Cowichan’s Joe Swift (90) hauls down a Warriors player during last Sunday’s bantam football game, while Andrew Beaith (20) comes in to provide backup. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

Bantam Cowichan Bulldogs handed first setback in recent memory

Rough weekend as peewees and junior teams also beaten at McAdam Park

After two years without a loss in the regular season, the bantam Cowichan Bulldogs’ streak came to an end on Sunday.

For many players on the bantam team, Sunday’s 25-0 setback at the hands of the Vancouver Westside Warriors was their first taste of defeat in two years, covering fall and spring seasons at multiple age levels.

Head coach PJ Shea wasn’t crushed by the result.

“It’s all good though,” he said. “Perhaps a kick in the pants is exactly what we needed.”

The Warriors came to Duncan with a fairly simple game plan, Shea explained, and they executed it well.

“With a strong running game, the Warriors were able to capitalize on some undisciplined penalties, and some uncharacteristic play from the Bulldogs,” he said. “The Warriors did to Cowichan what the Bulldogs have been doing to teams for the last few seasons: methodically and confidently moving the ball down the field by finding a defensive weakness and exploiting it.”

The Bulldogs did manage to put together a few moments of success, but couldn’t sustain anything long enough to get on the scoreboard. The Cowichan defence, which has been the team’s backbone during its run of success, was “plagued by misreads, missed tackles and missed responsibilities.”

“This game was a big wake-up call for the team,” Shea said. “We have a team full of exceptional athletes who have had a significant amount of success in the past. The team is now part of a different league [the Vancouver Mainland Football League]. We are no longer a big fish in a little pond. Winning at this level is difficult. Losing sucks, especially when you know you have the skill and confidence to succeed. Sometimes getting hit in the face is the best way to recognize that you are in a fight. It hurts, but it sure can motivate you. I know this team is now extremely motivated.”

The bantams are home again this Sunday against Meadow Ridge at 12:30 p.m., leading up to the midget Bulldogs’ game against North Surrey at 2:30 p.m.

The junior bantam Bulldogs opened their season with a 26-6 loss to the Victoria Renegades at McAdam Park on Sunday.

Most of last year’s powerhouse JB team moved up to bantam, so this year’s squad is made up largely of players stepping up from peewee.

“There were a lot of butterflies for our first game,” coach Ted Harris noted.

Rookies Eamon Manley and Devon Tidder performed well in their first football games ever. Quarterback Nico Harris scored Cowichan’s only touchdown, and also completed several passes to receiver Dillon Wilson and Davin Reithaug. Reithaug, Harris and Wilson also had strong running games.

“We have a lot to work on,” Ted Harris acknowledged. “But we will take the loss as a learning experience and build on it.”

The peewee Bulldogs also opened their season with a loss at McAdam Park, falling 30-0 to Victoria. Cowichan coach Opie William gave credit to the Renegades for not running up the score.

“They did a great job of spreading the ball around,” he said.

With only five returning players from last year, the Bulldogs admittedly struggled on offence, but performed better on the defensive side of the ball.

“I look at this first game as a exposition game, learning the talents of the players and what is best suited for the team,” Williams said. “We have made changes on offence and defence, moving players into better positions for them and the team. We still have lots of positions still available on the team and always looking for more players.”

The junior bantam and peewee Bulldogs visit the Victoria Spartans this weekend.

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