The Cowichan Bulldogs are headed for the midget football provincial semifinals following a thrilling 28-14 win over the Richmond Raiders on the Mainland last Sunday.
“The game provided a lot of drama in the first half,” midget head coach PJ Shea said. “In the second, the athletes settled down and began to focus on what they needed to do to win. Several players took over that game for us. Our leaders continue to step up, but it was role players like Sawyer Ellison and Logan Laver that elevated their game and really won us the day.”
The Bulldogs got off to a quick start, with Finn Shea scoring on the opening drive. Richmond responded immediately, returning the next kickoff for a touchdown, then went ahead by capitalizing on a Cowichan error.
Down by seven going into the second half, the Bulldogs found another level and began controlling play on both sides of the ball. Let by the strong running of Finn Shea and Jayden Strzok, the Cowichan offence wore down the Richmond defence. A long pass completion from Shea to Gregor MacKenzie provided a vital spark that led to three unanswered touchdowns: two from Shea and another from Strzok.
On defence, the Cowichan secondary came up with several significant plays. Among the big contributors were Jesse Kwasny, a longtime Bulldog and volunteer firefighter in the mould of Calgary Stampeders legend Stu Laird. Safety Stirling Henry and cornerback Trey McCuaig-Jones helped shut down Richmond’s excellent passing game.
The Bulldogs will return to the Mainland this Sunday for a provincial semifinal showdown with the North Surrey Bears.
The peewee Bulldogs wrapped up their regular season in fine form with a 36-20 win over the Oceanside Lions at Ballenas Secondary School in Parksville.
The peewees showed off how much their passing game has improved over the course of the season, as quarterback Gus Steeves spread the ball around his backs and receivers, with touchdowns from himself, running backs Mica Kendrick and Aylin Canning, and tight end Atlas Ryder, while wideout Cole Tokarek also came up with some big catches. Backup centre Emmitt Ryder stepped up to fill in for Marshall Johnson at a key spot on the offensive line.
The Cowichan defence had another solid game, with huge tackles that helped set up scoring opportunities for the offence. Cornerback Alex Erickson and linebacker Landon Laver were forces in the secondary. On special teams, Brayden Haygel had two kick returns for over 40 yards that led to scoring drives.
“This team has played so well and continues to get better and better,” coach Trystan Ryder said. “The players have dealt with adversity like a team of seasoned veterans, yet the majority are rookies. The coaches and staff are all so impressed with the whole team, and we are pumped to get the playoffs started.”
The peewee Bulldogs will play at home against Saanich in the semifinals which had yet to be scheduled as of Wednesday.
The bantam Bulldogs were supposed to play the Comox Raiders in Ladysmith last Sunday, but the Raiders forfeited. Cowichan will still get a crack at Comox when the teams meet in the first round of the upcoming playoffs.