Bulldogs chase junior greatness
Bellerose is undefeated in metro Edmonton junior football
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 20, 2012 06:00 am
The undefeated Bellerose Bulldogs are still scratching the surface as championship contenders in metro Edmonton junior football.
After playing the Austin O’Brien Crusaders (1-4) Friday, the Bulldogs have one game remaining to ratchet up the intensity before the premier conference semifinals kick off Nov. 1. The score from Clarke Park was unavailable at press time.
Quarterback Matt Short said the Bulldogs are not playoff ready yet.
“We need more determination,” the Grade 11 standout declared after throwing two touchdown passes in Tuesday’s 42-7 thrashing of the winless St. Albert Hawks at Riel Recreation Park.
Head coach Chad Hill challenged the Bulldogs in the post-game huddle to perform like champions.
“I’ve coached the junior team for eight years and you’re the most talented team but I’m not ready to say you’re the best team. The 2005 team had a lot more determination from what I’ve seen, so you’ve got to match that. I want to walk away Friday night saying this is the best team and you’re the most determined and the most talented, but until you can get those two to match you won’t be great,” said Hill, the team’s field general since the rebirth of the junior program at Bellerose in 2005.
The Bulldogs took Hill’s speech to heart.
“We’re really going to push ourselves to be the best junior team Bellerose has had so far,” Short said.
The Bulldogs have never celebrated a junior football championship in school history and their only appearance in the premier final was 2005. The Bulldogs led 1-0 after three quarters, only to lose 29-9 to the Hawks.
Tuesday’s junior version of the Battle of St. Albert marked the third victory over the Hawks after eight straight losses by the Bulldogs, winners of five in a row this year.
“It feels great to be undefeated. We just try and take things game by game and it seems to be working out for us so far,” Short said.
The fifth consecutive loss by the Hawks extended their winless streak to 11 games, dating back to the 2010 regular season. In the playoffs that year, the Hawks’ semifinal loss marked only the second time in seven years the St. Albert Catholic High School-based team failed to qualify for the premier final with Paul Kane players in the line-up. The last premier championship for the Hawks was 2006.
Last year the Bulldogs humbled the Hawks 62-0.
The lengthy losing streak is starting to weigh heavy on the Hawks, who were coming off a 50-6 dismantlement by the defending premier champion Paul Kane Blues (4-1) the previous week.
“It’s hard. The guys put a ton of effort in,” said Jay Stoneham, a warrior on both sides of the ball against the Bulldogs.
He added the Hawks never gave up despite trailing 27-7 at halftime and 33-7 after three quarters.
“We stuck in there until the end,” said the Grade 10 Hawk. “The O-line did really well and so did the D-line. We put a lot of effort in tonight. You couldn’t ask for much more from the boys.”
Early lead for Hawks
Mitch Stykalo’s TD catch from quarterback John Pysyk on the next play after a Stoneham fumble recovery in Bellerose territory, followed by the convert by Dan Tilley, made it 7-2 for the Hawks in the first quarter.
“It was a good accomplishment for us,” Stoneham said.
The Bulldogs regrouped in the second quarter as Short hooked up with slotback Dylan Shorten for TDs of 37 and 28 yards four minutes apart.
Brett Usher also returned an interception 35 yards to the house.
Short’s quarterback sneak from the one with 13 seconds left in the half pretty much sealed the deal.
“SACHS came out strong in the first quarter and we had to match them,” Short said. “In the end we started pushing ourselves really hard. Defence came up strong for us and that got us the win.
The Bulldogs are in good shape offensively with Short at the controls. He has been a revelation with the ball, running and throwing after sitting out the 2011 campaign. Last week the 16-year-old hit Shorten with a TD pass and ran the ball in for a major in the 30-1 win over the Bev Facey Falcons (1-4) in St. Albert.
“It was Matty’s best game of the season. He was a force rushing the ball, he evaded tacklers and made plays when there wasn’t much there,” Hill said.
Short noted he is only one piece of the puzzle on offence.
“It’s really all about the talent we have around us. We have a great offensive line that’s been really holding their blocks for me and we’ve got fast slotbacks that are able to get open for me,” he said.
Against the Hawks in the second quarter, with the Bulldogs up 9-7, a questionable roughing the passer penalty against Bellerose wiped out a Nick Cowan interception return for six points. The flag was one of several thrown in the penalty-marred affair that looked like it was officiated by NFL replacement referees.
In the second half Ben MacKay ran three yards for a major, the Hawks conceded a safety, Josh Coogan recovered a Hawks’ fumble at the Bellerose 44 and Kit Liske scored his first TD in only his second football game on a 24-yard effort with 38.6 seconds remaining. The scoring play, which drew the ire of the Hawks’ vocal coaching staff, was set up by Short’s run on third and seven to the 24.
The overmatched but gutsy Hawks hung tough against the Bulldogs with the game out of reach.
“There were a few mixed-up plays in the first and second half but we tried our best,” Stoneham said. “I give good kudos to those guys because they played a great game and I hope they have good luck the rest of the season.”
In the junior division all eight teams make the playoffs. The top four advance to the premier semifinals and the remaining teams compete for the city conference title. The city semifinals are Nov. 1 at Johnny Bright Park.
Stoneham, 16, believes the Hawks can do some damage in the city playoff bracket.
“We’ve just got to work on our plays and not get mixed up and make sure who is supposed to be on the field and who’s not,” said the versatile defensive end, linebacker, offensive tackle and fullback.
Tuesday in St. Albert the Hawks play the Salisbury Sabres (1-3-1) at 5 p.m. and the Bulldogs tackle the O’Leary Spartans (3-2) at 7:30 p.m.
THIRD DOWN: MVP candidate Seth Waselenchuk played only part of the second quarter against the Hawks with a lower body injury. The Grade 10 slotback, safety and kick returner was outstanding on special teams against Facey, with numerous long returns in which he made defenders look like they were running on ice. One punt return TD against Facey was called back for an illegal block well behind the play.