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By John DeCoste
The Valley Bantam Bulldogs put their undefeated season on the line this past weekend when they met the Bedford Saints for the NSMFA Tier 1 championship.
The bantams qualified for the final Nov. 18 with a 25-6 win over Fall River Dragons Nov. 10 on the Kinsmen Field in Canning.
The Atom Bulldogs advanced to the provincial Tier 2 championship final, also against Bedford, Nov. 17. The atoms came from behind to edge Truro 8-6 in their semifinal Nov. 11 in Truro.
Both provincial championship games were scheduled for the East Hants Sportsplex, an indoor facility and the new home of Football Nova Scotia, which provided a level - and dry - playing field for all participating teams.
The Peewee Bulldogs were not as fortunate in their playoff semifinal, as Truro came back for a 12-8 win Nov. 10 in Canning, ending the Bulldogs’ season.
The atom game in Truro was a 5 p.m. start, which head coach Rob Suffron confirmed was his young team’s “first time playing under the lights.”
Valley and Truro hadn’t met since the first week of the season, when Truro eked out a 6-0 victory. In this match, Truro again scored first, breaking a big play for a touchdown in the second quarter.
The score remained 6-0 until late in the fourth quarter, when the Bulldogs struck for a touchdown by Nick Hamilton to tie the score.
Owen MacRae, who had left the field injured earlier in the game, then came on to successfully kick the two-point convert that provided the game-winning points.
Coach Suffron described the Valley defence as “fantastic.”
“After the one big play, I don’t think (Truro) had another first down the rest of the game,” he said.
In nine games this year, the Atom Bulldogs had allowed the opposition 82 points, or slightly more than nine points a game.
The bantams, meanwhile, improved to 9-0 on the season with their semifinal win over the Fall River Dragons. Valley got a balanced team effort, scoring points on offence (a touchdown by Jon Main), defence (a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Isaac Melanson) and special teams (a touchdown by Michael Ogilvie).
Ogilvie also had a rouge on the opening kickoff and added three converts to round out the scoring.
On defence, the Bulldogs turned in their customary strong team effort, though head coach Reg Ogilvie did single out Marcel Bolland and Isaac Melanson for their strong play on the defensive line.
The peewees tangled with the Truro Blue Bombers on a blustery day in Canning that made it difficult for either team to generate much offense.
The Bulldogs scored early on a touchdown run by Jayden Simmonds and a convert by Kaleb Winter. The Valley defence shut out Truro for three-and-a-half quarters, led by strong efforts from Kyle Chappus, Logan Potter, Kaleb Winter, Ethan Clahane, Brennan Foote and Charles Gloumeau.
Truro scored its first touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 40-yard run on a broken play that the Bulldogs appeared to have stopped.
Bulldogs’ head coach Kevin Hayes described the winning touchdown as “a football miracle.” Up 8-6 with less than a minute to play, the Bulldogs attempted to punt the ball out of bounds and pin Truro deep in their territory.
The punt ended up hitting the helmet of a Bulldogs’ blocker and bouncing off the ground and into the arms of a Truro player, who returned it 50-plus yards for the game-winning score, with just 22 seconds on the clock.
“Sport mirrors life, and sometimes you have crazy bounces. We’re all extremely proud of this version of the Peewee Bulldogs,” he said, adding, “there are a lot of bright futures in this group.”