Bulldogs look to jump up standings
The Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs football team was hard at work at practice last Friday. Photos by BERNIE PUCHALSKI.
The Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs football team is ready to take the next step in 2018.
“We were a very young team last year and what has happened we are a year older, a year bigger, a year stronger and we have a higher football IQ,” head coach Peter Perron said. “We are coming into the league serious this year.”
About the only thing missing is the team is devoid of 12B players.
“It’s a killer because you draw on their leadership and it’s another level of accountability,” Perron said. “It’s a kid who could be playing university ball, but you want them to move on.”
Despite the absence of Victory Lappers, Perron is confident heading into the Niagara Region High School Athletic Association Tier 1 campaign.
“We are competing this year and more then last year,” he said. “Last year, it was a growth season for us.”
Returning Grade 12 player Hawkin Paleczny is also optimistic.
“We lost all of our Grade 12s, but we have some pretty good guys out here,” he said.
Paleczny lists Ethan Chase, Curtis Neilson and Eric Neilson as difference makers for Churchill.
“If we come together and work as a team, I think we will do well this year.”
In 2017, the Bulldogs went 1-4 in regular season play, before defeating the Thorold Golden Eagles 22-5 in the quarter-finals.
Churchill then fell 42-0 to the A.N. Myer Marauders after having trailed 7-0 late into the second quarter. Myer would go on to beat Greater Fort Erie 41-0 in the NRHSAA championship game.
“When we went into that semifinal game, I knew they had a very good team and we may not have had the horses because we were so young and we had Grade 9s and 10s going against a senior team,” Perron said. “At the half, it was close game and then they blew the doors off in the second half. But we were hanging tough with them with a Grade 9 centre.”
As he watched that game, Perron thought it boded well for 2018.
“We had got to a point in our progression where we were building confidence,” he said.
The program is also building its numbers.
“I am fielding about 56 players and I have a good mix of Grade 9s, 10s, 11s and 12s,” Perron said, adding the number of junior-aged and senior players on the roster is about an even split.
This past Friday was the fourth day of training camp since school started but the Bulldogs staged practices the week leading into the Labour Day weekend.
“Prior to camp starting, I had 34 to 40 kids coming out,” Perron said.
When he looks at his squad, Paleczny is one of the players Perron will be counting on this season.
“He has great hands and is a great receiver,” Perron said. “He’s like a Gronk (Rob Gronkowski) and when you put him in on defence, he will run through a wall.”
Perron describes Paleczny as a physical specimen with the potential to play football at the university level if he continues to develop.
“If he wants to commit to it, he could go to the next level.”
The 6-foot-5, 192-pound player is only entering his second year of high school football because of injuries and his commitments to the sport of volleyball.
“I missed it so I came back last year,” he said. “I still loved the sport — it’s my favourite sport — and I think the big motivator was seeing all my friends playing,” he said. “And, of course, I like the new field and equipment, and Mr. Perron is a great coach.”
Lat season, Paleczny played linebacker and defensive end for the Bulldogs. This season, he expects to suit up at tight end and defensive end.
He feels he improved a lot in his first year of high school ball and in the off-season.
“I definitely learned the plays and got to know the team better and I think I got stronger,” he said. “I tried to work out a lot in the summer.”
Paleczny will continue to play on Churchill’s volleyball team and it will require a bit of a juggling act.
“It’s doable right now because I have a spare and not too hard of classes this semester,” he said.
The 17-year-old has already received scholarship interest from university volleyball coaches, but would be all ears if university football coaches come calling.
“To be honest, if I got a scholarship and it was doable, I would play football.”