Cowichan Bulldogs all take big steps forward

It was a weekend of improvement across the board for all three Cowichan Bulldogs football teams.

It was a weekend of improvement across the board for all three Cowichan Bulldogs football teams.

While only the bantam team came out of Sunday’s games with a victory, both the junior bantam and peewee squads also took big steps forward.

“All in all, it was a very good day,” bantam Bulldogs head coach Mike Williams said after his team’s 23-21 win over the Salmon Arm Chargers in Richmond, considered a home game for the Bulldogs. “It was a true team effort as everybody contributed in some way or another.”

The Bulldogs set the tone on offence right off the bat, led by their running attack. Alex Marinakis had a strong day, finishing with 164 yards on 21 carries, including a 39-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

“I love his enthusiasm,” Williams said of Marinakis. “Even if he took a penalty for diving across the goal-line.  Our run game is our bread and butter; 260 yards on the ground is a good day.”

No running game can be successful without solid blocking, something the Bulldogs got from Nicholas Young, Evan McEwan, Liam Hennig, Matthew Pretula and Boston Hardy.

Cowichan’s passing game also found some success against Salmon Arm as Carson Maertz finished with 101 yards and two touchdowns on 4-for-11 passing, along with 68 rushing yards. All four completions were caught by Dakota Cullum, who added long runs after hauling in short passes.

Linebacker Evan Kwasny was a force on defence, finishing with an astonishing 17 tackles, most of which prevented big plays. Salmon Arm pushed hard down the stretch with 75- and 50-yard touchdown runs, and had the ball late in the fourth when time ran out.

The bantams have two weeks off where they were scheduled to play the Victoria Spartans, who have folded.

The team has three games remaining, starting with a home game on Oct. 23 against the Westside Warriors.

The junior bantam Bulldogs came out on the losing side of a 12-6 score against the Ladysmith Steelers, but co-coach PJ Shea felt that his team turned a corner.

“We are a young team that has had to take time to mature,” he said. “This game was the first real indication that the maturing process has begun. With that maturity will come self confidence, and self confidence can do amazing things. Especially for young people.”

The Cowichan offence was in tough against a big, skilled Ladysmith defence. Lineman and captain Jordan Russell scored his team’s only touchdown on a long kickoff return.

Defensively, two big plays that the Bulldogs allowed marred what was otherwise a strong day.

“If not for two big runs, which resulted in touchdowns, the Cowichan defence was able to continually stymie an extremely talented Ladysmith offence,” Shea said.

Standout plays for the junior bantam Bulldogs included a huge third quarter interception by defender Gavin Kendrick, several tackles for major losses by middle linebacker Finn Shea and a timely sack by lineman Jayden Strzok.

Like the junior bantams, the peewee Bulldogs played a much better game than the week before. The defence had a strong outing, making just a few critical errors that led to touchdowns on big plays.

“I was impressed that the defence was getting to the ball carrier and making group tackles,” head coach Opie Williams said.

The peewee offence was in trouble even before the game started, missing three key players. The Bulldogs were able to get Zoe Billings in at running back, and it worked out for them.

“She did well, made some nice cuts and popped back up after a big hit by the Steelers,” Williams said.

Both the peewee and junior bantam Bulldogs will play their games in Comox this Sunday.