Clarke Park – The Bellerose Bulldogs set the table for a three-peat in metro Edmonton high school junior football by devouring the Bev Facey Falcons in Wednesday’s semifinal.
“We were hungry for it today,” said Drew Morison, a Grade 11 middle linebacker, after the Bulldogs feasted on the Falcons for seven touchdowns in the first half of the 62-14 annihilation.
The main course on the playoff menu is Thursday’s final against the Jasper Place Rebels. Kickoff is 5 p.m. at Clarke Park and admission is $5.
Both teams are 6-0 after placing first in their respective pools for byes into the semifinals.
“We have a great team again and I can’t wait to see how it goes in the final,” said Jaedon Carroll, a standout Grade 11 quarterback, receiver and placekicker.
The final is a rematch of last year’s thriller in the snow that went down to the very last play. With no time on the clock a pass into the endzone by the Rebels from the Bellerose five fell incomplete as the Bulldogs prevailed 21-17.
“It’s exciting to play them again but we’ve got to remember they’re a new team and we’re a new team as well. We’ve got to come ready to play and I feel if we play our game we’ll do great,” said Carroll, who converted Mitch Kruk’s one-yard TD with 85 seconds to play to put the Bulldogs on top for good in the 2013 final.
The St. Albert Hawks (2004 to ’06) were the last junior team to celebrate a three-peat.
“It would be a great feeling to do it,” Carroll said.
The Rebels are coming off a 35-21 victory over the St. Joseph Saints (5-2), who finished second behind the Bulldogs in pool B.
The Rebels are averaging 33.6 points per game and 7.8 against, compared to 46 points scored and 8.5 against for the Bulldogs.
“To play a strong team will be tough but it’s going to be a great time and I’m looking forward to it. I’m going to be at practice every day to prepare for it. I’m coming here to win,” Morison said.
In the semifinal the Bulldogs scored touchdowns on their first two possessions before blowing the game wide open in the second quarter with 35 unanswered points for a commanding 49-7 lead at halftime.
“We came prepared. We studied film on them,” Morison said. “We had some strong offensive plays and strong defensive plays tonight.”
In the second half Carroll booted field goals of 27 and 16 yards as the Bulldogs closed out the third quarter at 55-14.
Terrell Peters’ six-yard quarterback keeper with 1:22 ended the rout against Facey (4-3), who struggled to beat the Paul Kane Blues (3-3) in the opening playoff round 12-7.
“Bev Facey has always been a good team so it’s surprising that we beat them by this much but we played our game and we came out with the win,” said Carroll, who converted all eight TDs for the Bulldogs.
His pinpoint kickoffs on three onside attempts in a row in the second quarter resulted in three TDs in a span of three minutes for an insurmountable 42-7 advantage. Tristan Ziesel and Chad Larose were among several special team Bulldogs who played major roles in recovering the kicks.
“That was very big of us to be on the ball to get those,” Morison said.
After the third onside kick was grabbed by the Bulldogs the explosive Zach Nuttall bolted 32 yards to pay dirt with 4:43 left in the half. It was the fourth TD of the game for the Grade 11 tailback.
Nuttall ran the ball with authority on the team’s second play from scrimmage while weaving his way 57 yards to the house.
The second time on the offence a pitch play to Nuttall on third and seven generated a first down at the Facey 13. After a third down quarterback keeper by Carroll to the three Nuttall crossed the goal line on another pitch play with 4:57 to go before quarter time.
Nuttall’s third TD was a robust 75-yard effort after Facey cut the lead in half in the second quarter. A snafu by the punt team gave Facey the ball at the Bellerose 42 late in the opening quarter and the drive ended with a four-yard TD.
Nuttall entered the playoffs with 675 yards and six TDs in his first season of football.
“Nuttall is a monster. I don’t know how he does it. He runs 50 yards every play and when he gets hit hard he still gets up. It’s crazy,” Morison said with admiration.
After the third TD by Nuttall the Bulldogs surprised Facey with the first of their three onside kicks. A catch and run by Matt Jeffers for major yardage to the 15, followed by an unnecessary roughness penalty to Facey, put the ball at the one and Carroll did the rest on the next play for the team’s fourth TD of the night.
The next onside kick set up Carroll’s second TD, a 28-yard dash after he hooked up with Colton Meronyk for a 13-yard reception.
Carroll’s third TD was from the one late in the half after Facey was flagged for pass interference in the endzone. Nuttall’s 20-yard gain put the Bulldogs in scoring range.
The second half was a flag fest as the Bulldogs inserted several backups into the game. Peters was inserted at quarterback and racked up yards on the ground as the Bulldogs worked the clock to close out the blowout.
Facey aired the ball out on their first possession in the second half for a 74-yard catch and run scoring play
Late in the game Morison scooped up a fumble and roared down the track like a diesel locomotive before a TD-saving tackle stopped the hard-chugging Bulldog at the Facey 46.
“Our whole team played great. Our defence stopped them and the offence did its job. The O-line and running backs were great and our special team having three onside kicks in a row was a huge part in the game,” said Carroll, 16, a small but slippery Bulldog who ran for 400 yards and 11 TDs, led the team in receiving yards with 152 and passed for 203 yards in league play.
The decisive victory was the 22nd in a row in league and playoffs combined – 9-0 in 2012, 7-0 last year and six in a row this year. The last loss for the junior team was the 2011 semifinal to Facey.
“It just shows how much this program helps us develop and I just feel great that I’m here,” said Morison, 16, who is part of a small core of returnees on the 54-man roster, which includes players from Sturgeon Composite High School.