For the second year in a row, all three St. Albert high school football teams are competing in the provincial playdowns.
The north semifinals kick off today for the Bellerose Bulldogs in Tier I, Paul Kane Blues in Tier II and St. Albert High Skyhawks in Tier III.
In Tier I (1,250-plus students), the No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (6-3) line up against the No. 8 Centennial Coyotes (3-6) of Calgary at 2:30 p.m. at Foote Field.
The winner advances to the Nov. 18 final against the No. 2 Harry Ainlay Titans (9-0) or the No. 6 Salisbury Sabres (5-3).
The Bulldogs huddle up for provincials without quarterback Quade Kozak, the Haliburton Trophy winner as the division one Carr conference MVP who broke his leg in the third quarter of the 38-29 metro Edmonton semifinal victory against Salisbury, and backup QB Cordel Callioux, who suffered a broken ankle in the second quarter of the 48-14 loss to Ainlay in the final.
Last year’s 38-6 loss to the Bev Facey Falcons in the north semifinals was the first provincial game for the Bulldogs after the Bellerose football team was formed in 1998 following the breakup of the Bellerose-based St. Albert Storm.
In Tier II (750 to 1,249 students), the No. 6 Blues (7-2) are in Grande Prairie to play the No. 1 St. Joseph Celtics (11-0) of the Mighty Peace league and last year’s Alberta Bowl finalists. Game time is 4 p.m.
The winner is the visiting team in the Nov. 18 final against the No. 5 Austin O’Brien Crusaders (5-4), semifinalists in the Carr, or the No. 4 Lloydminster Barons (7-1), the Wheatland league finalists who defeated the Blues 22-15 in last year’s north semifinals.
The Blues are coming off a 37-0 loss to the Strathcona Lords (9-0) in the division two Miles conference final and Celtics won their fourth Peace Bowl championship in four years.
The Blues are 1-4 in four consecutive provincial appearances and are 1-2 against the Celtics during that span.
In Tier III (450 to 749 students), the No. 4 Skyhawks (5-3) kick off the provincial doubleheader in Grande Prairie against the No. 7 Peace Wapiti Academy Titans (7-3) of the Mighty Peace league at 1:30 p.m.
The winner travels to play the No. 3 Holy Rosary Raiders (6-4) of Lloydminster, winners of four consecutive Wheatland titles, or the No. 5 Wetaskiwin Sabres (7-3), the Central Alberta league champions, in the Nov. 18 north final.
The Skyhawks are semifinalists in the Miles and the Titans are the Peace Bowl finalists.
Last year’s Skyhawks beat the Titans 22-7 and lost the north final 61-0 to the Raiders.
The Skyhawks are competing in their sixth Tier III provincials in seven years and the 2016 north final was fourth in six years for the Skyhawks, the 2012 Alberta Bowl finalists.
The Alberta Bowls are Nov. 24 for Tier III and Nov. 25 for Tier I and II at Lacombe.
The junior Bulldogs were stopped short of reaching the division one final for the second-straight year after four consecutive undefeated championship seasons in the metro Edmonton league.
The Bulldogs (5-2-1) are 39-3-1 in the regular season and playoffs since the 2011 semifinal loss to the Bev Facey Falcons after Tuesday’s 41-29 semifinal setback against the Salisbury Sabres (6-2) at Clarke Stadium.
In league play, the Bulldogs beat Salisbury 33-29 Oct. 24 in Sherwood Park. The Bulldogs led 27-0 at halftime.
A number of players from the only high school junior football team in St. Alberta will join the senior Bulldogs for provincials.