Cowichan Valley Football Association

JB Bulldogs bound for Dogwood Cup final

Cowichan Valley Citizen
Junior bantam running back Jordan Russell powers through the Gordon Head defence during the Bulldogs’ 26-19 win at Cowichan Secondary School last Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Junior bantam running back Jordan Russell powers through the Gordon Head defence during the Bulldogs’ 26-19 win at Cowichan Secondary School last Saturday. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Thu Jun 22nd, 2017 5:00pm

The junior bantam Cowichan Bulldogs will battle for football’s Dogwood Cup championship this weekend after a hard-fought 26-19 win over the Gordon Head Raiders last Saturday.

“We faced a very well-coached Raiders team, who gave us all we could handle, both offensively and defensively,” Cowichan coach PJ Shea said. “With Cowichan and Gordon Head trading scores and defensive stops throughout the entire game, the final outcome could not be guessed until the final whistle.”

Bulldogs running backs Jordan Russell and Brock Lamont set the pace on offence, breaking tackles and battling for every extra yard, while the Cowichan defence managed to control Gordon Head’s ground game. The Raiders’ passing attack caused some problems in the early going, but the Cowichan defence eventually figured that out as well, and held off a comeback attempt in the dying minutes.

The junior bantams will take on another Raiders team this Saturday when they meet the Comox Raiders at Ladysmith’s Forrest Field, kicking off at 2 p.m. Shea is optimistic about his team’s chances.

“The players have really come together,” he said. “This is not the same team that struggled at the beginning of the season. The maturity and the pride that the players now display is what’s driving their success. They have earned the opportunity to play for a championship, and they are focused on winning it.”

The peewee Bulldogs also played in their championship semifinal last weekend, but couldn’t extend their four-game winning streak into the playoffs and lost 46-0 to the Saanich Wolverines.

“I am so proud of these kids,” peewee head coach Tim Maertz said. “This squad of 13 players played every game as hard as they could. Even being down 40-0, they played proudly, and left everything they had on the football field. There was no quit in these players.”

The Bulldogs started strong, getting big runs from Aiden and Davin Reithaug to get to the 20-yard line, although they eventually fell short on the fourth down.

The Cowichan defence nearly put a stop to Saanich’s first drive, forcing a fumble that they weren’t quite able to recover. The Wolverines ended up scoring their first touchdown on the very next play.

“It was a tough pill to swallow, but we all knew that the game wasn’t over after one touchdown,” Maertz said.

A big play by Lennox Weber and Aiden Reithaug put an end to Saanich’s next drive, and again the Bulldogs came close to scoring, this time when Nico Harris ran more than 50 yards to get deep in the Wolverines’ end. the Saanich defence tightened up and forced another loss on downs.

The score was still within reach at the midway point of the game.

“To only be down 16-0 at halftime against a team of 28-plus players, and who were in first place after the regular season was something I was very proud of for our squad,” Maertz said. “The Wolverines are used being up 30 or 40 points by halftime, and having teams just rolling over and quitting by halftime.”

Fatigue took over in the second half for the shorthanded Bulldogs. Players had to be shifted into different positions, and minor injuries became a factor. The deep Wolverindes squad started to pull away after that.

Maertz was still pleased with the way the season turned out for his team.

“The funnest part of being a coach at any level in any sport is looking back at where the players all started from, to what they have acheived at the end of the season,” he said. “These players all improved by leaps and bounds. I’m proud of them all.”