The Bellerose Bulldogs control their own destiny in the Carr conference playoff race.
A win Thursday against the Jasper Place Rebels would secure a spot in next week’s opening playoff round in metro Edmonton high school football.
But a loss in the last game before the playoffs would leave the Bulldogs hanging by a thread in the tiebreakers.
Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Riel Recreation Park and admission is $5.
“We have to win and we’re obviously going to do whatever it takes to get the job done,” stressed head coach Chad Hill. “If we lose we’re open to a bunch of tiebreaking scenarios and a couple of those would see us be the team missing the playoffs so what we’ve told our guys is win the game and we’re in and we’ll have a good chance at the top four or five position.”
The Bulldogs, Jasper Place, Harry Ainlay Titans and Bev Facey Falcons are deadlocked at 3-3 for third place. The Austin O’Brien Crusaders remain in the playoff mix at 2-4.
The 6-0 Salisbury Sabres clinched first place and the 4-2 Spruce Grove Panthers are in good shape to join Salisbury for first-round byes.
In the Tier I (1,250-plus students) rankings Salisbury is listed No. 2, followed by Spruce Grove at No. 4, Jasper Place at No. 5, Bellerose at No. 7 and Bev Facey at No. 9.
The Crusaders are also ranked 10th in Tier II (750 to 1,249 students).
“Somebody will miss the playoffs with a 3-4 record so there will be a provincial-ranked team not make the playoffs,” Hill said of the tough-as-nails Carr conference. “It’s a pretty tough league. Everybody has been pretty even and it’s basically all coming down to the final game of the season.”
Jasper Place is averaging 34.8 points scored, the second-highest total in the Carr, and the Bulldogs have allowed 17 points per game as the second-stingiest defence in the conference.
“Jasper Place is a big, physical team so we want to stop their double wing offence. We need to shut down their running game, in particular their No. 23 (Dallin McLean, 302 yards on 38 carries and six touchdowns). He is a very dangerous ball carrier,” said Hill, who is concerned about Jasper Place’s inside running attack.
“Their offence is good. A lot of people thought they were a one-trick pony on offence running the ball but they’ve shown they can pass the ball too. I know they’ve had success passing the last couple of weeks and if they start going aerial we can make some adjustments to our defence.
“We’ve got confidence in our defence. They’ve been playing well all year.”
Hill expects the Bulldogs will rise to the challenge after last week’s 31-14 loss to Spruce Grove snapped a three-game winning streak.
“We better respond after that loss,” he said. “I take nothing away from Spruce Grove. They’re an excellent football team and they execute extremely well but I did think we were our own worst enemy in that game as well with the amount of penalties we piled on. We have to avoid that. We have to be disciplined. We have to play extremely hard without crossing that line and taking penalties.”
Spruce Grove, last year’s Edmonton public league champions and Tier I provincial finalists, completed TD passes of nine yards in the first quarter and 18 yards in the second quarter to lead 13-0.
After the second TD, speedster Seth Waselenchuk returned the kick off 89 yards into the endzone and Nick Cowan kicked the convert.
Waselenchuk’s second TD, a 15-yard reception from Matty Short, and Cowan’s convert gave the Bulldogs a brief 14-13 lead.
Spruce Grove replied with a three-yard TD run before quarter time and in the fourth quarter pulled away from the Bulldogs with an eight-yard TD pass and a one-yard rushing major.
The Bulldogs also pulled off two fake punts, as Jacob Kaup and Waselenchuk gained first downs, however a fumble on a long run on the first fake was recovered by Spruce Grove inside its 10.
A couple of penalties against the Bulldogs that Hill viewed as questionable calls by the officials also hurt the team in key situations.
Spruce Grove completed 11 passes out of 21 attempts for 156 yards and three TDs and ran for 269 yards on 36 carries for two TDs.
The Bulldogs compiled 242 yards on the ground on 30 carries, led by Tyler Feltis’ 116 yards on nine handoffs.
Short was 5-for-14 passing for 56 yards, one TD and one pick.
“Our offence moved the ball against Spruce but we didn't finish and we need to finish drives against JP. If we do that we’ll have success,” Hill said.
John Comeau was credited with eight tackles and Cowan and Jacob Neuls had six apiece. Dean Ciampanelli and Kirklen Robinson both had quarterback sacks.
Win or lose Thursday, the Bulldogs proved they can hang with the big boys in the first year of the Edmonton public and metro league merger. Last year in the Carr the Bulldogs tied for second and finished 6-3 overall. Two of the losses, including the Carr semifinal, were against the rival St. Albert High Skyhawks.
“In most people’s eyes we’ve overachieved but in our own eyes we’re playing the way we expected our team to play,” Hill said. “That being said, to be 3-4 in this ultra-competitive league would not be bad but you could miss the playoffs at 3-4, which would be an extreme disappointment for our program. I feel we’ve been competitive in every game we’ve played. We’ve played hard and played well all year to deserve that shot to be in the playoffs but the only way to guarantee that is to be 4-3.
“I’m extremely proud of our team this year, regardless of what happens. I will also be proud of this team for playing in the best league we could play in and for having some success, but I would be extremely disappointed if we didn’t get the chance to get in the playoff tournament. That would be very disappointing for our Grade 12 players especially because they’ve worked hard and deserve a shot to be there.”