The Bellerose Bulldogs paid the price in Friday’s win-and-you’re-in showdown for a semifinal spot in Carr division one football.
The Bulldogs lost the services of running back Zach Nuttall to a broken ankle, two-way standout Colten Meronyk to a broken fibula and receiver Joseph Chaschin to a dislocated elbow in the 32-8 victory over the Spruce Grove Panthers for a date with the defending champion Bev Facey Falcons.
Lineman Nick Allen is also questionable with a finger injury and defensive back Logan Moreau is out for the season after suffering a head injury when he inadvertently collided with a teammate in practice last week.
Head coach Chad Hill will see how many juniors are healthy after their final Thursday to suit up for the seniors Friday against Facey, winners of six of the last eight metro Edmonton finals. Kickoff is 5 p.m. at Foote Field and admission is $5.
“As a coaching staff we need to focus on coaching up the players we have available. If that means it’s 18 seniors and 12 junior callups, then that is what we will do,” Hill said. “Some guys might be moving positions this week but I know the players who are able to play will do their best and play their hardest for their team and their school.”
The Bulldogs (5-3) are the proverbial underdogs against Facey (8-0) and its star player, Chubba Hubbard (27 touchdowns and 2,243 yards on 112 carries).
“We’re going to try stopping them as best we can and that’s all we can do pretty much,” said defensive end Matt Heinrichs, after the last league game before the playoffs.
One of the worst losses in recent years for the Bulldogs was last month’s 54-7 shellacking by Facey in St. Albert.
“Facey is a good team. We already learned that playing them here at home but the coaches know what we have to do to prepare for them and we’ll be ready,” said the versatile Jaedon Carroll.
After the loss to Facey, the No. 2-ranked Tier I (school population 1,250-plus students) team in Alberta, the No. 7-ranked Tier I Bulldogs had to win their next two games to sneak into the post-season and they rose to the challenge by whipping the winless Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds 52-24 before punting the No. 10-ranked Tier I Panthers (4-3-1) out of the playoff picture.
“There is nothing better knowing we made the playoffs,” Carroll said. “We played our hearts out tonight. We really wanted this one.”
Heinrichs added: “It’s an unbelievable feeling that we’re all going to remember for the rest of our lives and especially the Grade 12s. We’re all glad that this isn’t our last game.”
Carroll, 17, teamed up with quarterback Morgan Sherban for TD receptions of 10 yards to end the first quarter and six yards with 1:44 left in the half as the Bulldogs grabbed control of the match leading 27-0 at the break.
“We knew they were going to be a tough team. We just got them quick and kept on going,” said Carroll.
His 35-yard sideline catch at the 10 set up the first TD. Overall, the Grade 12 Bulldog collected nine passes for 96 yards, gained 24 yards on four carries, converted three TDs and booted a 29-yard field goal with 55 seconds to go in the third quarter to make it 32-0. The defensive back was also credited with five tackles.
After a two-and-out by the Panthers on their first possession to start the second quarter, Heinrichs blocked a punt and the Bulldogs recovered it at the Spruce Grove 42. On the next play, Eric Calkins hauled in a Sherban pass around the 20 and raced into the endzone.
Sherban’s team-leading eighth TD of the season was a five-yard run to cap off a 54-yard drive.
Chase Larose also picked off a deep pass before the half ended.
The Panthers gave up a safety early in the third quarter on Meronyk’s tackle in the endzone.
In the fourth quarter Heinrichs and Drew Morison combined to stop the Panthers on the Bellerose one on third and goal. The Panthers would go on to take down Sherban in the endzone for a safety with 6:33 to play.
A five-yard TD pass by the Panthers closed out the scoring.
“We definitely worked our butts off. Spruce Grove is definitely a good team and we didn’t want to let up on them,” said Heinrichs, 16, a Grade 12 Bulldog who finished the win with five tackles. “As much as I want to brag about our defence, our offence played a really good game and put up some good points.”
Senior Night also marked the first win at home this season after losses of 27-6 to the Harry Ainlay Titans (5-3) to kick off league play, 6-3 to the Paul Kane Blues (7-1) in the rain and wind and Facey.
“It’s great having more fans out here in this big game and supporting us. Hearing them cheer for us to come out on top is a really good feeling,” said Carroll, the third-leading Carr receiver with 414 yards on 36 catches and his 351 yards on 29 carries ranked second on the team behind Morgan’s 560 yards on 83 runs.
Hard to imagine anyone in any sport who wouldn’t be inspired by such a clear-cut circumstance.
And it’s exactly what the Spruce Grove Panthers and Bellerose Bulldogs face as they prepare for their last regular-season game in the Carr Conference, top level of football in the Metro Edmonton school sports system.
