Back-to-back wins have the Bellerose Bulldogs running with the big dawgs in metro Edmonton football.
The results also contributed to Bellerose getting slotted 10th in week four of the Football Alberta Tier I (1,250-plus students) rankings as the third division one Carr conference team in the top 10. The Salisbury Sabres and Harry Ainlay Titans are listed second and fifth, respectively, with 3-0 league records
“We’re very confident now because being 2-1 in a league like the Carr conference is a big deal,” said Grade 11 quarterback Tristan Olenick at Wednesday’s practice at Larry Olexiuk Field.
The turnaround from the season-opening 49-9 loss to Ainlay, the Carr champion the last two years and the 2018 Alberta Bowl Tier I finalist, started with the 57-14 drubbing of the Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds (1-2), followed by last Friday’s 22-12 decision against the Bev Facey Falcons (0-3).
“Obviously, one loss kind of sucks, right?” said Grade 12 linebacker Jonas Hazelaar.
“I think we can go undefeated from here to be one hundred per cent honest with you,” Hazelaar added. “We’ve got some great guys, we have some amazing athletes and, as long as we compete every week in practice, we can go undefeated this year.”
Bellerose and the Austin O’Brien Crusaders (2-1) were tied for third in the Carr standings before the teams went head-to-head Friday at Foote Field. The score was unavailable at press time.
“They’re a very physical team so we’re doing a lot of hitting in practice this week and we’re working on a lot of our reads," Hazelaar said. "We’ve got a good chance against them."
Last year ended with the 49-14 first-round playoff loss to the AOB as Bellerose finished 3-4 after three losses to kick off the season.
The strength of the 2019 Bulldogs after three games is “our aggression,” Hazelaar said. “We don’t give up. I like that about these guys. Last year you could see it. We would have times where the team would go flat and we would give up halfway through games. This year it’s like if we’re down we don’t care. We keep playing as hard as we can.”
Down by 12 points to Facey in the first quarter, Bellerose answered the bell with an offensive surge to close out the first half ahead 21-12.
The only point in the second half was the rouge by Mohammad Zeidan in the fourth quarter.
“It was a good game, but we definitely could’ve done better,” Hazelaar said. “Our offence couldn’t seem to get anything going in the second half, but I don’t think that will effect this week. It seems to fluctuate with our offence, but if we get going in this next game (against AOB) we’ll put up some decent points.”
Facey produced points with an 11-yard touchdown reception and field goals of 27 and 32 yards before the Bellerose defence rose to the challenge.
Olenick hooked up with Dorian Therqaj for a 39-yard TD reception before quarter time and the next quarter featured TDs of five yards by Gage Froese and Jordan Howe’s thrilling 75-yard catch and run. Zeidan converted all three majors.
“We played fairly well,” Olenick said. “We came out a little flat at the beginning of the first half, but then in the second quarter we picked it up and then the third and fourth we played a little bit too desperate.”
The only catch of the night by Howe was the game breaker.
“It was a big play at a time that we really needed one,” said Olenick, 16.
The 2018 MVP of the junior Bulldogs completed 13 of 20 passes for 232 yards and was picked off twice.
After three games, Olenick is 43-for-66 passing for 859 yards with six TDs and was sacked five times.
Therqaj was Olenick’s main target against Facey with eight receptions for 124 yards.
Jacob Kikkert led Bellerose in rushing with 52 yards on 10 carries as the Bulldogs collected 99 yards overall on the ground.
The Bellerose defence held Facey to 206 total yards – 150 rushing and 56 passing (six-for-18) – as Evan Moroz intercepted two passes and Evan Kumka also recorded an interception.
Will Baker was credited with three sacks, and Hazelaar and Jacob Patrick added one each.
Hazelaar was the top tackler with seven while Baker and Caleb Holt had five apiece, and Taylor Schwam had four.
Hazelaar, 17, leads the defensive unit in tackles with 15.
“I just do my job every week,” he said.
Upcoming for Bellerose is Salisbury on Thursday at 5 p.m. at Emerald Hills Turf Field.
THIRD DOWN: Adam Rafat and Caleb Akerley are the leading Bellerose receivers with 10 catches apiece for 259 yards for Rafat and 194 for Akerley.
Therqaj (nine for 134 yards) and Howe (seven for 142 yards) have also made an impact with the passing attack.
The top rusher is backup quarterback Jayden Randall with 117 yards on 14 runs and Kikkert had 113 yards on 16 carries. Froese carried the ball a team-high 21 times for 83 yards.
Generating double-digit tackles are Holt (11) and Schwam (10).