The Ballenas Whalers were sharp at the start but became dull as the game progressed in their much-anticipated border battle against football powerhouse John Barsby Bulldogs last week.
The Whalers senior AA varsity football team went down 21-13 against the hungry Bulldogs, who regained the Border Battle Memorial Trophy that they lost last year by just a point. Head coach Dan Smith said the Whalers got a bit too excited to play the Bulldogs.
“We just came out flat,” said Smith. “We’ve got to get better with our pass defense. We were a little too soft at times with our pass coverage. There were some big plays that happened that shouldn’t have happened.”
The Whalers scored a quick touchdown in only their second possession. Logan Pepper was able to weave around the Bulldogs defence and ran a 30-yard touchdown. With the one point conversion, the Whalers led 7-0.
The Bulldogs fought their way back, methodically advancing the ball using short passes into the flats. They eventually nailed a touchdown to make it 7-6. The Whalers denied the two-point conversion attempt.
The Whalers were able score another touchdown when quarterback Ben Robinson connected a 40-yard pass to Isaac Laroque-Wall, who then dashed to the end zone to make it 13-7. The Whalers missed the one-point convert. The lead, however, was shortlived as the Bulldogs replied with a touch down and this time made a successful two-point convert to take over the lead 14-13. They never looked back after that.
The Whalers were unable to solve the Bulldogs offense, which exploited the flat all throughout the game, said Smith.
“They explored our edges a little bit,” said Smith.
“They ran successfully on the sweeps and the bootlegs and thrown down the field. Those are the three things that they did well. We stopped the inside run very well and it’s just on the edge when they’re running tosses and bootlegs. We just didn’t get enough penetration.”
In the last four minutes of the game in the second half, quarterback Robinson had an opportunity to steer the Whalers back into contention when he made a strong dash to the end zone. He was inside the 10-yard line, when a Bulldog tackle led Robinson to drop the ball.
The Whalers, said Smith, had to get over the loss as they face another tough nemesis, Hugh Boyd Trojans in Richmond on Friday, Oct. 13 at 5 p.m.
“We needed to work on the blocking, the tackling and to also shorten things down in terms of what we want to try to do just to get our confidence back,” said Smith.
“It’s going to be a big day for Hugh Boyd because the two brothers that coach them, it’s their last game coaching and it’s their home game. They’re going to have all their alumni back. It’s going to be a big deal for them. It’s going to be a really interesting environment for us to go into. It will be fairly exciting and hostile for sure.”