When players step onto the field at Riel Park on Friday, Spruce Grove will hold fourth place and the last playoff spot, with Chad Hill’s gritty St. Albert team one point behind.
Victory would propel the Panthers into third place and drop the Harry Ainlay Titans to fourth. Should the Bulldogs come through, they would climb to fourth place, leaving the top three teams – Bev Facey Falcons, Paul Kane Blues and Harry Ainlay — unmoved in playoff planning.
Whoever ultimately winds up fourth, the short-term fate is anything but rosy. The next opponent – Nov. 6 – would be Bev Facey, which went unbeaten in the seven-game season and wrapped up the perfection by hammering the Panthers 40-9 last week.
The third-place Titans stopped the Salisbury Sabres 35-17 while Paul Kane clipped the Jasper Place Rebels 54-14 and Bellerose thumped the winless Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds 52-24.
Only a few years ago, Hill’s team was a perpetual afterthought in almost every depthy discussion of top players or potential winners. Now, some names, including veteran quarterback Morgan Sherban are mentioned on a regular basis. He leads the Bulldogs in rushing and has throws for seven touchdowns while allowing only two interceptions.
Jaedon Carroll, Corbin Stewart, Eric Calkins and Zach Nuttall have also shown well on offence.
Quarterback Colby has shows terrific passing accuracy for Spruce Grove, using Luke Warren, Nick Hykawy and Connor Cote as targets while he threw 13 TD passes and was picked off only once.
A playoff spot is on the line Friday for the Bellerose Bulldogs in the metro Edmonton football league.
A victory over the Spruce Grove Panthers would clinch fourth place in the Carr division one standings but a loss would end the season for the No. 8-ranked Tier I (school population 1,250-plus) team in Alberta.
Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Riel Recreation Park and admission is $5.
“We’re confident and the pressure is not going to get to us,” said Grade 12 quarterback Morgan Sherban at Monday’s practice. “There is always pressure behind any game, whether it be the first game of the season or the last game you might ever play, it doesn’t matter, but we’re feeling pretty good. The atmosphere is good. We’re feeling happy and confident that we know what we need to do.”
It’s also Senior Night for the Bulldogs, which is always an emotional game for graduating players.
“It’s going to be our last home game and it could be our last high school football game so there is a lot riding on it,” Sherban said.
The Bulldogs (4-3) are one point behind the Panthers (4-2-1) in the playoff race.
The Panthers, ranked fifth in Tier I, are averaging 33.8 points scored and 20.5 against, compared to 22.2 on offence and 21.1 on defence for the Bulldogs.
“On offence it’s going to be basically a mirror of ourselves (and) it’s a weird defence they have,” said Sherban, noting the Bulldogs have pored over game film of the Panthers like they were cramming for final exams.
“We feel like everything should work out this week.”
The winner draws the short straw in the Nov. 6 semifinal against Chubba Hubbard (2,014 yards on 104 carries, plus 25 touchdowns) and the Bev Facey Falcons (7-0), ranked second in Tier I. Game time is 5 p.m. at Foote Field.
The Panthers lost 40-9 to Facey last Friday and the Bulldogs trampled the winless Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds 52-24 for their second win in a row after the 54-7 blowout by Facey.
Sherban, 17, believes the Bulldogs are a better team than what their record suggests.
“We had an extremely close game with Paul Kane (6-3 loss in the rain) and not very many things went our way in that game,” he said. “Against Harry Ainlay (27-6 season-opening loss), if we had played them as a team that we were this week then we would’ve beat them.”
The Bulldogs jumped all over Shep as Jaedon Carroll ripped off a 73-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage as he found a seam and out-ran four defenders.
The first of four TDs by Sherban was a one-yard sneak, set-up by his own 33-yard run and Carroll’s 24-yard burst.
Carroll would later add a 25-yard rouge.
Ryan Young’s fumble recovery inside Shep territory was followed by a highlight-reel one-handed catch by Eric Calkins for a 17-yard gain. Zach Nuttall’s four-yard TD through the heart of the Shep defence capped off the drive as the Bulldogs closed out the first quarter on top 22-3.
In the second quarter, a phantom holding call wiped out a 25-yard catch-and-run TD by Carroll, who would go on to boot an 18-yard field goal.
With just more than one minute left before the break, the Bulldogs huddled up at their 30 and it took them 50 seconds to drive the field as Sherban scored on a designed quarterback run from the three to increase the lead to 32-10.
Carroll finished the first half with 199 yards on seven handoffs and didn’t get a carry for the rest of the game.
The second half saw several big plays from both teams as a number of Bellerose starters were rotated out of the lineup.
Early in the third quarter, a 45-yard TD screen pass to Nuttall was called back because of an illegal block down field. Carroll would eventually score on the drive on a 27-yard catch-and-run play.
