The ongoing growth in the Belmont secondary football program reached a pinnacle last week, as the junior varsity Bulldogs took another step on the road to progress.
Down 16-10 late in the fourth quarter at home against the arch-rival Mount Douglas Rams, the Belmont boys got a fourth-down touchdown strike from quarterback Darian Jules to receiver Brett Milligan to tie the game.
Eli Nelms-Horton, who had already kicked four points for his team, made no mistake on the convert to give the Bulldogs a 17-16 lead that held up for the win.
The victory clinched the AAA Island Conference crown for the Bulldogs (5-0) and marked the first junior varsity (Grade 9-10) win for Belmont over Mount Doug in the Bulldogs’ nine-year existence. It also was the first Rams loss to an Island team in as long as anyone around the teams could remember.
“This win is the result of years of hard work,” Bulldogs’ head coach Alexis Sanschagrin said afterward. “We have a long-term vision and this win is a milestone on the way to building something even greater.
“We have quality coaches, top-notch facilities with West-hills Stadium and a brand new school (opening) in 2015. And most importantly, the kids have bought into the core value we are preaching – and they have a lot of fun being successful.”
Belmont moves on to play Surrey’s Lord Tweedsmuir in the opening round of the playoffs Nov. 13. At press time, the time and location had yet to be determined.
The defensive battle saw the Rams open scoring in the first quarter with a converted touchdown. Jules hit Cole Johns with a perfect TD strike a short time later, converted by Nelms-Horton to make it 7-7.
A second-quarter field goal by the Belmont kicker made it 10-7, a lead the Bulldogs carried into halftime.
The Rams executed a successful onside kick to start the second half, giving them good field position that led to the tying field goal and a 10-10 score.
Mount Doug went ahead by six with another touchdown in the fourth quarter, but missed the convert, a play which turned out to be a critical point in the game.
Belmont maintained their composure and drove the field, scoring on a fourth-down gamble with their options running out.
The Bulldogs defence, playing aggressively as it had most of the game, extinguished any hope of another Mount Doug comeback by closing out the game on four straight downs.
The finish pleased defensive co-ordinator Sanschagrin.
“I liked the way we played defensively,” he said. “We dictated the tempo and forced them to adjust to us. We tackled well, we were disciplined in our assignments and made some great athletic plays when they tried to pass the ball, including three sacks and three interceptions.”
The highly anticipated game between two undefeated teams may have proven to be a changing of the guard, said Belmont’s assistant head coach, J.C. Boice.
“It is rewarding to see our kids start to believe,” he said. “This was a signature win for our program. They are a very close group of kids that take care of each other. They decided they wanted this and they went out and took it.”