The junior bantam Cowichan Bulldogs kept their playoff hopes alive with a win at home over the Victoria Renegades last Sunday.
It rained throughout the game at McAdam Park, and the wet and muddy conditions were definitely a factor in the football game, Cowichan head coach Opie Williams confirmed.
Max Lang got the Bulldogs on the board right away, returning the opening kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown, and the Cowichan defence shut down the Renegades’ first offensive foray. On Cowichan’s first offensive possession, Brad MacRae ran the ball 33 yards to get into the red zone, but the Bulldogs were turned back by the Victoria defenders, missing the field goal but still adding a rouge to their point total. The Renegades ran 90 yards on their next possession for a touchdown, but the Bulldogs blocked the extra point, and managed to keep Victoria off the scoreboard for the rest of the afternoon.
Cowichan’s special teams and defensive units had excellent outings, including big punts by MacRae and tackles by Isaac Keepence and Ryder Maertz. Kolten Crook made a big tackle on the one-yard line that helped force the Renegades to concede a safety and kick off. The Bulldogs took an 11-6 lead into halftime.
“We recognized their offence and made changes to shut the door,” Williams said. “And our offence was able to start moving the ball.”
Late in the third quarter, Maertz broke four tackles to score, and MacRae added one more touchdown to the total.
The Bulldogs will play their regular-season finale in Comox this weekend, and need a win or a tie to make the playoffs.
“Comox is just behind us in the standings,” Williams noted. “They are an evenly matched team and it should be an exciting game.”
Earlier on Sunday, the peewee Bulldogs were defeated 20-0 by Victoria. Breakdowns on defence plagued the Bulldogs, leading to big runs by the Renegades’ offence.
“Protecting the outside has been a weak spot on D for us all season,” Cowichan coach Trystan Ryder said. “The Renegades defence’s pass coverage was tight and they were able to intercept us twice.”
The offensive line was a highlight for the Bulldogs, giving quarterback Cruiz Heemskerk time to get off passes and stay on his feet. Centre Brayden Screaton played well in slippery conditions, and was able to control the exchange to Heemskerk. The O line also opened up holes for three-back Atlas Ryder, giving him time and space to go for some good runs.
“Although we were in the red zone multiple times, finishing the drive, which has been a weak point for our offence all season long, came into play again,” coach Ryder noted.
The peewee Bulldogs will also head to Comox this weekend for their season finale.
The bantam Bulldogs had last weekend off and will take their 7-0 record to Comox on Sunday, hoping to finish the regular season unbeaten.