The Cowichan Bulldogs were clearly the best team at the B.C. junior bantam football championships in Kamloops last weekend, but a bizarre format prevented them from bringing home the provincial title.
As Island champions, the Bulldogs squared off against the Kelowna Lions and North Delta Longhorns in the tournament to determined B.C.’s best team. In the opening round, the teams each played 30-minute mini games against the two others, with Cowichan rolling over Kelowna 22-6 and North Delta 20-0 to sit atop the field.
Instead of a final game to decide the champs, however, Cowichan and Kelowna met again in a “sudden death shootout” on the 20-yard line.
Unfortunately, Cowichan fumbled the ball, giving Kelowna a chance to kick a field goal. The Lions missed, but the ball sailed through the end zone for a single-point rouge, and Kelowna took home the championship trophy.
All the stats pointed to the Bulldogs as the superior team, as they outscored their opponents by a combined 42-7 over the two games and the shootout.
The Cowichan defence was outstanding at provincials, as has been the case all season. Defensive lineman Dillon Wilson had the best day of his young football career, making stops and applying consistent pressure to the opposing backfield. Defensive back Jesse Kwasny continued his strong play with timely tackles and an interception. Middle linebacker Finn Shea led the defence in tackles and had a remarkable fumble recovery for a touchdown. Jaxson Jones also chipped in with a solid outing at defensive end.
Shea also took care of all the Bulldogs’ scoring, with touchdown runs of 18, 64, 44, 23 and 53 yards, along with a 23-yard fumble return, while Trekker James had a strong showing at quarterback.
Shea was named MVP of the provincial tournament, and Kwasny was honoured as Most Sportsmanlike Player.
“This was a special year, with a special group of athletes,” Cowichan head coach PJ Shea said. “Not often does a group come together so completely. We, as coaches and as parents, cannot relay how proud we are of these young men.”