Football activity in the Cowichan Valley and throughout B.C. has been curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, but the Cowichan Bulldogs managed to get into a couple of all-star games before the lockdown, and are hoping to resume play in the fall.
“Cowichan has developed a reputation for producing athletes with strong work ethics and a high level of commitment,” said PJ Shea, who coached the bantam Bulldogs last fall and will guide the midget team this fall. “Our athletes are consistently competing at an extremely high level with those who are playing for school teams, where the programs are able to provide significantly more structure and support. We get our players for just a few hours a week — it’s their personal dedication and desire that’s making them successful. Whenever we are able to come back and play football, in whatever form it is going to take, I am confident our athletes will be ready.”
Just prior to the health shutdown, Bulldogs players participated in two separate showcase events: the Star Bowl all-star game for community football bantam- and midget-age players, and the CFC Fox 40 Western Prospect Challenge, which brings together the top young players from B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Shea was also the head coach for Team White in the bantam game.
Nine Bulldogs took part in the bantam Star Bowl: defensive linemen Jayden Strzok, Dillon Wilson and Joe Swift, linebacker Finn Shea, defensive backs Laine Hogstead and Drake Spong, running back Stirling Henry, and offensive lineman Hunter Maertz. They teamed up with players from Langley, Chilliwack, Comox and Ladysmith on the bantam White team coached by PJ Shea to soundly defeat a team of stars representing North Langley, North Surrey, Richmond and Westside. Wilson’s standout performance earned him game MVP honours.
At the midget level, the Bulldogs were represented by Dakota Cullum, Nicholas Young, Liam Simmonds, Carson Maertz, Aidan Taylor, Andrew Haywood and Matthew Pretula. Their team ended up on the wrong side of a 22-8 final score.
Many of the same players took part in the Western Prospect Challenge in Richmond, where the Cowichan players did more than just hold their own in a field made up mostly of high school players. Bantam Bulldogs Hogstead, Henry, Strzok, Finn Shea, Gregor McKenzie and Shammie Mahon took part at the senior level, with Wilson, Harris and Kayden Jones participating in the junior game, where Wilson was again named MVP. PJ Shea served as an assistant coach in the senior game.