Big win for St. Albert's top dawgs
Bellerose beats Paul Kane 26-6 in Battle of St. Albert
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Sep 15, 2012 06:00 am
The Bellerose Bulldogs continued their domination of the Battle of St. Albert in Thursday’s spirited affair against the Paul Kane Blues.
The 26-6 decision at Riel Recreation Park was the fourth win in a row against St. Albert high school football teams in the metro Edmonton league’s Carr conference, dating back to the 2010 historic triumph over the St. Albert High Skyhawks.
“We should beat these guys and we need to play like we have to beat these guys,” declared tailback Ben Graunke, the top Dawg against the Blues with two touchdowns. “It’s something that we have to strive for every year but we want bigger things than just beating rivals. We want to be competitors. We want to win the Carr.”
Next week the most heated sports rivalry in St. Albert high school sports kicks off at 6 p.m. Thursday, when the Bulldogs and Skyhawks duke it out at the Riel turf field. Admission is $5.
“It’s the biggest game I’ve had since I was in Grade 10 when we beat them the first time,” Graunke said of the memorable 7-0 conquest of the Skyhawks in front of the largest crowd to watch a football game in St. Albert. “You can’t downplay it at all; it’s a game we need to win. We need to win three years in a row.”
Last year the Bulldogs scored a late TD and then picked off a pass to sink the Skyhawks 13-10. It was the first time the Skyhawks played Bellerose without Paul Kane players in their line-up. The Bulldogs are made up of players from the Bellerose and Sturgeon high schools.
“This is one of the last years they’re going to be competitive for a while because they’ve got a lot of good seniors graduating,” Graunke said.
Two years ago the Bulldogs knocked off the Skyhawks for the first time after seven straight losses, dating back to 1999.
“They must be gunning for us. We’ve edged them out twice in two epic games and Thursday is going to be the third part of that epic war,” said Bellerose head coach Chad Hill. “We know we’re in for a battle. They’re loaded with some very talented Grade 12 players. They’re a good team but we feel we’re a good team too. We’re definitely going to be ready for them.”
Beating the Blues was a dress rehearsal for the Skyhawks.
“They’re both very, very big games. They’re cross-town games so they’re huge. They’re a lot of fun too but it’s a lot of pressure on these young players,” Hill said.
Last year the Bulldogs stoned the first senior team at Paul Kane 22-0. This year the Blues (1-1), listed 10th in the Tier II provincial rankings, are significantly stronger than last year’s winless line-up.
“This was a very big win for us. Paul Kane was definitely ready to go. They’re a good team,” Hill said. “We didn’t let a touchdown in, which was huge for our defence. It was much improved from last week [34-26 win over the Ardrossan Bisons]. Our O-line deserves a lot of credit for this win too. We have a young but a pretty good O-line, the best I’ve seen here in a while, and we were able to pound the ball pretty good.”
Game of momentum
Both teams settled for field goals on their first possessions. Connor Hughes split the uprights from 19 yards for the Bulldogs and Paul Kane kicker Isaac Kong nailed a 26-yard attempt.
Penalties hurt both teams the first time the Blues had the ball. A Paul Kane holding penalty wiped out quarterback Cory Knott’s 14-yard TD run. On the next play Bellerose intercepted a pass but the Bulldogs had jumped offside.
Late in the first quarter, after Brandon Mounzer fell on a Bellerose fumble near midfield, the Blues marched the ball to the six-yard line, but Liam Gray sacked Knott back at the 18. The Blues ended the quarter with a 24-yard Kong field goal.
In the second quarter the teams exchanged sacks by Dean Ciampanelli of the Bulldogs and Mounzer to derail promising drives.
With under three minutes left until halftime, a short punt gave the Bulldogs the ball at the Paul Kane 30. On first down, Graunke weaved his way into the endzone. The convert by Hughes was good.
The Blues ended the first half with Joshua Dobbins’ nine-yard grab in the endzone from Dallas Moroz. The convert by Hughes made it 17-6.
The TD was set up by second-down pass completions to Graunke for 16 yards to the 20, following a sack by Paul Kane’s Quentin Watkins, and five yards to the nine.
“At the end of the half we had some stuff going with outside running. They were blitzing a lot inside so we were running a lot of screens and outside pitches,” Graunke said.
After a slow start the Bulldogs finished the half with a bang.
“Towards the end of the first half we stole the momentum. Nick Svenson had a monster hit on special teams. Graunke busted a couple of big runs. That touchdown on the last play was huge too,” Hill said.
Tight second half
The third quarter was a punt-fest as both defences buckled down.
“In the second half Paul Kane was fired up again. They came down the field on us but our defence bent but didn’t break. We met their surge, held our end and we were able to take momentum back halfway through that quarter,” Hill said.
Several runs by Graunke for first downs put the Bulldogs in position to try a 30-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter, but Hughes never got the kick away because of a snafu on the exchange between the snapper and holder.
A few plays later, the Bulldogs regained possession on Andre Sarafinchan’s fumble recovery at the Paul Kane 36. The fourth straight handoff to Graunke resulted in a two-yard TD with 6:39 to play. Hughes kicked the convert.
“In the second half our O-line just dominated. It seemed like they stopped blitzing and our O-line just took over,” said Graunke, 17.
The TD was Graunke’s sixth rushing major of the season. Against the Bisons he was credited with an incredible 258 yards on 26 carries and scored touchdowns on runs of 14, one, 50 and two yards in his first stint at tailback.
“I’m just following my big boys. I’ve got one of the best O-lines in front of me in the league, especially on the left side with Jacob Neuls and Curtis Supruniuk,” said the small but fearless Bulldog who also lines up at safety.
The Bulldogs closed out the scoring with a safety with 4:50 remaining.
The loss was a big letdown for the Blues after they shut out the O’Leary Spartans 45-0 in the season opener.
“We’ve just got to move on from here. It’s a long season. This is not the end,” stressed Greg Fleming, a Grade 11 tailback/linebacker for Paul Kane. “We had a good game. We battled hard, they just started to wear us down and put up a few points. One call kind of went against us on that touchdown [in the first quarter].
“In the second half we had a lot of injuries, but the guys were starting to step up more and we started playing better. It was just a few plays really that settled it.”
The Blues moved the ball sporadically after scoring at will against O’Leary.
“We weren’t completing all of our passes and we were getting shut down on the run,” Fleming said.
The majority of the Blues are playing in their first season at the senior level after winning the junior premier conference championship last year.
“We’re gaining a ton of experience. After coming off a big win over O’Leary, you now get to know what it’s like to lose and that actually builds you up,” said Fleming, 16.
The next game for Paul Kane is Thursday against the Austin O’Brien Crusaders at 5 p.m. at Foote Field.