Commonwealth Stadium – Quade Kozak’s star shone the brightest as this year’s most valuable player in division one Carr conference football.
The superlative quarterback for the Bellerose Bulldogs was presented with the Haliburton Trophy during the post-game ceremony in Friday’s final between the Bulldogs and Harry Ainlay Titans.
Kozak joins Danny Prockiw of the St. Albert Storm in 1992, Cory Jones of the St. Albert High Skyhawks in 1999 and 2000, pool B recipients Kyle Connolly of the Bulldogs in 2005 and Chris Dobko of the Skyhawks in 2007, and Ben Graunke of the Bulldogs in 2013 as the Haliburton winners from St. Albert.
The coaches of the eight Carr teams in the metro Edmonton league nominated a Haliburton candidate but were not allowed to vote for their own player for MVP honours.
“This actually means a lot to me,” said Kozak, who had his season cut short with a broken right leg in the Oct. 27 semifinal win against the Salisbury Sabres. “I can’t be any more happy. I’ve got to thank my team and I’ve got to thank my coaches. I wouldn’t have got that award without them. They were unreal this year. Fun group of guys to play with and fun group of guys to get coached by. It’s been a hell of a year.”
It was bittersweet moment for Kozak as the Bulldogs went down to defeat 48-14 in the first Carr final in team history.
“Yeah, it is. You win some and you lose some. Unfortunately I couldn’t play today. We lost but the guys played well. They came out and scored 14 points and that’s all you can ask for,” said Kozak, who watched the final from a viewing room at the home of the Edmonton Eskimos before hobbling down to field level in the fourth quarter with the support of crutches.
“I’m very proud of the guys. There is no disappointment for me for them. I wouldn’t trade this for the world to play on another team. They’re that amazing.”
Kozak, 17, established himself as one of the greatest high school quarterbacks to ever play for a St. Albert team as the Bulldogs went 6-2 in seven league games and the semifinal with the Grade 12 Sturgeon Composite High School student as the commander in chief of the offence.
Kozak’s completion percentage was a hefty 61.9 while going 117-for-189 for 1,868 yards, 18 touchdowns and six interceptions.
He also led the Bulldogs in rushing with 611 yards on 97 runs for a 6.3 yard average and five TDs.
The St. Albert Storm mighty football product and Sturgeon Spirits’ rugby player also punted 46 times for an average of 36.4 yards.
Kozak’s greatest game was arguably the breathtaking 31-27 come-from-behind thriller against the Bev Facey Falcons, Carr champions eight of the last 10 years, on Senior Night in the last regular season game to clinch a semifinal berth and a return trip to the Tier I provincial playdowns. His 18-for-23 performance for 318 yards, three TDs and one pick, plus 89 yards on 18 runs, was highlighted by TD completions to Travis Heggart of 41 yards and Logan McCullough of 55 yards on the last two offensive series with four minutes to play to erase a 10-point deficit.
Kozak’s season ended in the 38-29 decision against Salisbury at Clarke Stadium and his last play as a Bulldog was a designed quarterback run to the Salisbury seven for a first down with 1:29 left in the third quarter and Bellerose leading 29-27.
“As soon as I went down I could feel my leg dislocate and break. I didn’t go into shock, a lot of guys go into shock, but I knew right then what happened. I was like, yup, it’s broken,” said the most outstanding player award recipient on last year’s senior team and the 2015 junior bulldogs’ championship team. “It was one of those awkward things that can happen to anybody but unfortunately it happened to me.
“It was a very heartbreaking moment. I was crying just knowing that I wouldn’t be able to play football for Bellerose ever again,” Kozak added. “But in the hospital I was just thinking, hey, these guys have got to step up, they’ve got to play and they got to do well and against Ainlay they showed they can play well. I’m not saying Ainlay is a better team, we just didn’t have enough guys, but we still played really well.
“I’m really proud of my team.”