The Bellerose Bulldogs can sink their teeth into a playoff spot with a win Friday against the Austin O’Brien Crusaders.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Larry Olexiuk Field and admission is $5.
The top four division one Carr conference teams huddle up in the post-season and the Bulldogs share second place with the Salisbury Sabres and Bev Facey Falcons at 3-1.
“It’s definitely going to be an important win to get,” said JP Parent, a rock-solid Grade 12 guard. “When it’s a seven game season every win is important and we have a good chance to do it.”
In the Football Alberta rankings, the Bulldogs are fourth in Tier I (1,250-plus students) as the second of four Carr teams in the top 10 and the Crusaders (2-2) are sixth in Tier II (750 to 1,249 students).
“It’s going to be a relatively tough week of preparation and we’ll be ready for them Friday night,” Parent said.
The Bulldogs close out the metro Edmonton schedule against the Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds (1-3) next Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Clarke Stadium and the No. 8-ranked Bev Facey Falcons, last year’s Tier I Alberta Bowl finalists, Sept. 20 at 5 p.m. at Larry Olexiuk Field on Senior Night, which is also the 20th anniversary reunion celebration of the St. Albert Storm as the 1997 Carr champions and Tier I finalists.
The Bulldogs are hungry for the sweet taste of success after devouring the visiting Jasper Place Rebels (0-4) 47-13 Friday.
It was a massive bounce-back game after the No. 2-ranked Harry Ainlay Titans (4-0) made the Bulldogs look like a high school junior team in the 44-14 shellacking the previous week at Foote Field.
“It was definitely a game we were looking forward to after the loss to Ainlay. It helped boost our confidence after a rather tough game. That was a bit rough on our morale,” Parent said. “We were expecting a tough game against JP and we got one. It was very gritty and we did pretty well so that helped with morale obviously.
“It will also help propel us towards playoffs.”
It’s hard to describe how bad the Bulldogs looked against Ainlay after coming off a superior 43-21 performance against the No. 7-ranked Salisbury Sabres in Sherwood Park.
“JP was a very important game for us,” said Logan McCullough, a prime-time Grade 12 slotback, defensive back and kick returner. “It was really good for the team to bounce back and not think about the past and kind of focus on what we can do to get better and how we can improve and get our next win.
“We know we’ll see Ainlay again and we’re preparing for them.”
A loss to Jasper Place would have excruciatingly tightened the Bulldogs’ collar.
“I guess there was pressure but we just knew we needed to stay focused and prepare and keep fighting on,” McCullough said.
The Bulldogs ground out a strong run game behind a bunch of battered and beaten hogs on the O-line. Parent, Nicholas DeChamplain, James Suranyi, who had an aspirin taped to his high ankle sprain, Nolan Biesinger and Parker LeLacheur, along with Matt Coogan at fullback, set the tone for victory with a gutsy showing in the trenches.
“We were definitely suffering some injuries both on the line and in the backfield,” Parent said. “We really had to stick to our fundamentals and get the basics down and we managed to succeed and execute fairly well so we excelled with that and it boosted what should have otherwise been a rough game to be a good game offensively speaking.”
Travis Heggart recovered the opening squib kick by the Bulldogs and then converted a second and 30 with a fingertip catch from Quade Kozak. After an illegal procedure flag on the one and a botched play, Ben VanLeeuwen drove the ball over the goal line from the four and converted his own TD.
Jasper Place scored on its opening drive the Bulldogs kept alive with penalties. The key play was a 25-yard reception in which the receiver ran a pick on defensive back Darryl Marsh, which drew the ire of head coach Chad Hill who made a point of asking the officials to watch for the infraction during the pre-game chat. Marsh stayed down from the heavy hit but returned in the second quarter.
Two plays later, Russell Dixon scored on the quarterback sneak. Dixon is a transfer student from the Paul Kane Blues and would have been the starting QB for the division two Miles conference team this year after a brilliant season with the junior Blues but elected to play in the Carr conference with Jasper Place.
The Bulldogs fell behind 13-7 on a 77-yard pick-six that ended a promising drive behind some runs by Kozak and VanLeeuwen. A high snap led to a Kozak scramble and his errant pass resulted in the Jasper Place TD.
The Bulldogs shook off the turnover as Kozak hit McCullough for a 52-yard TD strike and VanLeeuwen’s convert put the home team back on top with 2:06 left in the quarter.
“It was a huge adrenaline rush. It just keeps you dialed in as to what I’m going to do to keep bringing the team up,” said McCullough, who snagged three passes for 101 yards and ran for 34 yards on four carries for another TD. “Everybody worked together. Everything was executed well. It was a perfect pass by Quade right into the arms.”
It was all Bulldogs after the first quarter.
“We started gaining momentum and started working the ball more. We kind of settled into the game, got used to what they were doing in their patterns and habits and shoved it down their throats,” said Parent, 17, a transfer student from Paul Kane after two years at centre with the Blues.
In the second quarter, McCullough capped off a 12-yard jet sweep for his second TD and fourth of the season. VanLeeuwen kicked the convert and would later nail a 19-yard field goal.
A goal-line stand before halftime stymied Jasper Place. A huge tackle by McCullough on first down was followed by Bryce Workman’s five-yard tackle for a loss on second down. On third down, McCullough knocked down Dixon’s pass.
Leading 24-13 the Bulldogs pounded the ball in the second half and VanLeeuwen rumbled into the endzone from the five for his fourth TD of the season. The bearded Bulldog finished the win with 112 yards on 15 carries.
The Bulldogs also recorded a safety on an errant Jasper Place snap as the punter got the ball off low and it was blocked by Workman. A scrum for the ball ensued in the endzone and Keegan Pawlik was credited with the tackle for the safety.
The Bulldogs continued to pin their ears back defensively in the fourth quarter as Cordel Callioux forced a fumble with a devastating hit and Bronson Wilkie recovered the ball to set up Michael Toovey’s five-yard score.
On the next series for Jasper Place, Brett Yost sacked Dixon and the ball popped loose for Karl Haaz to collect it at the one. Kozak then plunged in for his fourth rushing major and team-leading fifth TD. He cobbled together 61 yards overall on 12 carries.
Coogan and Wilkie also registered sacks and Heggart also created havoc defensively. Wilkie was credited with seven tackles, Callioux had two forced fumbles and Heggart recovered two short kick-offs.
Callioux, who transferred to Bellerose from Paul Kane last year, led the team in receptions with six for 50 yards.
Kozak was 14-for-25 passing for 225 yards.
“It was a good game, especially for the defence. It was good communication. We were talking with each other more and working together and taking apart their offence,” said McCullough, 17. “Our offence was executing, being crisp and just moving the ball and focusing on what we can do to get our team ahead.
“When the whole offence executes it sets up the big play.”