Clarke Park – The Bellerose Bulldogs continue to leave their mark in the most competitive high school football league in Alberta.
The fourth victory in the stacked Carr conference was Tuesday’s 23-21 decision against the Jasper Place Rebels in the metro Edmonton playoffs.
“This win means we’re not a joke in the Carr conference. We’re a serious contender and we’re here to win it all,” declared Matty Short, a Grade 12 quarterback with the 4-4 Bulldogs, ranked ninth in Tier I (1,250-plus students).
Friday the Bulldogs battled the first-place Salisbury Sabres and the semifinal score was unavailable at press time.
A victory would punch the Bulldogs’ ticket to the Carr final Nov. 2 and the Tier I south semifinal Nov. 9 in Lethbridge.
“Our team is playing up to its potential,” said Kirklen Robinson, a Grade 12 defensive end. “We’re ready to play football no matter what teams come towards us.”
Salisbury (6-1), ranked fourth in Tier I, blanked the Bulldogs 21-0 in the league opener in Sherwood Park. Salisbury returned a fumble 25 yards for its first touchdown and in the third quarter added TDs off an eight-yard run and 75-yard punt return.
“They are not by any means a better team than us. If our offence and defence can play like they did today we can beat anybody in this league,” Robinson said.
The jacked-up Bulldogs refused to lose Tuesday’s playoff lid-lifter that was shrouded in controversy. They were scheduled to play Jasper Place five days after losing to the No. 5 Tier 1-ranked Rebels 30-7 in St. Albert to wrap up the regular season.
However, issues surfaced over the eligibility of Braden Tidball, a St. Francis Xavier High School student who transferred to Jasper Place in late September to complete his Grade 12 and play football for the Rebels. He also attends a Mormon seminary every morning before school and his friends there attend Jasper Place.
St. Francis Xavier, a Gilfillan conference football team, questioned the transfer on Oct. 4 and Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association compliance officer felt the transfer was athletically motivated and on Oct. 15 ruled Tidball was ineligible to play for Jasper Place in the playoffs.
Jasper Place appealed the decision and ASAA executive director John Paton upheld the ruling.
But on Sunday, the metro league informed Jasper Place it was not allowed to compete in the playoffs because of the ineligible player and stripped the team of three wins. So instead of finishing in a two-way tie for third place at 4-3, the Rebels missed the playoffs with a 1-6 record.
It also created a ripple effect for the rest of the playoff pairings. The Bulldogs dropped from fifth to six while still maintaining their 3-4 record and the team’s new opponent was the Bev Facey Falcons, who went from sixth at 3-4 to third at 4-3.
The Bulldogs spent Monday preparing for Facey after gearing up to play Jasper Place.
However, parents for three Rebels filed an injunction against the metro decision and Tuesday in court, lawyer Chad Bowie and a Jasper Place coach, argued the decision would hurt several players with the potential to play at the university level without playoff game film to send teams that expressed interest in recruiting them.
Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Donald Manderscheid agreed and ordered that Jasper Place huddle up against the Bulldogs as previously scheduled.
The Bulldogs spent Tuesday’s lunch break pouring over game film of Facey, but in the afternoon they were informed the game against Jasper Place was back on. It also meant the Harry Ainlay Titans would play Facey as scheduled, instead of the 3-4 Austin O’Brien Crusaders, who finished out of the playoffs on the tiebreaker.
Bulldogs head coach Chad Hill wasn’t impressed with the off-field wranglings, noting how unfair it was to the other teams involved and the hours of film and practice time wasted for an opponent they did not face.
The players had mixed views about the roller-coaster turn of events.
“It’s definitely a complete curveball that we never expected, especially since it was such a short week and we had very little time to prepare but our coaches did a great job of prepping us for both teams,” Short said.
“It didn’t matter to us. We were prepared for both teams. We were looking to win and we did whatever it took to get it,” Robinson added. “Our team worked really hard together tonight. There was definitely a team effort on both sides of the ball.”
The Bulldogs rolled up 21 points in the first quarter on TDs of eight and 55 yards by Tyler Feltis and Ryan Jackson’s seven-yard run.
The Bulldogs scored on their first possession, a 67-yard drive featuring the slick running of Feltis and a fake field goal as Seth Waselenchuk scrambled 16 yards to the eight.
On the first play on the team’s second possession, Feltis weaved his way through tacklers 55 yards to pay dirt.
The third offensive series, a 40-yard drive, was spearheaded by Ryan’s power run of 33 yards before finishing it off from the seven.
“We had a great first quarter. It was probably the best we’ve had all year,” Short said. “The execution we had on offence during the first quarter really got the guys going and it got their heads into the game knowing that we can win.”
Jasper Place replied with a one-yard TD completion in the opening minute of the second quarter and a two-yard quarterback sneak with 1:58 left until quarter time to complete a drive that featured a good mix of runs and passes.
In the third quarter, after Ryan fumbled the ball away after a third-down romp and the Bulldogs were flagged for unnecessary roughness on the play, Jacob Kaup intercepted a long bomb with a great grab at the Bellerose 12.
Another flag nullified a first down by Ryan that pushed the Bulldogs back to their six.
After the punt, Jasper Place went two and out after Robinson’s tackle in the backfield left the Rebels looking at third and 14 from the Bellerose 50.
Back on offence, after a holding call put the Bulldogs first and 20 from their 20, Short fired a dart to Dylan Shorten behind two defenders down the numbers for a 43-yard gain. On first down, Feltis turned the corner for 19 yards to the 33. The drive ended on third and one, as Feltis was stopped short at the nine.
On first down Shorten sacked the quarterback for a six-yard loss and on the next play Dean Ciampanelli tracked down the quarterback in the endzone for a safety with 3.9 seconds left in the third quarter to make it 23-14.
“We got into a little bit of penalty trouble but we still battled hard,” Short said.
The teams traded punts in the fourth quarter, as Nick Cowan’s big boots pinned Jasper Place in its end of the field.
With 4:12 to play, Short was picked off trying to hit Waselenchuk down the pipe in double coverage at the Bellerose 47.
Less than a minute later, Jasper Place pulled off a catch and run down the sideline on a TD play the Bulldogs let slip away from them. The convert cut the lead to two points.
After the kickoff the Bulldogs pounded the ball down field with Ryan and Feltis doing most of the heavy lifting behind a determined offensive line. The key play was Short’s one-yard plunge on third down to the Jasper Place 39.
“We’re very versatile at running back. We’ve got big guys that can run and we’ve got our small little guy, Tyler Feltis, who is great at his cuts and is extremely quick,” said Short, 17, the 2012 recipient of the junior Bulldogs’ most outstanding offensive player award.
The Rebels eventually forced the Bulldogs to punt, and Cowan’s kick put Jasper Place at its 47. The Rebels gradually moved the ball up field, highlighted by a 28-yard catch and run down the middle with Shorten making the tackle at the Bellerose 44. On second down at the 42, and 3.4 ticks on the clock, the quarterback rolled right and was tripped by Ciampanelli before Robinson finished the play with his Carr-leading eighth sack.
“We knew it was going to be a pass and Dean and I and the rest of the line had to do whatever it took to get to the quarterback. We fired off from the edge and we got to him,” said Robinson, 17.