The Bellerose Bulldogs are the runaway leaders to repeat last year’s undefeated championship season in high school junior football.
The Bulldogs streak into Thursday’s semifinal as winners of 15 in a row, including six games this year.
“We’re coming in to take the championship this year and that's what we want to accomplish,” said Mitch Kruk, an explosive Grade 11 tailback.
The defending premier champions in the metro Edmonton league averaged an outrageous 52.6 points per win in one exhibition and five league games while surrendering only two unconverted touchdowns. Both TDs were scored in the second-last game before the playoffs in the 63-12 drubbing of the Memorial Marauders in Spruce Grove to clinch first place in pool B and a first-round by in what is now the division one playoffs in metro.
“It's all about our battle and our compete level and we bring that every game,” Kruk said. “We come to every game like it’s going to be tough competition and that's how we approach everything. We work hard in practice five days a week. We go usually from four o’clock to around 6:30 and everyone is putting their butts out there. We’re all working our very hardest to be the best that we can be and our compete level in practice goes right on out to the field for our games.”
Kruk stressed there is no pressure on the team to duplicate the first junior football championship in Bellerose history when the Bulldogs went 9-0 last year in league and playoff action combined.
“Not at all, even though were the defending champions. It’s a different league this year that we’re in (with the Edmonton public league joining metro) so there are different teams,” he said.
A massive 56-man roster – almost more than the Paul Kane Blues and St. Albert Hawks junior teams combined – includes players from Sturgeon Composite High School, plus 17 returnees who were Grade 10 Bulldogs. A good chunk of the team is made up of Grade 11s.
“The coaching staff is the same, and they’re all very good coaches, so that's why we’re doing the same thing as Bellerose did last year,” Kruk said. “We approach every game like it’s 0-0 every quarter. We want to win and we’re going into playoffs ready to compete and give 100 per cent.”
The Bulldogs are led by Grade 11 quarterback Trace Stuht, arguably the most valuable junior in metro. The latest Bulldogs’ stats after four games lists Stuht with 25 completions out of 54 attempts for 480 yards, seven TDs and one interception. He also rushed for 190 yards on 16 carries for six TDs and fumbled three times.
Stuht’s main targets over those four games included Corbin Stewart (144 yards on five catches and two TDs), Kruk (100 yards on seven catches for three TDs) and Eric Calkins (81 yards on two catches).
Among the team’s leading tacklers are Autuen Metallic, Mike Clapp, Mike Woywitka, Jakob West and Ben Carter.
The offensive line is a nasty bunch of Dawgs that not only serves as Stuht’s bodyguards, but opens up holes large enough for a truck to drive through.
Kruk, 16, is the big wheel in the backfield with an amazing 19 touchdowns and close to 1,000 yards on the ground in the past six games.
After the four-game mark, Kruk compiled 596 yards on 26 carries for 10 TDs.
“It’s all the blocks and the team effort out there. It’s not just me running, it’s in direct relation to everyone on the offence. All 12 guys are doing their job every play. It can be any one of us but I’m the one getting the ball,” said the five-foot-seven Bulldog, who torched the O’Leary Spartans for two rushing TDs (finished with 118 yards on six carries), caught two TD passes (four receptions for 57 yards) and returned a punt to pay dirt in limited playing time in the 49-0 blowout Oct. 1.
What makes Kruk’s numbers even more impressive is this is his first season of football since playing for the peewee St. Albert Riders. He stuck to rep hockey before deciding to combine both sports this season and is a winger on the midget AA St. Albert Blues. In eight games with the Blues he has three goals and five assists after posting 10 goals and 10 assists in 31 games with the midget 15 Spruce Grove Saints last season.
“The big thing at Bellerose is the whole school is football and a lot goes into it. It’s a really good program,” Kruk said. “After seeing how the junior team did last year I came out this year because a few of my friends are on the team. I want to see how it goes and then next year, my senior year, I will decide whether to play again or just stick straight with hockey and school.”
Kruk and the rest of the Bulldogs will play the waiting game to see who they tackle Thursday in the playoffs. The winner of Monday’s contest between Memorial (third in pool B at 3-2) or Bev Facey Falcons (second in pool A at 3-1) will line up against the Bulldogs at 7:30 p.m. at Clarke Park.
The final is Nov. 7 at 5 p.m. at Clarke Park.
Tag(s): Jr. Bulldogs