Sherban added a 34-yard score off a botched exchange in the Bellerose backfield and his one-yard TD sneak was the seventh major of the season for the team’s leading rusher with 461 yards on 69 carries. He gained 88 yards on eight handoffs against Shep.
Nuttall had 10 carries for 104 yards and Carroll finished with six catches for 96 yards. Corbin Stewart added a 32-yard grab and Darryl Broderick pulled off a 40-yard back-shoulder catch while tip-toeing down the sideline.
Defensive backs’ Chase LaRose (first start of the season) and Logan Moreau were credited with double digits in tackles. Drew Morison led the front seven in tackles and picked off a pass at the Bellerose 10 to prevent a Shep score.
“Playing Shep was a must win situation so we weren’t going to take them lightly,” said Sherban, the second-highest ranked Carr passer with 1,090 yards, while going 91-for-153 for seven TDs and two picks. “They haven’t been that strong for the last few years but anybody can beat anybody in this league.”
The Bulldogs players (both Senior/Junior) welcomed former Storm players Marc Kennedy, 2 time Canadian Champion and 2010 Olympic Champion, and James McConnell, RCMP Airdrie detachment, to come speak to the team about what it takes to succeed not only in sports, but in life. Mark praised Coach Larry Olexiuk for helping instill the values that helped him in his curling career as well as life in general. He gave the players some stories about his football days playing with Head Coach Chad Hill as well as his curling career. Then he passed his 2010 Olympic Gold Medal around for all the players to touch and see. James McConnell gave the players some insight into football beyond High School having played for the Edmonton Huskies and the University of Alberta Golden Bears and how High School football gave him the foundation to pursue a career with the RCMP.
Congratulations go out to our own Seth Waselenchuk for being named an All-Star in Football by the Metro High School Athletic Association.
Seth will be receiving an All-Star ring as well as being honored at a luncheon to take place on June 2, 2015.
Way to go Seth!
Bulldogs Football would like to welcome Nicole Olesen-Moreau as our new Treasurer. Nicole's ability and insight into computer accounting practices will bring a wealth of much needed information and experience to Bulldogs Football's move towards an integrated accounting program within the organization.
We would also like to thank Cheryl Dryer for her numerous years in her position of team Treasurer and our sincere gratitude for an excellent job for many years in helping Bulldogs Football grow into the Premier High School Football Program in St. Albert.
In addition, Bulldogs Football would like to announce that Rick Moreau will be moving up to be the Senior team manager and statistician. Rick took on both of these positions in 2014 for the Junior team and did an outstanding job.
Bulldogs Football currently has several staff positions available with the departure of several staff members for the 2015 season. We have had Shelley Cowan (Sr./Jr. Team Photographer), Greg Cowan (Registrar), Lisa and Jeff Waselenchuk (Volunteer coordinators) fulfill their obligations to Bulldogs Football and with the graduation of their sons Nick Cowan and Seth Waselenchuk we now have those positions available. In addition, with Gord Fletcher moving on from the Senior Team manager and Rick Moreau taking on that position, we will need a Junior Team manager for 2015.
Bulldogs Football values the effort and commitment put forward with their volunteer staff and we are now looking for a new staff members to take us into the 2015 season. Anyone who volunteers and for a Staff position and completes that obligation, does get their Dibs (Volunteer Deposit) waived.
Please go to the "Staff" page of the Bulldogs Football website to see what positions are available. If you are interested in any of these positions, please contact Darryl Moroz, General Manager; email: email@example.com / phone: 780.498.1837
Bulldogs Football is very excited to welcome Brayden Guy to our coaching staff for 2014. Brayden will be Head Coach of the Junior Team starting in 2014. For those of you who don't know Brayden, he graduated from Bellerose High School in 2008 and played on the very first Bulldogs junior team in 2005. He won a Miles Championship while playing for the Bulldogs in his grade 12 year and was awarded the Bulldogs Most Outstanding Defensive Player as well as the Lee Grant Memorial Award that season. Brayden came back to help coach the Bulldogs junior defense for a season before resuming his own playing career at Acadia University. Brayden recently finished his University playing career and graduated with a degree in education and is now teaching at E.S. Gish Elementary school in St.Albert.
We also are happy to welcome Clayton Wowk to the Bulldog Football Program. Clayton is an enthusiastic young teacher at Bellerose who has agreed to join the program as a staff liason and assistant "quality control" coach. Clayton's positive demeanor and gregarious nature will be a huge asset to our program.
Last, but certainly not least, recent Bulldog grad (2014), Cody Johnston will be joining our junior coaching staff to assist Brayden with the Linebackers. Cody was an extremely dedicated, hard working player who will no doubt, be an excellent role model for our young players.
Coach Hill with Spencer Unrau
Coach Hill and John Comeau