At the end of last week’s example of how bad mistakes can affect the score of a game, the Bulldogs came back this week with 2 main goals to get them the needed win. Last week’s mistakes cost them over 30 points and virtually eliminated opportunities to score. So this week the Dogs had to eliminate mistakes, gain some confidence in the passing game and score 3 TDs.
Coach Paquette challenged the offense this week by guaranteeing a win if the offense scores more than 14 points and move the ball for more than 250 yards. This week’s game saw Dave Wilson return to the QB position and the offensive line hungry for a breakout game. “Our offensive line is about 80% – 90% healthy which is better than the 60 we’ve been competing with all season, they needed to do well this game for confidence and now we have 2 weeks off before we go to Sudbury” explained Head Coach Marc Mathon after the Bulldogs dominated the Panthers in their 21 – 7 win at Rolly Fischer Football Field Saturday night.
There was a definite reduction of costly mistakes and Dave Wilson completed 11 passes of 17 attempts for a total of 173 yards. But the story of the night was how Mick Bilz and the offense turned on the rushing game and pounded the ball for 246 yards total. “Its hard to give one person the credit because this was clearly our receivers best blocking game and our offensive line really had it together tonight, but Mick gave his teammates the extra effort on every carry, the Panthers were not an easy team” said Mathon.
"His results are the fruits of all those efforts as Mick Bilz gained 200 yards rushing."
Dave Wilson was getting time in the backfield and held himself in the pocket more than before and he was rewarded with an efficient 65% completion ratio. The ball was spread around fairly good as Sterling Bilz snagged 3 balls for 69 yards and a major. All other receivers got 1 or 2 receptions, including a key 1st down reception in the 3rd quarter by Troy Millar to move the sticks. Following that catch, Wilson found rookie Scott Strang in the seam on a play action pass for 30 yards. Then another reception for 38 yards to Sterling Bilz set up the Dogs in the red zone to set up another TD pass to Sterling Bilz as well. In fact Wilson was 7 completions on 8 attempts in the second half.
The Bulldogs finished the night with 419 yards of offense, which met the offensive set by defensive coach Paquette’s challenge. Sure enough the Dogs prolonged drives gave the Defense the opportunity to rest in the hot 32+ C weather so they could recharge. The rest helped, because the Panthers, with their powerful passing game could only manage 32 net yards on the ground, but still put on an air show as they attempted 33 passes. Dan Kelly, the NFC’s #2 passer was able to complete 16 of 30 attempts for 219 yards before being taken out of the game on a sack attempt by All-Star defensive tackle Mike Gauthier.
“They got a few catch and run plays that ate up a lot of yards and they exposed a few areas we need to practice on, but this game was a prime example of a defense bending, but not breaking, they showed great heart” praised Mathon.
The league leading receiver Chad Murray was kept to only 48 yards on 9 catches, while his teammate Dallas Reese had a good game with 136 yards on 4 catches.
Ricky Thompson tried twice for the NFC field goal record of 53 yards by attempting one from 54 and another from 53. Both came up just short. “Ricky has hit a few of those in practice, including a 58 yarder, so we thought we’d give it a shot” said Mathon.
Defensive coach Dean Paquette was very satisfied with the performance of his defense and echos Coach Mathon’s comment that the Panthers exposed a few coverage skill areas they need to practice on.
“Apart from 3 big gainers, the guys were covering pretty well and with the pressure our front guys were putting on the QB, we were able to keep them off the scoreboard for most of the game” explained Paquette.
Line coach Nathan Lavigne was pleasantly surprised at the play of the offensive line, but also praised the D-Line for the consistent tough play all game. “Our O-Line has been hit by injuries early in the season and I was afraid we were going to lose the season. But I moved Big John (Smales) to Lt Tackle and it made a difference. The O-Line kept working hard and they are starting to get healthy. The 2 week rest will help with our playoff preparation” said Line Coach Nathan Lavigne.
Defensive End Tyler Croghan extended his league leading hurries from 11 to 14 with 3 more and another sack. And Mike Gauthier kept his great year on track again as he registered 4 ½ tackles, including a tackle for a loss, another 2 sacks and 3 hurries. “Mike was in the QB’s face all night and Tyler and Justin Boufford were causing havoc from the outside. Justin Boufford registered 2 of his own hurries. The defense had a total of 10 hurries.
Chris Bowes had 3 batted balls and an interception to snuff out a late game Panther drive. Returning All-Star veteran Darwin Renette also had 5 tackles, an interception and 20 yard return and a fumble recovery. Rookie Linebacker Corey Legault laid a solid hit on a receiver to force the fumble eventually recovered by Darwin Renette.
Other notables included converted wide receiver Ford Morland registering 5 tackles and a batted ball. The hammer award goes to Dogs defensive back Brian Samson after laying a full speed thundering hit on a panther receiver knocking his helmet off his head as he read a screen early.
The Dogs are now 3 – 4 and have a bye this week and travel to the always tough Sudbury Spartans on July 30th to close out the season. A win in Sudbury will seed them in 5th place and secure a 4 – 4 record to improve on last year’s record. “That 7 – 0 Sault loss really caused us some pain, because we were out playing them and let them slip. Our offense was not healthy and just couldn’t punch it in” said Mathon. If they finish 4th, like it appears will happen, the Dogs will travel to the Sault and have their shot at the Steelers again.
Submitted to BayToday.ca