The Bellerose Bulldogs and St. Albert High Skyhawks are one big win away from the trip of a lifetime to the Alberta Bowl in high school football.
The metro Edmonton teams were victorious in their respective opening provincial rounds for berths in Saturday’s north finals.
In Tier I (1,250-plus students), the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (7-3) battle the No. 2 Harry Ainlay Titans (10-0) in a rematch of the division one Carr conference championship. Kickoff is 1 p.m. at Clarke Stadium.
In Tier III (450 to 749 students), the No. 5 Skyhawks (6-3) and the No. 3 Holy Rosary Raiders (7-4) go head-to-head for the third consecutive year with a spot at the Alberta Bowl on the line. Kickoff is 3 p.m. at Holy Rosary High School in Lloydminster.
The Alberta Bowls are Nov. 24 in Tier III and Nov. 25 in Tier I at Lacombe.
The first provincial win for Bellerose in its second year in a row in the Tier I playdowns was 42-14 against the No. 8 Calgary Centennials (3-7) of Calgary at Foote Field.
The halftime score was 28-7.
“It means a lot to us. You can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Grade 12 offensive lineman James Suranyi.
Grade 10 quarterback Zach Froese, a call-up from the junior Bulldogs, completed touchdown passes to Nathan Brake and Travis Heggart and ran for an 18-yard major.
Froese drew the start with Quade Kozak, the Haliburton Trophy winner as the MVP in the Carr, out with a broken leg suffered in the third quarter of the 38-29 metro semifinal win against the Salisbury Sabres, and backup QB Cordel Callioux sidelined with a broken ankle in the second quarter of the 48-14 loss to Ainlay in the final.
Cory Hannam, a receiver on the senior team who was the backup QB on the junior Bulldogs last year, was Callioux’s replacement behind the centre in the final and it was his first meaningful game at QB since peewee.
“When Quade first got hurt I had no idea what was going to happen and then Cordel got hurt and then Cory came in and did really good for that situation and now we had Zach come up he just did amazing today,” said Heggart, a Grade 12 slotback and defensive end who scored the team’s sixth TD on a 19-yard fly play to close out the scoring with 7:06 to play.
Ben VanLeeuwen also punched the ball in twice from inside the five for TDs.
The Bulldogs have a score to settle with Ainlay after losing 44-14 in week three of the league schedule and in the final it was a done deal at halftime at 34-7.
The Carr final was the first for Bellerose in the post St. Albert Storm era. The Bellerose football program was formed in 1998 after birth of the Skyhawks ended the Bellerose-based Storm team.
“Three times is the charm,” head coach Chad Hill told the Bulldogs in the post-game celebration. “We’re got to give Ainlay a fight and give them something that they haven’t seen before.”
The winner plays the No. 1 St. Francis Browns (8-0) of Calgary and the defending champions or the No. 4 LCI Rams (7-2) in the Alberta Bowl.
Meanwhile, the Skyhawks are headed to the fifth north final in their sixth appearance in the Tier III provincials after knocking off the No. 7 Peace Wapiti Academy Titans (7-4) of the Mighty Peace league for the second year in a row.
Ewan Vanderheide, a top-notch Grade 10 quarterback, Christian Pulis, a dangerous Grade 12 running back and the team’s nominee for the division two Miles conference MVP award, and Matt Swecera, a Grade 10 two-way force, ran for TDs in the 22-9 victory in Grande Prairie.
The Skyhawks also had three TDs called back because of interesting calls by the officials.
Danny Johnson and Josh Lebrun dished out some monstrous hits against the Titans and aggressive plays by Jackson Ganton and Swecera also forced the Peace Bowl finalists into committing turnovers
The Skyhawks led 8-1 at halftime.
Last year’s provincial results for the Skyahwks were 22-7 against the Titans at Johnny Bright Park and the 61-0 loss to the Raiders at Clarke Stadium.
Two years ago, the Skyhawks were shutout 28-0 by the Raiders in the north final at the Border City.
This year’s Raiders are winners of four consecutive Wheatland league titles and the Skyhawks are the Miles semifinalists
The winner huddles up against the No. 1 Cochrane Cobras (9-0), last year’s champions. or the No. 2 Cardston Cougars (9-1) in the Alberta Bowl.
The Skyhawks were the 2012 Alberta Bowl finalists.
Check out Wednesday’s edition of the Gazette for more coverage on the Bulldogs and Skyhawks.