Playoff spot on the line in Friday’s must-win game for Bellerose Bulldogs

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Win and the Bellerose Bulldogs are in.

Lose and the Bulldogs are pretty much done like dinner.

That is the playoff storyline for Friday’s humdinger of a big game between the Bulldogs (4-2) and Bev Facey Falcons (3-3) to close out the regular season in division one Carr conference football.

Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Larry Olexiuk Field and admission is $5.

Four teams make the playoffs and the top three Tier I (1,250-plus students) teams also qualify for the provincial north semifinals.

“It’s super exciting. We’re just one step closer to where we want to be and if we get this W on Friday then I definitely think we’re going to be in a good spot,” said Brett Yost, a Grade 11 defensive end and running back. “We definitely don’t want the season to end. We’ve been looking forward to this season for a long time. We have a great group of guys and we don’t want it to end on Friday. We want to secure a playoff spot.”

The Bulldogs, Austin O’Brien Crusaders (4-2) and Salisbury Sabres (4-2) are tied for second place and the result between Bellerose and Facey, as well as Salisbury against the Crusaders at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Clarke Stadium, will determine the last three qualifiers and the fourth-place finisher will line up against the Harry Ainlay Titans (6-0).

A variety of convoluted tiebreakers are also in place if needed to finalize the playoff pairings.

In the Football Alberta Tier I rankings, Ainlay is No. 2, the Bulldogs are No. 6, Salisbury is No. 8 and Facey is No. 10.

“There is a lot of pressure on us right now because we have to get into the playoffs so we’re going to train really hard this week and put all we’ve got into this because this is it,” said Bronson Wilke, a Grade 11 outside linebacker.

Facey is the three-time defending Carr champion and 2016 Tier I Alberta Bowl finalist but without superstar Chuba Hubbard, who is now with the Oklahoma State Cowboys, the Sherwood Park squad has looked beatable and last week dropped a surprising 14-13 decision to the Jasper Place Rebels (1-5).

Last year, Facey muzzled the Bulldogs 45-1 in the season opener and 38-6 in the Tier I north semifinal.

“They’ve always been the top team and we know we’re the underdogs but I really think we can beat them this year,” said Yost, a second-year senior Bulldog and member of the Football Alberta U16 team at the 2017 International Bowl at Texas. “Facey is a very run heavy team. They have some fast guys in the backfield and if we can take away the flys and our DBs have a good pass coverage we should be fine.

“We have to keep on grinding, keep on battling and leave it all on the field.”

The Bulldogs put themselves in position to play for a playoff berth after thumping the Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds 42-6 following a disappointing 20-16 loss to the Crusaders that would have sealed the deal pretty much for the playoffs.

“It was a confidence booster to beat Shep (2-4) and we think we’re ready for the next game now but we’re definitely not going to take Facey lightly,” Wilke said. “Coach Chad (Hill) always gets pretty hyped for these kind of games and that helps us out too.”

Quade Kozak completed 20 of 24 passes for 274 yards and five touchdowns. The Grade 12 quarterback also gained 85 yards on nine carries.

Logan McCullough caught three passes for 60 yards and one TD on a 13-yard reception. He added 43 yards on the ground on four carries for one TD from the nine.

Ben VanLeeuwen snagged three passes for 75 yards, including a 65-yard catch-and-run romp in the second quarter. He was also a six-for-six on point after attempts.

Cordel Callioux was on the receiving end of four passes for 46 yards that included a four-yard strike to open the scoring.

Callioux also picked off two passes and the first interception set-up McCullough’s TD run to make it 28-0 in the third quarter.

Nathan Brake also reeled in a 19-yard TD strike.

Yost recorded his second sack of the season and also forced a fumble that Branden Jackson recovered to pave the way for Kyle Phillips’s three-yard TD grab in the third quarter to extend the lead to 35-0.

Yost, 16, and offensive linemen James Suranyi and Nick deChamplain, along with Jake Strakowicz of the Paul Kane Blues, attended an elite training camp in Maui this summer with U17 Team Alberta.

Wilke, 16, was the leading tackler with eight. The Morinville Community High School student is the team’s defensive leader with 49 tackles.

“It’s been a good season. I honestly have been working on a lot of things and I still have a lot to improve on but the growth I’ve been making this season through reading and reacting has been amazing. I’ve never been this good before,” said the 2016 recipient of the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Year Award on the junior Bulldogs.

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Jeff Hansen

Jeff Hansen joined the St. Albert Gazette in 1991. He writes about sports, athletes and teams from St. Albert and area.