A playoff spot is on the line Friday for the Bellerose Bulldogs in the metro Edmonton football league.
A victory over the Spruce Grove Panthers would clinch fourth place in the Carr division one standings but a loss would end the season for the No. 8-ranked Tier I (school population 1,250-plus) team in Alberta.
Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Riel Recreation Park and admission is $5.
“We’re confident and the pressure is not going to get to us,” said Grade 12 quarterback Morgan Sherban at Monday’s practice. “There is always pressure behind any game, whether it be the first game of the season or the last game you might ever play, it doesn’t matter, but we’re feeling pretty good. The atmosphere is good. We’re feeling happy and confident that we know what we need to do.”
It’s also Senior Night for the Bulldogs, which is always an emotional game for graduating players.
“It’s going to be our last home game and it could be our last high school football game so there is a lot riding on it,” Sherban said.
The Bulldogs (4-3) are one point behind the Panthers (4-2-1) in the playoff race.
The Panthers, ranked fifth in Tier I, are averaging 33.8 points scored and 20.5 against, compared to 22.2 on offence and 21.1 on defence for the Bulldogs.
“On offence it’s going to be basically a mirror of ourselves (and) it’s a weird defence they have,” said Sherban, noting the Bulldogs have pored over game film of the Panthers like they were cramming for final exams.
“We feel like everything should work out this week.”
The winner draws the short straw in the Nov. 6 semifinal against Chubba Hubbard (2,014 yards on 104 carries, plus 25 touchdowns) and the Bev Facey Falcons (7-0), ranked second in Tier I. Game time is 5 p.m. at Foote Field.
The Panthers lost 40-9 to Facey last Friday and the Bulldogs trampled the winless Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds 52-24 for their second win in a row after the 54-7 blowout by Facey.
Sherban, 17, believes the Bulldogs are a better team than what their record suggests.
“We had an extremely close game with Paul Kane (6-3 loss in the rain) and not very many things went our way in that game,” he said. “Against Harry Ainlay (27-6 season-opening loss), if we had played them as a team that we were this week then we would’ve beat them.”
The Bulldogs jumped all over Shep as Jaedon Carroll ripped off a 73-yard TD on the first play from scrimmage as he found a seam and out-ran four defenders.
The first of four TDs by Sherban was a one-yard sneak, set-up by his own 33-yard run and Carroll’s 24-yard burst.
Carroll would later add a 25-yard rouge.
Ryan Young’s fumble recovery inside Shep territory was followed by a highlight-reel one-handed catch by Eric Calkins for a 17-yard gain. Zach Nuttall’s four-yard TD through the heart of the Shep defence capped off the drive as the Bulldogs closed out the first quarter on top 22-3.
In the second quarter, a phantom holding call wiped out a 25-yard catch-and-run TD by Carroll, who would go on to boot an 18-yard field goal.
With just more than one minute left before the break, the Bulldogs huddled up at their 30 and it took them 50 seconds to drive the field as Sherban scored on a designed quarterback run from the three to increase the lead to 32-10.
Carroll finished the first half with 199 yards on seven handoffs and didn’t get a carry for the rest of the game.
The second half saw several big plays from both teams as a number of Bellerose starters were rotated out of the lineup.
Early in the third quarter, a 45-yard TD screen pass to Nuttall was called back because of an illegal block down field. Carroll would eventually score on the drive on a 27-yard catch-and-run play.
Sherban added a 34-yard score off a botched exchange in the Bellerose backfield and his one-yard TD sneak was the seventh major of the season for the team’s leading rusher with 461 yards on 69 carries. He gained 88 yards on eight handoffs against Shep.
Nuttall had 10 carries for 104 yards and Carroll finished with six catches for 96 yards. Corbin Stewart added a 32-yard grab and Darryl Broderick pulled off a 40-yard back-shoulder catch while tip-toeing down the sideline.
Defensive backs’ Chase LaRose (first start of the season) and Logan Moreau were credited with double digits in tackles. Drew Morison led the front seven in tackles and picked off a pass at the Bellerose 10 to prevent a Shep score.
“Playing Shep was a must win situation so we weren’t going to take them lightly,” said Sherban, the second-highest ranked Carr passer with 1,090 yards, while going 91-for-153 for seven TDs and two picks. “They haven’t been that strong for the last few years but anybody can beat anybody in this league.”