, in London, Ont., they took on the Ontario Conference champions the London Beefeaters in a faceoff for the top spot in the Canadian Junior Football League.
It wasn’t even close, as the Rams romped to a 37-0 victory.
Rams coach Cory Philpot praised the defense, calling them the “number one team in the nation, as far as I’m concerned.”
It was the first national title in the team’s 73-year history.
“We’ve been close many times,” Philpot told the Langley Advance Times, “but we didn’t seal the deal until now. It’s a great feeling.”
Exultant Rams president Derek Henneberry said the team was seeking redemption from previous championship losses, and achieved it.
“It’s about time,” Henneberry commented.
The Rams have been playing football since 1948, when they were formed first as the South Surrey Rams, then the Surrey Rams, and the Big Kahuna Rams.
They moved their home field to Langley’s McLeod Athletic Park in 2010 marked the team’s final change of name.
Since their arrival at McLeod, the team has been one of the most competitive in B.C., often dominating the competition in the six-team B.C. Football Conference.
The Rams had won the last three Cullen Cups in a row, cementing their provincial dominance.
But the Rams would either see defeat in the semi-finals, or go all the way only to lose in the Canadian Bowl final – the Rams lost in the final in 2012, 2014, 2018, and 2019.
READ ALSO: Langley Rams win Canadian Bowl
Meanwhile, the Hilltops had walked off with Canadian Bowl wins in nine out of 10 years between 2010 and 2019.
The Rams began the season in September with a 22-1 victory over the Vancouver Island Raiders.
It was a sign of things to come.
The Rams would win almost every game in their conference from then on, often by lopsided totals, like their Oct. 2 37-7 win over the Westshore Rebels, or their 27-0 shellacking of the Kamloops Broncos on Oct. 23.
On Nov. 13, the Rams eked out a 7-4 victory over the Okangan players. It was their third-straight Cullen win, but it was a defensive grind for the team.
“At the end of the day, it’s a win,” team president Derek Henneberry said after the game.
“It wasn’t pretty [but] it was pretty much what we expected from our defence.”
Next, the Rams would again face their longtime Prairie rivals, the Hilltops, in the Canadian Bowl semi-finals.
When the Rams and Hilltops had last played, in the 2019 Canadian Bowl showdown at McLeod Stadium, it had been a low-scoring game. The Hilltops had ground out an 11-6 win.
It would be another close game in the semi-final, with the Rams winning 17-14, with both teams relying on strong defences.
READ ALSO: Rams win Cullen Cup
Until the fourth quarter, it looked like the Hilltops would be heading to the Canadian Bowl again. The Rams were down 14-7, but running back Derek Best caught a short pass and ran 29 yards to tie the score.
With time running out, kicker Tato Ferreyro Araya kicked an eight-yard field goal to put the Rams over the top and punch their ticket to the Bowl.
After the thrilling come from behind win of their battle with the Hilltops, the actual Bowl game was almost an anticlimax.
Rams set a new Canadian Bowl record with 10 sacks and Eckert accounting for 3.5 of them (also a Canadian Bowl record) along with five solo tackles.
Rams quarterback Michael Calvert was named offensive player of the game and his favourite target, wide receiver Daniel Kubongo, won special team honours.
It was the first time a team from outside the Prairie Conference has won the Canada Bowl since 2009, when the Vancouver Island Raiders took the trophy.
Next season, the Rams will be looking to replace about a dozen players, some of whom coach Philpot expects to see in the CFL.
“We will be a strong team [even without them], but we’ve got to get out there and recruit,” Philpot said.
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