Cowichan Bulldogs’ season goes right to the whistle

The 2016 season came to an end for the bantam Bulldogs on a wet and breezy afternoon last Sunday as they lost to the Richmond Raiders.

The 2016 season came to an end for the bantam Cowichan Bulldogs on a wet and breezy afternoon last Sunday as they lost 42-6 at the hands of the Richmond Raiders in the Vancouver Mainland Football League semifinals.

The Bulldogs got off to a strong start in the first half, and trailed just 13-6 at halftime, but couldn’t hold off the host Raiders in the second half.

“It looked like it was going to be a great day as our running game pushed the Richmond defence around,” head coach Mike Williams recalled. “Unfortunately, the weather didn’t help as we were unable to hang on to the ball; we lost five fumbles on offence — game changers to say the least.”

The Bulldogs had given the undefeated Raiders a pair of challenging games in the regular season, so they felt confident going into the playoffs.

“On the defensive side, the Richmond Raiders did not show us anything that we did not prepare for,” Williams said. “We as coaches just didn’t do enough to prepare our kids for a tough, physical brand of defence. Missed tackles, missed assignments and ill-timed penalties are magnified once you get into the playoffs.”

The game was still within the Bulldogs’ grasp midway through, but the Raiders proved to be too much, scoring 20 points in the third quarter.

“A few big plays by the Raiders offence and a couple of turnovers on our side and we let the game get away from us,” Williams said. “However, I was very happy and a bit surprised with how some of our kids played given the conditions. We played hard until the end.”

The season may have ended earlier than the Bulldogs would have liked, but making the playoffs alone was a huge improvement from 2015.

“At the beginning of the year I set the goal of five wins,” Williams recalled. “Considering we were 0-10 last year, I thought five was realistic. We finished the regular season at 5-5 and gave the 10-0 Raiders their strongest competition, even if the final score did not indicate it.”

Williams commended the players for their commitment over the course of the long season, and made sure not to forget the rest of the staff as well: assistant coaches Tim Maertz, Ross McCauley, JP Sterling, Curtis Rice, Doug Williams and Brendan Gowanlock, and trainer Brenda Hennig and manager Erin Young.

Mike Williams is also an offensive line coach for the Westshore Rebels, who lost the national junior championship game on Saturday, making for a difficult weekend.

“It made for a busy and unfortunate results weekend,” he said. “Next year starts right away.”

The junior bantam Bulldogs saw their season come to a dramatic end on Friday as they lost to the Oceanside Lions by just three points in Ladysmith.

The Lions had thumped the Bulldogs earlier in the season, but the Bulldogs pushed them to the limit in the league semifinal.

Oceanside led by seven points with less than two minutes left to play, when things took a dramatic turn. The Bulldogs scored a touchdown and were successful on the two-point convert to go up by one point. The Lions responded with a quick major of their own, and were ahead by five. The Bulldogs failed to score on offence, but the Cowichan defence managed a safety to get the team within three. Unfortunately, that’s as close as it would get.

“The game signalled the end of the fall season, but for a team that is young and developing, it also marked the beginning of the pursuit for a 2017 spring season championship,” head coach PJ Shea said.

The peewee Bulldogs were scheduled to play a makeup game in Campbell River, but the host team didn’t have enough players and had to back out, ending the peewee season.