Bulldogs defeat Wolfpack in slugfest
Janal Williams’ ability to be in the right spot at the right time Thursday helped the Sir Winston Bulldogs senior football team escape with a hard-fought 36-31 victory over the visiting West Niagara Wolfpack in Niagara Region High School Athletic Association Tier 1 play.
Right after his team scored a major to grab a 20-14 lead in the third quarter, the Grade 12 student caught an onside kick in the air and raced 40 yards into the end zone to give his team a 26-14 lead. In the fourth quarter, he chased down another onside kick to help set up a TD that gave the Bulldogs a 36-29 advantage with two minutes left in the game. With West Niagara marching towards a game-tying TD in the final minute of the game, Williams recovered a fumble to secure the win for Churchill.
“I almost broke my finger on the recovery,” he said. “One of the players jumped on my finger. But sometimes you have to do what you have to do for the team.”
The 5-foot-9, 160-pound defender started playing football for something to do.
“I did track but then COVID hit and one of my friends got me to play. I tried out for it, I ended up being really good at it so I continued,” the 18-year-old said. “I love hitting, pick sixes and getting picks.”
Williams described the West Niagara game as amazing.
“My friends are on the other team and it was a lot of fun to play against them.”
Williams works with West Niagara quarterback Xavier Zatylny and Kyle Azem-Simmons at Lottridge Tire in Beamsville.
He feels Thursday’s win is a building block for the Bulldogs.
“We learned to play as a team this game and we worked really hard. The game we had against GFESS, we were struggling.”
Churchill head coach Peter Perron is glad to have Williams on his team.
“Janal only started playing football last year and because of his performance him and Brady Pupek were our rookies of the year because we couldn’t decide between them; Brady on offence and Janal on defence,” he said. “You saw tonight what he can do defensively and on special teams. The kid is all hustle and heart.”
Williams’ commitment to the team saw the coaches make him a captain this season.
“A second-year player and now he is a captain,” Perron said. “That shows the maturity and positive attitude that Janal has.”
Perron wasn’t surprised with the game West Niagara gave the Bulldogs.
“I predict in three years from now that they will be the juggernaut to beat. They are a solid team, well coached and they got the bodies,” he said. “When you look at the bodies compared to last year, they are much more mature.”
He knew his team was in a for a battle.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game like every game this year. This league is getting tougher and tougher,” he said. “It was a slugfest and we are going to be licking our wounds tomorrow. We will regroup and continue to build to where we are going.”
Several Churchill starters were knocked out of the game but Perron was pleased with how his backups performed.
“They came in and stepped up. We had some second-stringers coming who didn’t have a lot of football IQ but they performed well for us and that is a positive.”
West Niagara head coach Zack Silverthorne was impressed by the intensity of Thursday’s game.
“That is probably the best football game that I have ever been a part of.”
It was extremely hard hitting.
“We are down four (players) and are they down 10? The medic earned his money today.”
Silverthorne agreed his team’s performance showed it was a Tier 1 calibre squad.
“Honestly, they got every bounce. We had two undisciplined penalties that extended drives, a horse collar penalty that extended a drive and they all added up to points for Churchill,” he said. “We don’t like losing but we are OK with this one.”
West Niagara was powered by the running of Tyler Foster, who rushed for 284 yards on 22 carries.
“He is going to beat himself up because he dropped the ball at the end but come on, we are not here without him,” Silverthorne said. “He is 6-foot-1, 190, he’s elusive, he is a basketball kid so he knows how to move without the ball and he has tons of power. He leads with his shoulder.”
It was Foster’s second-ever game of organized football.
West Niagara plans to take its play Thursday and carry it on to the rest of the season.
“We have to clean up ourselves and hopefully we will get another shot at them,” Silverthorne said.
Bulldogs 36 Wolfpack 31
Cat’s Caboose Player of the Game: West Niagara’s Tyler Foster with 22 carries for 284 yards, including TD runs of seven, 12 and 75 yards.
For the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs: TD passes of 11, 65 and 28 yards from Quinn Johnston to Brady Pupek; one-yard QB keeper for TD by Johnston; Janal Williams, fumble recovery and two onside kick recoveries, including one for a TD; 11-yard field goal by Ryan Midany; Ty Kostyniuk, fumble recovery.
For the West Niagara Wolfpack: Foster, three TDs, 10-yard TD pass from Xavier Zatylny to Ryden Lapcevich; Murray Hildreth, sack.
Game stats: First downs: Bulldogs 17, Wolfpack 17. Net offensive yards: Bulldogs 315, Wolfpack 418. Turnovers: Bulldogs 0, Wolfpack 4. Penalties: Bulldogs 7 for 75 yards, Wolfpack 12 for 85 yards.