They may hail from a little high school in Harewood, but on the gridiron, these guys are no underdogs.
The John Barsby Bulldogs AA varsity football team goes into the 2012 season among the favourites to win the B.C. title. Barsby has played in the last two Subway Bowl provincial championships, winning in 2010 and coming up a few yards short in 2011.
“We all know where we want to go this season, and we all know how last season ended for a lot of us,” said Dexter Shea, who plays wingback and linebacker. “So it pushes us.”
The Bulldogs don’t want to talk championship games at this time of year, though. Instead, they set their goals week by week.
“You want to win it, but you’ve got to get there to even have that chance,” said Rob Stevenson, the team’s coach.
So far this fall the ’Dawgs have looked like a contending team. They started the pre-season with a 40-36 loss to the defending AAA varsity champions, Mt. Doug, then shut out Abbotsford Collegiate 40-0.
“We’ve definitely established what our identity is this year, and that’s going to be physical and relentless,” Stevenson said.
Here’s a look at the 2012 Barsby Bulldogs, who kick off the regular season Friday (Sept. 21) in North Vancouver against Carson Graham.
The Bulldogs have such depth that many of their offensive players will be able to play only on that side of the ball, a luxury in AA. It means that the ’Dawgs can go full-bore, every play.
“We just keep beating up on them, we never stop,” said Ryan Dekker, Barsby lineman. “Our offensive motto is ‘chainsaw’ – we keep moving constantly. [Teams] won’t be able to hang with us.”
Brody Taylor and Austin Lyle are the quarterbacking tandem.
In Barsby’s double-wing offence, its primary playmakers are its wingbacks. A ton of different guys will contribute there, including Brandon Parker, Duc Truong and Jacob Odynsky. Kyle Vollet, Shea and Ricky Orr will also line up as wingbacks. Frankie Shaw, Nick Pedersen and Justin Cook play fullback and Will Cook and Montana Mize are the tight ends.
The offensive line features Brenden Bruce, Ryan Stratton, Dekker, Tristan Slotte and others.
The Bulldogs’ swarming D is led by defensive coordinator Larry Cooper. He demands that his guys “rally” on every tackle, he said, getting 11 helmets to the football.
“Our physicality, our hitting, it really scares people,” Cooper said. “I’ve actually seen [opposing players] go back to the huddle and say, ‘You go catch it over the middle, coach,’ that kind of a look.”
The defensive line sees Tyler Harvey, Justin Cook and Seth Amstutz on the ends and James Robinson, Joe Smith and James Manson inside.
Shea, Vollet, Odynsky and Chance MacKay-Topley are some of the playmakers at linebacker.
Free safety David Work leads the defensive backfield, which also includes Orr, Shawn Arabsky and Shota Higuchi.
Odynsky is the team’s kicker and he, Parker and Vollet will return kicks. Work and Arabsky will return punts.
Stevenson said he’s interested to see how this year’s Bulldogs team improves each week.
“Because the version that hopefully gets into the playoffs may be one of our best ever,” he said. “This football team has the potential to rival the great ones we’ve had and surpass it. It has the potential – we’re not there yet.”
After Barsby’s game at Carson Graham, the team is on the road again the following week at Windsor, then plays the Nanaimo District Islanders at NDSS on Oct. 5.