By John DeCoste
The Valley Bantam Bulldogs put the finishing touches on a season for the ages at their closing banquet Nov. 29 in Kentville.
“I’m very proud of this group,” said head coach Reg Ogilvie. “There are kids here who had never won anything before, and some who had waited a long time.”
Valley scored 296 points in their 10 wins, an average of almost 30 points per game, and allowed just 41 points, 21 of which were in the provincial final against Bedford.
In their other nine games, one of which went into the books as a 6-0 win by forfeit, the Wildcats allowed 20 points.
What made this team special, Ogilvie said, was “mental toughness. When it came down to it, they refused to lose. It’s what sets them apart from the other teams I’ve coached.”
The Bulldogs started off their season with a pair of lopsided victories, 32-0 over Truro and 45-0 over Halifax Argos. Valley then took on the perennially strong Timberlea Titans. The Bulldogs held on for an 8-6 win.
“I don’t think we really knew how good we were until we beat Timberlea,” said Jon Main, chosen MVP of the provincial final. “They had set the bar really high in previous years. It was really important for us to beat them. It made us a team.”
After a bye week, the Bulldogs got back to business with a 24-6 win in Cape Breton, then improved to 5-0 with their third shutout win, 40-0 over Dartmouth Destroyers.
“All season, if our defense wasn’t the most important part of our game, it was really close to it,” said linebacker Allan Bond. “We were really strong as a group, with great leadership ability, and we really hung together.”
The team faced its toughest test in the Bedford/Sackville Saints in week six and scored a 33-2 win.
“Our defense held three opponents to negative offensive yardage in games this season,” Ogilvie pointed out.
In as good a reflection as any of the Bulldogs’ dominance, Fall River forfeited the final regular season game to the Bulldogs.
Ogilivie termed the decision “disappointing,” but the teams already knew they would be playing each other in the playoff semifinals the following week.
Whatever Fall River’s motivation was in forfeiting the game, it backfired on them, as the Bulldogs scored a 26-6 win to advance to the final against Bedford/Sackville.
“This team excelled in all aspects of the game,” Ogilvie said. “It was scary sometimes.”
He credited having extra coaches this season as a major key to the success.
“It allowed me the chance to step back and concentrate on different things, knowing the little things were taken care of.”
In the final at the East Hants Sportsplex, the Bulldogs won 31-21, putting the game away with a strong second half offensively and their usual solid effort on defense.
While Ogilvie termed the win ”a real team effort,” he did reserve special praise for Main, who had 201 yards on 23 carries on offense and a game-high 11 tackles and an interception on defense.
“We’re a really close group,” Main said. “We have really great athletes, we work well together, and we get along really well.”
Starting quarterback Luke Oulton remembered “all of us coming together as a team, and fighting through the tough moments” – which there were, despite the seemingly relative ease in which the Bulldogs went through the season.
All the team captains felt the 8-6 win over Timberlea in week three was the defining moment of the season.
“To be part of a team as great as this is really something special,” Bond said. “We’re like one big family.”
Ogilvie admitted choosing individual award winners for the 2012 Bulldogs was a major challenge, both because he doesn’t like handing out individual awards and because there were so many deserving players.
Dawson Schofield was chosen Teammate of the Year, Keir Frank-Rodgers and Marcel Bolland shared Most Improved and Coleton Oickle was Rookie of the Year.
Jared West received the Kevlar Award for endurance and “being bulletproof,” and Alex Hazel merited the Leadership Award. Ryan Kelly and Mason Rice shared the Heart and Soul Award.
The team MVP was shared by Bond, Main, Oulton, Isaac Melanson and Michael Ogilvie.
“They were the keys to our team,” Coach Ogilvie said. “I can’t separate them, and I really don’t know where we would have been without any of them.”