The undefeated Bellerose Bulldogs believe they are good but not great even if they are the highest-ranked metro Edmonton team in Tier I football.
A pair of Calgary teams – Notre Dame Pride, the Tier I (1,250-plus students) provincial champions, and St. Francis Browns – are listed higher than the Carr division one leaders in the weekly Football Alberta top-10 rankings.
“We look at it like we haven’t won anything yet,” said Josh Coogan, a Grade 12 hybrid linebacker/defensive lineman, at Monday’s practice. “We just come out here every day shooting to be the best.”
Teams can no longer take the 4-0 Bulldogs lightly because it will come back to bite them.
“I hope they’re not underestimating us because we come out to play every week,” Coogan said. “In this league you can win every game and you can lose every game.”
Last week the Bulldogs played arguably their worst game of the year but still emerged victorious against the Austin O’Brien Crusaders (2-2) on Seniors Night at Riel Recreation Park.
It marked the first game the Bulldogs committed any turnovers with four giveaways, but did cut back on penalties while playing with discipline and composure. AOB was guilty of three personal fouls for unnecessary roughness.
“It was kind of a rough week of practice but we still pulled it together,” Coogan said of the 24-14 decision against the three-time reigning Tier II (750 to 1,249 students) Alberta Bowl champions.
AOB recovered its opening kickoff as two Bulldogs collided while trying to field the chip kick and the visitors returned the ball to the Bellerose 22. Teams are leery of kicking deep to return man Seth Waselenchuk, a threat to score every time he touches the ball. The Bulldogs have done a solid job of fielding short kickoffs and giving the offence good field position but were unable to execute this time.
The Bulldogs buckled down defensively and stopped AOB on a third and short, as cornerback James Ho tracked down a Crusader from behind on a designed quarterback sweep from AOB’s wedge package. It was the first and only time AOB tried its wedge offence.
Assistant coaches Larry Olexiuk and Ryan Moulds and the defensive staff worked endlessly in practices leading up to the game to prepare the Bulldogs for that offensive formation and it paid dividends.
“Our coaches put in a lot of effort to make sure we know what the other team is going to run and it really helps out because you know what’s coming before they run it at you,” said Coogan, who finished the game with two sacks, six tackles and seven assists. His 18 tackles in four games is second best on the team.
After a two-and-out by the Bulldogs, AOB capitalized on a play-action pass for a 62-yard touchdown strike.
Late in the first quarter Nick Cowan boomed a punt to the back of the endzone. The returner delayed fielding the ball while trying to draw a no-yards call but Cowan alertly sprinted down field and nearly recovered it and AOB gave up a single point.
It was a defensive struggle for much of the first half until the Bulldogs finally delivered a long drive resulting in a major as Tyler Feltis gained big chunks of yardage on the ground before quarterback Morgan Sherban hit Waselenchuk for a five-yard score on second and goal. Cowan nailed the convert to make it 8-7.
With under two minutes left until halftime AOB marched into Bellerose territory after a long pass completion down the sideline but a 35-yard field goal attempt was blocked and recovered by Jakob West.
In the second half AOB drove the field and scored off an 11-yard sweep and the convert was good.
Down 14-8 the Bulldogs got rolling offensively as Feltis started to bust long runs behind some greats blocks by right guard Shawn Campbell and right tackle Mike Woywitka.
After Cowan missed a chip shot on a field goal attempt AOB took over at its seven but the Bulldogs forced a two-and-out thanks to strong front-seven play by Ben Bochar and James Lis with Coogan’s clutch tackling. AOB conceded a safety and after the kickoff the Bulldogs scrimmaged from their 19. Short passes to Ben Hoffman, big runs by Feltis and some good gains by Sherban put the Bulldogs inside the 10. On third and goal Feltis cracked the goal line from the one and Cowan kicked the convert.
In the fourth quarter the defence shut down AOB, Feltis continued to pile up the yards and Sherban started to find running room on the outside.
Feltis capped off another long drive with a six-yard scamper for his team-leading seventh TD and Cowan’s convert closed out the scoring.
Overall, Feltis cranked out 237 yards on 22 carries in the win as the offensive line opened up some wide running lanes. The Grade 12 standout is the Carr’s top rusher with 605 yards on 61 handoffs.
Late in the game Darryl Broderick picked off his third pass in as many games.
Cowan, a tenacious linebacker, was credited with six tackles and seven assists. His 31 tackles in four games rank second in the Carr.
Sherban was 9-for-17 passing for 69 yards and Hoffman snagged three passes for 33 yards.
“We started slow but we still had a good game. We played together as a team and we talked well and communicated,” said Coogan, 17, the recipient of the junior Bulldogs’ Most Contribution/Least Recognition Award with the 2012 undefeated metro Edmonton premier champions.
Thursday the Bulldogs are in Spruce Grove to play the Panthers (0-3-1) at 6 p.m. at Fuhr Sports Park. Admission is $5.
Grade 12 fullback/defensive end John Comeau is expected back in the lineup after serving a one-game suspension for rough play and ejection in the 48-7 rout of the Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds (0-3-1).