The Paul Kane Blues played kick to win in the pouring rain to beat the Bellerose Bulldogs in the Battle of St. Albert.
Rosario Cammarata weathered the conditions by splitting the uprights twice in the 6-3 decision on a cold, wet and windy Friday night at Riel Recreation Park.
“It feels crazy. I’ve never felt anything like this. I’ve never won a game for my team like this and everyone is loving it,” said an overjoyed Cammarata after teammates chanted his name in the post-game huddle. “This was a game that we really needed. It’s a very emotional game that we really wanted to win.”
In the second quarter the left-footed Cammarata tied it at three with a 30-yard boot in the opening minute and kicked the go-ahead points from the 21 with 3:09 left until halftime.
“The first kick I was so nervous. I didn’t hit it on the right place and it was a line drive and it barely went over. It was almost blocked,” said the Grade 12 kicker in his first year playing football. “The second one I was nervous again. I’ve never been so nervous like that but it just went right through the uprights. It was perfect.
“At least I was kicking with the wind so I didn’t have to kick the other way.”
Cammarata, 17, also tried a 17-yard field goal with 78 seconds remaining with the wind at his back but a snafu on the exchange from the long snapper to the holder gave the Bulldogs the ball for one last push for points.
On third and 13, after the Blues sacked quarterback Morgan Sherban for a three-yard loss, the Grade 12 Bulldog threw a completion for the first down at the Bellerose 32.
However, the Bulldogs would turn the ball over on downs after falling just short of a first down on a reception with 34.9 seconds to play.
“That was a gutsy win. That was a character builder right there. We persevered in nasty weather and you guys pulled together and we ended up winning,” head coach Rob Strecker told the Blues after the friendly rivals shook hands and patted each other’s backs.
Afterwards, Strecker summed up the first showdown between the Paul Kane and Bellerose senior teams since 2012, 26-6 for the Bulldogs in the second year for the Paul Kane football program after serving as a feed school for the St. Albert Catholic High School football team.
“It’s two points and little bit of bragging rights but the two points are more important,” Strecker stressed. “It was very satisfying to win the football game. If you were going to tell me the score was going to be 6-3 I would’ve said not a chance but the weather played a big factor. That wind was tough. Bellerose also came out and did some great things. They stopped us on offence and we stopped ourselves too. Penalties killed us. Turnovers hurt us bad. We need to correct those mistakes definitely moving on in from here.”
The victory also helped debunked a myth the Blues can’t win in adverse weather conditions. The last two years the pass-happy, offensive driven Blues plowed through the Miles division two ranks undefeated as back-to-back metro Edmonton champions but in the Tier II (750 to 1,249 students) provincial playoffs they lost the 2013 north final 32-0 to the Austin O’Brien Crusaders on a snow-covered Clarke Park field and last year’s north semifinal 22-1 to the St. Joseph’s Celtics of Grande Prairie on a cold and snowy afternoon at Foote Field. Both teams went on to win the Alberta Bowl championship.
“I was proud of the boys,” Strecker said. “Everyone says we’re a soft team, that we can only play when it’s sunny out. Well, we showed today in these conditions we can battle too. Everyone also says we don’t have a running game and I thought we ran the ball quite well at times too.”
The Blues, listed second in the Football Alberta Tier II rankings, improved to 3-1 in Carr division one for a share of third place with the Bulldogs and Harry Ainlay Titans. The Bulldogs (3-2) and Titans (3-2) are ranked sixth and eight, respectively, in Tier I (1,250-plus students).
The top four Carr teams make the playoffs and the Blues and Bulldogs are in position to reach the Nov. 6 semifinals.
The loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Bulldogs after dropping the season opener 27-6 to the Titans.
“We’ll be ready for playoffs for sure,” said Jaedon Carroll, a Grade 12 Bulldog who plays multiple positions. “The coaches will keep us into it for practices. The team is still together. We still all love each other.”
The Bulldogs played the Blues tough, especially on defence, but were unable to pull off the victory.
“PK is obviously a good team but we played great as a team too. If anything we beat ourselves up,” Carroll said. “The weather was a factor of course, but it goes both ways so we can’t blame the weather.”
Carroll, 17, opened the scoring with a 16-yard field goal with the wind at his back with 2:36 left in the first quarter. It was set up by a fumble recovery by Ryan Young of the Bulldogs at their 47 and on second and 12 Carroll’s catch and run put the ball at the Paul Kane 11.
Late in the third quarter the Blues turned the ball over on downs when Grade 12 quarterback Brendan Guy was stopped short of a first down on Colton Meronyk’s tackle at the Bellerose 31. The Bulldogs proceeded to march the ball down field, aided by a horse-collar flag on the Blues, and runs by Sherban and a pass completion to Carroll. But on third and goal from just outside the four, Carroll’s 11-yard field goal attempt into the rainstorm was wide of the posts and the ball was run out of the endzone.
“I just chipped it right,” said Carroll, last year’s recipient of the junior Bulldogs’ MVP award.
Strecker gave a shout-out to the Paul Kane defence for only giving up a field goal.
“Our defence was phenomenal in coming up with some huge stops at various times. Zach Dreger and Tanner Buchanan were all over the field making plays. Forcing them to the field goal attempt late in the fourth and not even getting a single was huge for us,” Strecker said. “It’s very comforting knowing that we can go for it on third down and our D will give us a chance if we don’t make it.”
The Bellerose football website credited the Bulldogs with three fumble recoveries overall and interceptions by Sherban and Darryl Broderick. Drew Morison also recorded 10 tackles and 11 assists, Meronyk had eight tackles and Young added six, plus 10 assists.
Sherban scrambled for 92 yards on 15 carries and was 11-for-24 passing for 129 yards and was intercepted by Ty Beck.
Offensive stats for the Blues were not available at press time.
As for the Bulldogs, they were wringing their hands over missed opportunities.
“We played a very good football team and unfortunately some things didn’t go our way tonight. We battled hard but honestly it was a game that could’ve gone either way with a break here and there,” said Chad Hill, head coach of the Bulldogs. “We missed out to tie it in the fourth quarter. There was still lots of game time left so that’s just one play. We had a couple of dropped passes, a couple of errant throws, some missed assignments on offence, a couple of miscues on special teams and that’s why it’s a three-point game where we’re on the wrong end of the stick.”
The reason it was too close to call, besides the weather, was a stout Bellerose defence.
“Paul Kane probably has the most explosive offence in the league and we had a really good game plan going in and I thought for the most part our defence really executed the game plan really well and we limited their offence,” Hill said. “Brendan Guy is just a tremendous quarterback. Tanner Buchanan is a great receiver. Keaton Zaychkowsky is a weapon. Aidan Mueller is a weapon. They have some good linemen too in Zach Dreger and a bunch of others.
“They’re an aerial team but it’s windy conditions and it’s difficult throwing the ball out there. We were watching in the pregame warm-up and Brendan still had some zip on the ball so I knew they would try and go to the air just because Brendan has such a strong arm but again I give credit to our defence for playing a very good game.”
Thursday the Bulldogs are in tough against the Bev Facey Falcons (4-0), the defending Carr champions as winners of six of the last eight division one finals. Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Riel Recreation Park.