Bulldogs tackle high hopes
Bellerose senior team expects to challenge for playoff honours in high school football
Saturday, Aug 23, 2014 06:00 am
Expectations are enormous for the Bellerose Bulldogs in high school football after a four-win season as semifinalists in the first year of the metro and public league merger.
“We’re very excited this year. We’re definitely hoping to crack the playoffs again and the goal is the Carr conference championship,” said John Comeau, a two-way Grade 12 Bulldog. “Last year we took the league by surprise actually. We were supposed to be one of the bottom feeder teams and we actually ended up making the second round of the playoffs.”
The only division one team in St. Albert proved it can compete with the Tier I (1,250-plus students) provincial contenders in the revamped metro Edmonton circuit and in the process silenced its critics.
“With the success of last season, what it did is basically instil confidence in these players that they belong in the Carr conference,” said Chad Hill, head coach of the No. 7-ranked Tier I team in Alberta in 2013. “Last year the turning point in our season was after a tight loss to Harry Ainlay (22-12). We hadn’t won yet (at 0-2) and we told the boys we were so close but that’s not good enough. You’ve got to believe that you can compete and win in this league because we can. It was a couple of plays here and there in the first two weeks of the season that went against us and we lost but I don’t think the players at that point believed that they could win at that level against those teams.”
The Bulldogs will huddle up with a roster loaded with talent from the 2012 and 2013 undefeated Bellerose junior championship teams when league play kicks off in two weeks.
“There are a lot of players on the senior roster that have won a junior championship and some of the players haven’t had a loss in high school football so I hope they have the right attitude and the whole culture of preparing to be successful and to win and I sense that,” Hill said. “There has been some success these kids have experienced at the high school level and I think they believe in themselves, which is very, very important. It’s one thing to have a talented team but if they don’t believe in themselves you can’t get the results. I feel these players right now are playing with the right level of confidence but by no means do I sense that they’re cocky.”
The heavy hitters in the Carr include the Salisbury Sabres (defending champions and Tier I north finalists), Harry Ainlay Titans (Tier I south finalists), Spruce Grove Panthers (Carr finalists), Austin O’Brien Crusaders (three-time reigning Tier II Alberta Bowl champions), Bev Facey Falcons, Jasper Place Rebels and Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds.
“We’re in a fantastic league and no game is an easy game. If you look at last year everybody but one team in our league had a provincial top 10 ranking. Our boys are aware of that but I think that motivates them and I’m hoping throughout the year they’re going to rise to the occasion because they know you can’t take a day off because every game is a big game here,” said Hill.
The field general of the senior team since 2008 and the junior team since 2005 is confident the Bulldogs will exceeded last year’s 4-5 record.
“I believe we can be a better overall team than we were last year,” Hill said. “We’re a very different looking team this year. Last year we had a lot of size and a lot of power. This year we’re going to have to rely a lot more on our quickness and our speed.”
On both sides of the ball the Bulldogs are athletic and skilled.
“On defence we have a lot of team speed and we have a lot of guys that are very, very comfortable and familiar with the defensive system that we play,” Hill said. “On offence I feel that we can probably spread the ball around a little bit better and utilize the facets of the offensive game that we weren’t able to incorporate so much last year so we’ll probably be a more diverse offence this year and that’s out of necessity. I’m not going to lie; we lost some very strong, big players and they could do some things that we’re not going to ask these players to do but at the same time these players are very dynamic and they can open up an offence in ways that last year’s power guys didn’t.”
At quarterback the Bulldogs are in great shape with Grade 11 transfer student Morgan Sherban, the division three MVP with the Gilfillan champion Fort Saskatchewan Sting, and Trace Stuht, last year’s junior MVP in pool B as a Grade 11 Dawg, at the controls.
Both players also shared reps on the St. Albert Storm midget spring league team this year.
“We have two players who haven’t yet been proven in the Carr conference in the senior level but both come with tremendous success in the leagues that they’re coming from. Trace was a phenomenal leader for our junior team and he made plays for us to be a championship team and Morgan exhibited those same attributes with his Fort Saskatchewan team and they went undefeated in division three,” Hill said. “We’re very, very happy to have both those players and they’re both football players. They both repped at quarterback and defensive back and Trace has run some reps at receiver too. Both those guys are going to see lots and lots of field time.”
Comeau, 17, sees potential throughout the Bellerose lineup.
“We had a championship win in junior last year so we have a lot of feeder guys coming up and we have a whole bunch of starters returning. All the tools are in place,” said the six-foot-three, 230-pound Bulldog, a linebacker last year who will line up this season at defensive end while splitting time at slotback and fullback.
Fall camp opened with 85 players from Bellerose and Sturgeon Composite registered to play senior or junior this year. The seniors make their debut Sept. 5 against Jasper Place at 2:30 p.m. at Johnny Bright Park and the juniors have a Sept. 9 exhibition date against Bev Facey at 7:30 p.m. in Sherwood Park.
Last year the Bulldogs knocked Jasper Place out of the Carr playoffs with a 23-21 win and beat the junior team 21-17 in the division one final to finish 7-0.
“It goes without saying after one year we’ve developed a rivalry with them so to open the season with them on a Friday afternoon and it’s their homecoming is exciting. We’re off early (at school) on Friday and we’re hoping we get the fan buses packed and it’s a fun day of football,” Hill said.
Next week the Bulldogs travel to California for an exhibition under American rules against the Arrowhead Christian Academy Eagles on Friday in Redlands.
“We’re super pumped. It’s going to be a great. It’s going to be a lot of work but there will be a lot of team bonding so there is a lot of upside to it,” said Comeau, who’s brother and Bulldogs’ alumnus, James, is an offensive lineman for St. Francis Xavier University.