The Barsby Bulldogs are building for another run at a B.C. High School Football AA Varsity, but Friday's home opener by be their biggest game of the year.
They enter the annual Border Battle against arch-rival Ballenas Whalers with a 2-0 regular season record, but are well aware they will need to play their best game to date to improve to 3-0. Though the Whalers enter with a 1-1 mark, losing 28-0 to the Windsor Dukes this past Friday, it is a game where the standings mean nothing.
"You have school pride on the line, program pride," said Barsby head coach Rob Stevenson. "You're whole season can go all the way, but if you win the Border Battle it makes it all the sweeter."
The Bulldogs have dominated the rivalry of late, winning the last four games, though the Whalers gave Barsby a scare last year in a 22-14 game at Merle Logan. The previous three games were all Bulldogs blowouts - 41-21, 56-25, 42-0. The last time Ballenas raised the Border Battle trophy was in 2008, as they shut out Barsby 21-0.
But the rivalry is not solely based on the location of the two schools. The Whalers have been one of the few teams in the Western Division that have been able to come close to the Bulldogs success on the provincial scene, making it to the provincial semifinals in 2012 and 2011 - losing to the Mission Roadrunners both times.
"All of our kids know how big the rivalry, it's pretty exciting, it's kind of the one you circle on the calendar and look forward to," said Ballenas head coach Jeremy Conn, who was once an assistant under Stevenson in the 1990s at Barsby.
"Barsby is one of the top programs, again, in B.C., so its a measuring stick. For our kids it's a good chance to see if we're ready to play with the big boys and make the adjustments we need to make."
It is a rivalry that still resonates with alumni from both teams.
Dustin Rodriguez starred with the Whalers during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He now plays with a number of ex-Bulldogs with the Vancouver Island Raiders, and says they still talk about the Border Battles they played against each other. Unfortunately for Rodriguez, he was always on the wrong end of those scores.
Still, he counts returning the opening kick off 75-yards for a touchdown in their 2011 contest one of the highlights of his high school career.
"It's a huge rivalry, it's one of the biggest rivalries in high school football," said Rodriguez, who has a small wager on the game with Raiders defensive tackle Jordan Kuziek.
this Friday. Once again they are a well-rounded team with a strong ground game, led by a trio of running backs - Alan Messner, Colton Laplante and Thomas Franks - and an dangerous passing game keyed by receiver Scott Childs and quarterback Garrin McDonnell.
"I expect them to come out real physical, to open up their whole playbook and to use every opportunity they have to keep the ball in their hands," said Stevenson. "We're expecting a lot of short kicks, trick plays, and attempts to create turnovers and swings of momentum on their part."
Kickoff is 6 p.m. at Merle Logan, and Barsby fans are asked to dress for a whiteout and bring a non-perishable donation for both schools' food hampers.
© Copyright 2013