Round two between the Bellerose Bulldogs and Spruce Grove Panthers is next week’s playoff battle in metro Edmonton football.
The last league tilt between the 3-3 teams determined fourth and fifth place in the division one Carr conference and Friday’s score from Fuhr Sports Park was unavailable at press time.
“If we're able to start strong and show them what we're able to do then I believe they will lose motivation to play us the next game,” said running back Gage Froese at Wednesday’s practice.
The rematch kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Foote Field.
“We’ve been working really, really hard in practice getting ready for these games so I have a feeling we’re going to have fun and take them down,” said defensive end Jakob Kikkert. “Our team has the better players and we’re going to outplay them and outwork them.”
Games against the same opponent in consecutive weeks will benefit Bellerose, according to Kikkert.
“It helps us. We’ll get to see all the stuff that they’re doing, all their plays, and then the next week we’ll be able to set up plans to actually go against those plays and really dial them in,” said the Grade 12 Bulldog.
The game plan was to approach the first go-round with a positive frame of mind.
“Laff (head coach Jason Lafferty) was saying it’s all about our attitude this week,” Froese said. “A few of our wins have almost been robbed from us because of our effort going into the start of the game so if we go out and start strong I believe we can dominate.”
Bellerose was its own worst enemy at times this year.
”We’ve had a couple of games where our guys weren't really trying so hard, just kind of got down on themselves before the game even started which didn't help our team,” Kikkert said. “And the games that we’ve won, the guys were in the moment and they were actually trying.
“These next couple of games I have a feeling that they’re going to be in the moment too.”
Bellerose (172 PF/160 PA) and the Panthers (194 PF/210 PA) have alternated weekly as the No. 10-ranked Tier I (1,250-plus students) team in the province with sizable losses for both against the No. 2 Salisbury Sabres (5-0-1) and No. 5 Harry Ainlay Titans (5-0-1).
The season will likely end for the playoff winner in the Oct. 25 semifinal against Salisbury (295 PF/39 PA) or Ainlay (276 PF/28 PA), the Carr champion the last two years and 2018 Alberta Bowl Tier I finalist.
The most winnable game of the three losses for Bellerose was 30-28 against the No. 2-ranked Tier II (750 to 1,249 students) Austin O’Brien Crusaders (5-1) Sept. 27. Down 14-0 after the first quarter, 20-14 at halftime and 27-14 in the third quarter, Bellerose rallied with a pair of touchdown catches by Dorian Therqaj of 10 and 11 yards from quarterback Tristan Olenick to jump ahead 28-27 in the fourth quarter before AOB scored the winning points with a 38-yard field goal.
“We took the lead and we were going with it and then our team kind of bunked down. I don’t know what happened to us. We got tired or we gave up, it was hard to tell,” said Kikkert of losing to the team that beat Bellerose 49-14 in last year’s playoff as the Bulldogs finished 3-4 after three losses to start off the season.
The last game for Bellerose was 41-6 over the Jasper Place Rebels (0-6) last week on Senior Night at Larry Olexiuk Field to stop a two-game winless stretch.
“It made us all pretty happy,” Froese said. “We were upset after losing to AOB. We just didn't start strong and we did in that game (against the Rebels).”
Froese, 17, piled up 145 yards on 18 carries against the Rebels to raise his season totals to 426 yards on 76 handoffs, a remarkable achievement for the Grade 12 Bulldog after undergoing two surgeries to repair a broken left foot suffered in the first league game last year as the back-up to Brett Yost.
“At the start of the season it was pretty bad for the first two games. I probably didn't even get 100 yards, but Laff has really been helping me out and I’m just getting it done,” Froese said. “It’s exciting. I’ve never had the starting position before.”
Kikkert, 17, was originally slotted on the team’s depth chart at running back (122 yards on 16 carries) before replacing the injured Will Baker on defence a few games ago.
“I ended up doing really good so they’ve kept me there,” said Kikkert, who recorded five tackles against the Rebels for a team-high 31 on the season.
“I love defence because I love to tackle, but if it was me I would play linebacker,” added Kikkert, a running back in minor football before initially lining up at slotback with the Bulldogs. “This year I wanted to be a running back because I did a couple of camps over the summer as a running back and I was doing pretty good at it (but the coach) never really played me at running back and I told him I don’t want to be off the field, I want to contribute to the team so I want you to put me somewhere if you’re not going to run me at running back. He said, 'OK, I still want you to play running back but you’re also going to play defence.' ”
In the metro Edmonton junior league, Wednesday’s division one pool B semifinal between Bellerose (3-1, 121 PF/48 PA) and Ainlay (3-1, 90 PF/80 PA) kicks off at 5 p.m. in St. Albert.
The winner plays Salisbury (4-0, 264 PF/16 PA) or the Rebels (2-2, 68 PF/116 PA) from the pool A semifinal in the Oct. 29 final at 7:30 p.m. at Clarke Stadium.
League play featured pool A teams against pool B teams and the last game for Bellerose was 21-0 against AOB (1-3, 49 PF/43 PA) Tuesday in St. Albert.
The shutout was the second in a row and third of the season against pool A teams.