Commonwealth Stadium – The Bellerose Bulldogs and Paul Kane Blues are refocusing their sights on provincials after missing the mark in the metro Edmonton high school football finals.
Saturday’s north semifinals kick-off at 2:30 p.m. in Tier I at Foote Field between Bellerose and a team from Calgary that will be determined Monday and 4 p.m. in Tier II between Paul Kane and the St. Joseph Celtics in Grande Prairie.
Friday’s metro finals in the snow and cold on the home turf of the Edmonton Eskimos ended with losses by both St. Albert teams by scores of 48-14 for Bellerose (6-3) against the Harry Ainlay Titans (9-0) in the division one Carr conference and 37-0 for Paul Kane (7-2) against the Strathcona Lords (9-0).
Bellerose was competing in its first Carr conference final in the post St. Albert Storm era and the last metro championship for the Bulldogs was celebrated in 2007 in the Miles conference.
The halftime score was 34-7.
“Its disappointing. Ainlay is a great team, we knew that, and the better team won tonight but our season is not over,” said Bellerose head coach Chad Hill. “This will sting for the weekend, it really will, but next week we’ve got to get right back at it for provincials.”
The final was the fourth in five years for Paul Kane but the third in the Miles conference after undefeated championship seasons in 1993 and 1994.
Strathcona, the defending champion, led 16-0 at halftime.
“We hung in there for a bit but they sort of wore us down in the end,” said Paul Kane head coach Rob Strecker. “It wasn’t so much the way my guys played, that’s just a good football team. All the credit to them. They totally deserved it.
“But obviously I wanted to keep the score a little closer.”
In Tier II (750 to 1,249 students), Paul Kane is ranked sixth and St. Joseph is ranked first.
St. Joseph is undefeated after winning its fourth consecutive Peace Bowl championship.
“The question is how good are they?” Strecker said. “Yes, they’re ranked number one but I think the game might be a little closer (than the Miles final). “Once I get my guys refocused and they realized that you know what? You played a hell of a football team so let’s give it a run and let’s see what happens.”
The winner advances to the Nov. 18 north final as the visiting team against the No. 5-ranked Austin O’Brien Crusaders of the Carr conference or the No. 4-ranked Lloydminster Barons, the Wheatland Football League finalists who beat Paul Kane in the north semifinals last year 22-15.
In Tier I (1,250-plus students), Bellerose is ranked fifth and the Calgary opponent is expected to be the No. 8-ranked Centennials.
Bellerose will huddle up in its second north semifinal in two years but this time without its starting and backup quarterbacks and both are Grade 12 players. Quade Kozak, the Haliburton Trophy winner as the Carr conference MVP, broke his leg in the third quarter of the 38-29 semifinal victory over the Salisbury Sabres and Cordel Callioux, the second-string QB and 2016 All-Edmonton Football Team selection at defensive back, started the Carr final and broke his ankle in the second quarter with the Bulldogs trailing 20-7.
Cory Hannam, a Grade 11 receiver on the senior team who was the backup QB on the junior Bulldogs last year, was thrust into a no-win situation and Bellerose reeling.
“With Cordel going down in the first half was obviously something we didn’t count on. Cory Hannam got a few reps in practice, he was running some scout team stuff, but he hasn’t played quarterback since peewee so I have to give him top marks for going in probably the most adverse situation a kid can ever imagine,” Hill said. “We’ve got to piece something together for next week. Beating a team from Calgary would be great. Beating them without one of our top quarterbacks would be even better so we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The winner plays No. 2-ranked Ainlay or No. 6-ranked Salisbury in the Nov. 18 north final.
For more coverage of the Bellerose and Paul Kane football teams, plus Kozak’s selection as the top player in the Carr conference, check out Wednesday’s issue of the Gazette.