The Bellerose Bulldogs are chasing history as the front-runners in the high school junior football playoffs.
The leaders of the pack are 5-0 this year and 34-0 in league and playoff action since the 2011 semifinals when they huddle up against the Jasper Place Rebels (4-1) in Monday’s metro Edmonton division one semifinal. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m. at Johnny Bright Park.
The winner butts heads with the Bev Facey Falcons (4-0) or Memorial Marauders (5-1) in Friday’s final at 7:30 p.m. at Clarke Park.
“We want to keep it going,” said Grade 11 centre Parker LeLacheur of the Drive For Five championship run. “You don’t want to be that one team that doesn’t.”
A five-peat would equal the metro record for consecutive junior football banners by the 1991-95 St. Francis Xavier Rams.
“We try not to focus on the streak, we just focus on the game that’s next and try and do our best in that game,” said defensive standout Darryl Marsh. “There is pressure sometimes and in a few games this season it’s come to the point where it’s like, ‘Oh, this might be it,’ but we’ve pulled through.”
The Bulldogs yanked the proverbial victory from the jaws of defeat in their second-last pool B game before the playoffs and it was the 54-50 gong show against Memorial in Spruce Grove.
Leads of 21-6 after the first quarter, 35-22 at halftime and 41-28 in the fourth quarter slipped away before the Bulldogs regained the upper hand at 48-42. However, a touchdown and two-point conversion put Memorial back on top at 50-48 with 1:15 remaining.
The wild roller-coaster ride ended with Andrew Nielson’s quarterback run of 30 yards for the go-ahead points with 37 seconds to play.
“That was a scary game,” Marsh said. “It was a big wakeup call and the next week we trained hard for the next game because we knew Paul Kane (39-21 win) would also be a tough game and we didn’t want to lose.”
The Bulldogs will have their hands full against the Rebels despite averaging 50.6 points per win and 16.2 against.
The Rebels placed second in pool A and in Monday’s crossover playoff crushed the injury-riddled Paul Kane Blues 51-8 for their fourth win in a row.
The Rebels (167 PF/55 PA) were coming off their bye week and the team’s double-wing backfield pounded the Blues (3-3, 206 PF/161 PA) during a 36-0 first-half advantage.
“They look like a very good team. They play a tough game. They’re a tough team too. They know what they’re doing and they don’t give up until the end of the fourth quarter,” said Marsh, 17.
Last year the Bulldogs hung on to defeat the Rebels 7-6 in the semifinals, en route to blowing away Facey 41-6 for their 29th straight win and fourth undefeated junior championship while going 6-0 on the season.
The 2015 lineup of Bellerose and Sturgeon high school players included Marsh, LeLacheur, Nolan Flatla, Michael Kosch, Dylan Long and Sheldon MacKay from the current junior roster.
“Both teams are really good teams. This team is a very young team as well,” said Marsh, a versatile Grade 11 defender who leads the Bulldogs in tackles with 25 and is tied for the team lead in sacks with two.
“It’s the hypeness. The guys are all pumped for the games and they’re all excited. The practices are the same too,” added LeLacheur of the similarities of the two Bulldogs teams.
The junior Bulldogs were spotted at Riel Recreation Park on Wednesday instead of their home stomping grounds in the high school’s backyard in preparation for Monday’s playoff.
“We’re very motivated for this week of practice. We’ve been working hard. We’re keeping our foot on the pedal and we’re prepared for anything on Monday,” said LeLacheur, a backup on defence at nose tackle. “We go game by game. We do our best to make ourselves better and to beat our opponent and prepare us for that game.”
Spirits are high in Bulldogs Nation with one week left in the season and another trip to the final looming large.
“It’s pretty exciting right now,” LeLacheur, 16. “I’m very proud to be a Bulldog. I definitely wouldn’t play anywhere else and that’s why I went to Bellerose for football.”
Tag(s): Jr. Bulldogs