Cowichan bantam player Jayden Strzok finds a gap in the Richmond Raiders defence. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Bantam Bulldogs fend off their toughest challenge to date

Cowichan concedes first points of the season, faces pushback from Richmond

The bantam Cowichan Bulldogs passed their biggest test so far in the Vancouver Mainland Football League season last Sunday, defeating the Richmond Raiders 23-6 at McAdam Park.

The Raiders provided the most resistance the Bulldogs have faced to this point in the season, and were the first team to score points against Cowichan. Stirling Henry, Dillon Wilson and Jayden Strzok scored for the Bulldogs.

“This was the type of game that our team needed,” Cowichan coach PJ Shea said. “Some adversity and some humility. We had four of our starting players out with injury, and when you are playing nine-man football, that’s tough. The athletes rallied together and showed strong mental fortitude in dealing with the challenges.”

The bantams are off to Chilliwack this week.

The junior bantam Bulldogs kept pace with the hometown Victoria Spartans through most of the first half of their game last Sunday, but the Spartans pulled away shortly before the midway break, and dominated the second half. The Spartans opened the scoring, but the Bulldogs marched down the field led by Kaiden Jones, Isaac Keepence, Eamon Manley, Sebastian Tait and Conner Harper, and finished it off with a touchdown from Brad MacRae.

Victoria took a 14-8 lead just before halftime, then made some adjustments to their offence in the second half that the Bulldogs couldn’t adapt to. A 35-yard pass from Cody Williams to Iaan Anderton-Teasdale and an onside kick recovery by Kolten Crook were among Cowichan’s second-half highlights.

“We were not able to stop their blitz,” head coach Opie Williams said. “They did not do anything that we did not expect, we just made mistakes that cost us.”

Both defences put up big plays as the peewee Bulldogs were edged 8-7 by the Victoria Spartans in a thriller last Sunday.

The Spartans got on the board first with a safety in the second quarter, and the score stayed the same until Dylan Balfour put the ball in the end zone for Cowichan in the fourth quarter. With a minute left to play, the Spartans scored the winning touchdown after a costly penalty to Cowichan.

Aylin Canning and Denver Wheeler both came up big for the Cowichan defence, with key stops that forced turnovers.

The junior bantam and peewee ’Dogs are at home this Sunday, hosting Nanaimo at 10 and 11:30 a.m.

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