Bantam Cowichan Bulldogs get first win of 2016

The bantam Cowichan Bulldogs picked up their first win in the last two Vancouver Mainland Football League seasons.

The bantam Cowichan Bulldogs picked up their first win in the last two Vancouver Mainland Football League seasons when they defeated the Cloverdale Leopards at McAdam Park last Sunday.

The Leopards showed up at the field with just 12 players, below the league minimum of 14, but both coaches agreed to play anyway. The score was tied 8-8 early in the third quarter when Cloverdale had a third player go down to injury and had to forfeit the remainder, and the game went in the books as a 10-0 Cowichan win.

“Despite being tied at the time, I have no doubt that we would have scored more points and would have won, even without the forfeit,” Bulldogs head coach Mike Williams said. “As much as our guys would have liked to get a win after a full game, we were excited to get our first win of the season. With us going 0-10 last season, for a lot of these kids it has been a long time without getting a win.”

With a larger roster than they had last season — 23 players — the Bulldogs shouldn’t have to worry about forfeiting this season, and should he able to cope with injuries.

The Bulldogs got off to a rough start last Sunday, allowing Cloverdale to go up 8-0 on a long touchdown run and two-point convert.

“Despite having a lot more players this year, we have quite a few fresh faces on defence and it showed with some assignment breakdowns early in the game,” Williams said. “We are working hard at practice to fix those.”

The Bulldogs regrouped when they got the ball, and Dakota Cullum ended up going on a 55-yard run for the tying touchdown late in the first quarter. The Cowichan defence started playing smarter and more physical football after that, and things were looking good for the Bulldogs just as the game took a turn for the worse for the Leopards.

“With only 12 players, quite a few were playing both ways and our physical play took a toll,” Williams said.

A week earlier, the bantam Bulldogs lost their season opener 15-0 to the Richmond Renegades. Defence was the strong point for Cowichan in that game, with standout performances by Cullum and Evan Kwasny at linebacker, along with newcomer David Fry, although the team also had strong showings on offence from quarterback Carson Maertz and Cullum and Kwasny at running back.

The Cowichan bantams will head to Coquitlam this Sunday and try to build on the momentum from last weekend’s win. They will get two players back from the injury list, although Liam Simmonds will be sidelined, possibly for the rest of the season, with a fractured thumb.

“At least this year with a bigger roster, there are some kids that have the ability to step in and play a bigger role,” Williams said.

The peewee and junior bantam Cowichan teams were supposed to open their seasons in Campbell River last Saturday, but the host Eagles had to forfeit both games due to low numbers. Both Cowichan teams will be in action at home this Sunday, the peewees taking the field at 10 a.m. and the junior bantams at noon.