Bulldogs continue winning legacy

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Bellerose junior football team undefeated in 31 league and playoff games

The torch has been passed for the Bellerose Bulldogs to continue their winning tradition in high school junior football.

Tuesday’s 61-3 trouncing of the St. Joseph Saints marked the second win of the season for the 2016 edition of Bulldogs and the 31st in a row for the four-time undefeated metro Edmonton division one/premier champions in league play and playoffs.

“I told you this is a championship calibre team. This is the expectation,” stressed Brayden Guy, head coach of the Bulldogs, in his post-game address to the players. “In years past those teams have won championships but you guys are the ones that create your own destiny. You’re not those teams and you never will be those teams but we’re on the right track. We’ve taken that second step. We’ve got to keep climbing that ladder and going up those steps until we get to where we want to be.”

The Bulldogs haven’t tasted defeat in the metro league since the 2011 semifinal against the Bev Facey Falcons.

“It’s tradition. That’s what it is,” said Grade 11 linebacker/kicker Dylan Long, one of six Bulldogs from last year’s 6-0 lineup. “It’s really fun to be on a winning team.”

A fifth-straight metro banner would equal the 1991-95 championship run by the St. Francis Xavier Rams.

“I hope the legacy lives on,” said Andrew Nielsen, a Grade 10 quarterback and wide receiver, on the ‘drive for five’. “I love it. It’s fun.”

The Bulldogs turned in a near flawless performance against the Saints after blanking the Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds 45-0 in the season opener last week at Clarke Park.

“That is the result when you play a full football game, a full 60 minutes,” said Guy, the second-year field general, as the players nodded their heads in agreement. “There are still a lot of things we’ve got to improve but you know what? When we execute on offence and we battle on defence and we run our special teams properly that is the result.”

Success starts in practice, according to Nielsen, 15.

“Our defence and offence executes in practice and it shows out here,” said the bantam graduate of the St. Albert 49ers. “If we keep working harder we’re going to get to the top.”

The Saints lacked numbers compared to the Bulldogs, who draw players from Sturgeon Composite High School for their junior and senior teams, but their 40-7 win over the O’Leary Spartans caught the attention of the Bellerose squad.

“I thought it was going to be a closer game coming into but we showed up and I guess we came a little harder and hit harder than they thought and that’s how we dominated them,” Long said.

The Bulldogs rolled up their sleeves with a workmanlike attitude to build up leads of 13-0 after the first quarter, 39-3 at halftime and 53-3 before the sympathetic clock operator at Riel Recreation Park let time run down with very few stoppages in the last quarter.

“Everybody was going hard and doing their jobs and that’s where our success came from tonight. It was a full team effort,” Long said.

The Bulldogs started their second-straight game with a shotgun blast on Ben Power’s explosive kick-off return for a touchdown.

“Everybody was nervous because we thought this team was a hard working good team but once we got that first touchdown at the start of the game everybody went wild,” said Nielsen of Power’s 87-yard romp after going 85 yards to open the scoring against Shep. “To do that at the very start is amazing. That just gets us going and we work off that.”

The first offensive series for the Bulldogs was a 103-yard drive that ended with a 57-yard catch and run by Chase Kobza with Jared Koziol at quarterback.

The first of three TDs by Nielsen was a 15-yard reception from Koziol in the opening minute of the second quarter.

Nathan Brake’s eight-yard major was set-up by the Saints’ errant snap in punt formation and the Bulldogs fell on the ball at the 23. On the next play, a holding penalty nullified Sheldon MacKay’s TD run, followed by Koziol hooking up with Nielsen for a 25-yard reception to the eight.

After the kick-off the Saints marched the ball into scoring territory but Koziol’s interception in the endzone kept the score at 26-0 with 6:03 left until the break.

The Saints got on the board with a 17-yard field goal after an unnecessary roughness flag put the ball within striking distance of the endzone.

The Bulldogs closed out the half with TDs by MacKay from the one with 41.3 seconds remaining and Nielsen’s 52-yard catch and run on the last play.

Leading up to MacKay’s score was a 32-yard major by Brake with 1:10 to go that was called back because of another holding infraction.

A big run by MacKay put the Bulldogs at the 32 and after the flag Koziol hit Kobza for a first down at the 10.

The Bulldogs regained possession on Power’s pick at the 52 for Koziol and Nielsen to work their magic again. Long split the upright for his third convert of the half.

The Bulldogs switched quarterbacks to start the second half in a similar move when Koziol and Nielsen split the Shep game.

“We’re pretty much the same (type of quarterbacks), he just likes to pull the ball in and run more,” said Nielsen said of Koziol, who moved into a receiver’s role. “The coach likes to play us evenly and we work together.”

The Bulldogs wrapped it up with TDs by Keegan Power of 17 yards, Nielsen’s three-yard sneak and Alex Ward of two yards, plus a safety by the Saints while punting and Long’s two conversions.

Long, 16, joins MacKay, Parker LeLacheur, Darryl Marsh, Michael Kosch and Nolan Flatla as returnees from last year.

“They’re both the same teams basically and same organization,” Long said. “Everyone is still showing up.”

Spirits were high after the lopsided result.

“Gentlemen, there is a lot to be proud of tonight,” said Guy, a former Bulldog. “This is what makes football such a fun game to play when things are working out and everything is happening the way we want it to. There is nothing better than being out here on a Tuesday night and whupping a team’s ass like that.

“You know what? We might see them again (in the playoffs) but we’re going to get better and that’s the scary part. The only direction to go from here is up.”

Tuesday the Bulldogs host O’Leary (0-2) at 6 p.m.

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Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.