Junior bantam Bulldogs fullback Brad MacRae runs the ball during a home game earlier this season. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)

’Dogs gear up for playoffs with wins in Comox

Cowichan Bantam and JB teams beat rival Raiders

The bantam Bulldogs wrapped up a perfect regular-season and the junior bantams locked up a playoff berth in a successful weekend for Cowichan football teams in Comox.

The bantam Bulldogs beat the Comox Raiders 68-0 on Sunday to cap off a perfect regular season, finishing with an 8-0 record and 375-6 point differential.

“Though the final score was lopsided, the game maintained the intensity that always exists when these two teams meet,” Cowichan bantam coach PJ Shea said.

As usual, the Bulldogs did their scoring in a variety of ways: through the air, via a touchdown pass from Finn Shea to Gavin Kendrick; on the ground, with two scoring runs each from Shea, Jayden Strzok and Laine Hogstead, and one each from Kendrick and Dillon Wilson; and through a pick-six by Sterling Henry.

Defensively, the Bulldogs were tested throughout the match by the Raiders’ offence, but Cowichan’s speed and experience was too much for the young Comox squad.

Tied with North Langley for first place in the Vancouver Mainland Football League bantam standings, the Bulldogs have a bye to the Island final, which they will host at McAdam Park on Nov. 10

“The focus from the start of the season has been to continually improve each week,” coach Shea commented. “With the playoffs now upon us, nothing has changed. Our goal for improvement will continue.”

The junior bantam Bulldogs clinched a playoff berth with a 38-24 victory, also in Comox. Cowichan led 24-6 at halftime, but let Comox back into the game in the second half.

“It was a very thrilling game for the fans, but not for the coaching staff,” Cowichan head coach Opie Williams said.

The Bulldogs took charge from the start, with Conner Harper recovering a fumble on the opening kickoff that led to a touchdown by Cody Williams. The next kickoff was also fumbled by the Raiders and recovered by Cody Williams, followed by a long run by Ryder Maertz and touchdown by Brad MacRae, giving the Bulldogs a 16-0 lead within the first five minutes of the game.

A big tackle by Isaac Keepence shut down Comox’s first promising drive, and the Raiders didn’t get on the scoreboard until the second quarter. Max Lang returned the ensuing kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown, then Keepence recovered the ball after Comox fumbled the Bulldogs’ next kickoff. The Bulldogs had two more second-quarter touchdowns called back due to penalties.

Comox scored first in the second half, but Cody Williams replied with a 65-yard touchdown run. Comox scored again, and the Bulldogs marched the ball back down the field, with Williams again finishing the drive on a five-yard plunge. The Raiders added another touchdown, but the Bulldogs were able to kill the clock after that.

The junior bantam Bulldogs will visit the Victoria Spartans this Sunday at 12:30 p.m. for the Island semifinal at Westhills Stadium.

“They are the No. 1 team and we respect the power of their offence,” coach Williams acknowledged. “We have made adjustments after our regular-season matchup and our offence, defence and special teams will be too much for them.”

The midget Bulldogs had a bye last weekend, and will face Comox in the Island semifinal at Ladysmith’s Forrest Field this Sunday at 2 p.m.

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