Bulldogs are Carr driven
Bellerose football team huddles up in the metro Edmonton's tough Carr conference
By: Jeff Hansen
| Posted: Saturday, Aug 24, 2013 06:00 am
The Bellerose Bulldogs are the proverbial underdogs in the toughest high school football conference in Alberta.
The Bulldogs are among four teams remaining in the Carr conference after the merger of the Edmonton metro and public leagues in April.
The Spruce Grove Panthers (Tier I provincial finalists), Harry Ainlay Titans, Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds and Jasper Place Rebels from the public league’s Bright conference join the Bulldogs, Bev Facey Falcons (two-time defending Carr champions), Austin O’Brien Crusaders (two-time defending Tier II provincial gold medallists) and Salisbury Sabres in the ultra-competitive Carr circuit.
“It’s a tremendous league when you bring in four teams that can compete with the best of the Carr teams on any given year,” said top dawg Chad Hill, head coach of the 2012 Carr semifinalists. “We can’t go into any game this year thinking that we have superior athletes and players and all we have to do is just show up and win the game. You have to be prepared for every game and it’s going to be mental toughness for every game as well. We’re going against big schools that have tremendous players and big linemen so we have to execute mistake-free football.”
It starts with Thursday’s jamboree at Riel Recreation Park as the Bulldogs huddle up in controlled scrimmages against Spruce Grove and Ross Shep from 5 to 7 p.m.
“It will be a good test to see how we stack up against them,” said Grade 12 lineman Jacob Neuls.
The Bulldogs are treating the jamboree as if it’s the beginning of their regular season.
“We need to be ready to go for the jamboree and if we are then we should be ready for our first league game,” said Hill of the Tier I (1,250-plus students) team that draws players from Sturgeon Composite High School.
The season opener is Sept. 5 against Salisbury at 7:30 p.m. in Sherwood Park.
“We need to be in midseason form for our first game. There is really no room for any learning after the fact. We have to be one hundred per cent prepared,” Hill said. “Salisbury was young last year (and finished 4-4) and we know they’re going to be out for revenge against us (after losing 27-7 to Bellerose). They’re going to be good this year.”
Last year in the Carr the Bulldogs tied for second and finished 6-3 overall. Two of the losses, including the Carr semifinal, were against the St. Albert High Skyhawks.
“We have really tough competition this year, but it would be nice to improve on last year. We lost in the playoffs against SACHS (28-8), which was tough, and this year we don’t even get to play them and that kind of sucks,” Neuls said.
Last year’s Tier III (450 to 749 students) provincial silver medallists from St. Albert Catholic High School are rebuilding their depleted ranks in the Miles conference, which puts the electrifying Battle of St. Albert between the heated rivals on hold.
The Bulldogs literally can’t take a play off this year if their goal of a winning record is to become a reality.
“Every team is good this year. It’s not like there are teams that are going to lose every game. I think everyone will win at least a couple and everyone will lose at least a couple,” Neuls said. “Last year we had some close games against some teams that shouldn’t have been close and then we lost games that we shouldn’t because we didn’t play as well as we should have. This year we can’t do that because any team can beat us.”
Reinforcements from one of the best St. Albert junior teams in history will strengthen the Bellerose line-up. Last year’s junior Bulldogs finished 9-0 in winning the first junior premier football championship in school history.
“Our Grade 11s this year that played on our junior team are really good. We have a lot of skill position guys that will be able to make some plays, like Seth (Waselenchuk) and Dylan (Shorten) at slot and receiver,” Neuls said. “We should be better as a team (from last year) but we’ll see. We still have to put it all together.”
The team’s biggest strength is its offensive backfield depth.
“We have six, seven running backs deep and guys are pushing each other for playing time to make the senior team,” Hill said. “I’m really happy with our new addition from Sexsmith, Jackson Ryan. He is big, strong, powerful and athletic with good hands. Nick Svenson ended spring camp on a really strong note and he’s continued that here in the fall camp. Mike Buchamer is relatively new to football, it’s just his second year, but he is another big, strong guy. Tyler Feltis has tons of confidence from playing senior last year and it’s showing now. Tyler Thorsley is also back and he is very fast and can make big plays too.”
At quarterback Josh Dobbins – last year’s backup who entered the final game of the regular season in the second quarter with the Bulldogs down by 18 points to Austin O’Brien Crusaders, rallied the troops to a memorable 24-21 win in St. Albert to clinch a semifinal spot – and Matty Short from last year’s junior team are splitting reps at practice.
They will operate behind the No. 1 offensive line in St. Albert that remains 80 per cent intact from last year.
“We can potentially be one of the best O-lines in the league. There is some stuff we still have to work on but we’ll get there,” said Neuls, a five-foot-11, 260-pound left guard/defensive tackle and the 2012 recipient of the senior team’s Bob Brayman Outstanding Offensive Lineman Award.