Trailing 20-0 at halftime on Sunday, the midget Cowichan Bulldogs refused to give up and completed a remarkable second-half turnaround to beat the North Surrey Bears 28-0.
“I can’t say how proud I am of how the guys held their heads up when we were down 20 points,” said assistant coach Tim Maertz, who took the reins on Sunday in the absence of head coach Mike Williams.
The Bulldogs, who lost 40-0 last time the teams met, struggled to get anything going in the first half.
“Just when we were getting offensive drives going, we’d get a setback with penalties or something,” Maertz lamented.
The team made some changes at halftime, including putting Dakota Cullum in at quarterback. On one of their first second-half possessions, running back Damian McCuaig-Jones scored on a swing pass, and the Bulldogs were back in the game.
Brazilian exchange student and kicker Richardo Chiaparini also played a big part in the comeback by repeatedly pinning the Bears deep in their own end. When North Surrey was forced to punt the ball on their next possession, the Bulldogs were still close to the red zone and McCuaig-Jones was able to punch it in. Chiaparini kicked the ball deep again, and the Bulldogs stripped the ball from the Bears, sending it into the air and back down into the hands of a Cowichan player. A few passing plays later, Cullum scored on a quarterback sneak.
Late hits by the North Surrey players led to penalties that played into the Bulldogs’ hands.
“One thing I’ll say about Surrey is that they were pretty undisciplined in how they played,” Maertz said. “They made quite a few late hits that resulted in big penalty yards for us.”
A passing play to Carson Maertz led to a 15-yard penalty when a Surrey player hit him on his way out of bounds, and then a defensive player threw his helmet, leading to another penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct. That helped get the Bulldogs to the one-yard line, where Boston Hardy dragged several Surrey players over the line to score.
North Surrey had possession at the three-minute warning, but it took almost the entirety of those three minutes to get into the Cowichan end.
“They ended up getting down to the 20 or 25,” Maertz said. “That’s where our defence really dug in and put in a big stand toward the end of the game.”
At that stage, Chris Hood swatted down a pass. The Bears’ next pass was incomplete, so they had to go for it on third down, and Hood knocked it down again. Cowichan got the ball back and got it out of their end to lock up the win.
The Bulldogs finished with 78 rushing yards, led by Cullum’s 56, and 75 passing yards, including three completions to McCuaig-Jones for 36 yards and two touchdowns. On defence, Nicholas Young had six tackles and two sacks, Hood had five tackles, and Brooks Branchi had four tackles and one interception.
“It was a huge team effort that really got us this victory, the ability to bounce back after getting scored on three times in the first half,” Maertz said.
The Bulldogs have one more regular-season game left, at home this Sunday to the league-leading North Langley Kodiaks at 2 p.m. The Kodiaks haven’t lost all year, and have given up just one touchdown. They beat Cowichan 56-0 in September, but the Bulldogs had a lot of players missing, and North Langley has some key injuries this time around.
“I think these guys are keen. I think these guys are ready for it,” Maertz said. “If they play the way they did against Surrey, we could walk away with the W.”