Kyle Vollet promises the Barsby Bulldogs will be better.
The AA Varsity B.C. High School Football power received a rare dose of intimidation as they were beat 36-30 by the AAA Varsity Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers this past Friday. They were plagued by bad penalties that extended scoring drives for their Surrey hosts and their offence had trouble getting on track. Defensively they also struggled, particularly against the run, letting Panthers running back Jamel Lyles rumble for 168 yards and four touchdowns on 18 carries.
It was a performance head coach Rob Stevenson was still angry about on Tuesday evening after practice.
"When we play great big monstrous teams, they bleed too and our job is to see if they have a circulation and that we don't roll over in front of people because they're big and scary looking," he said.
"We had some guys that didn't have their ears pinned back the way they should have and it exposed us big time."
Vollet, a 17-year-old senior, was one of their bright spots. He finished with 43 yards rushing on seven carries, eight tackles at linebacker and returned a kickoff 83 yards for a touchdown to bring the Bulldogs back into the game.
Still it was not enough. They have to be better. "This is a motivated team," said Vollet. "It was a tough loss and nobody likes losing. But we've got a lot of bounce and we're excited for Friday."
This is a big year for Vollet, a six-foot, 195-pound, all-purpose player. He is hoping to catch the eye of scouts at the Canadian Intercollegiate Sport level or even work his way there with a year or two of junior.
It is a path that many Bulldogs have taken before.
Two plaerys that he still looks up to are current Vancouver Island Raiders Nate Berg and Jordan Kuziek.
Their Grade 12 year was his Grade 10 season, and he learned a lot from the two stars. Berg went on to be named AA Varsity Player of the Year, while Kuziek took defensive player of the year honours.
"I still talk to those guys here and there and I'm still getting pointers from them," he said. "Those teams had a lot of tempo and a lot of heart. They were great teams and had great leaders, those two guys, especially, made those teams what they were."
But he's also been immersed in that championship level pride that the Bulldogs have, and is one reason Stevenson singled him out as one of the players he is looking to for leadership this year.
"He's continuing to challenge himself," said Stevenson.
"He's had some good stats. .. but there's some things he has to fix. I think it's symptomatic of how our team operates, some of our stat leaders and more talent players still take a real sober look at themselves and an honest look at themselves when they're not playing the most perfect game."
Through two exhibition games - they opened their exhibition schedule with an 81-0 blowout of AA Varsity Duchess Park Condors in Prince George - he has 136 yards rushing and, one touchdown on 11 carries, 173 yards and one score on four kickoff returns, and is tied for the team lead with 13 tackles.
Still he knows he has a lot of work ahead of him to get to the next level.
"Everywhere in my game I can improve," said Vollet.
"I've got weak spots every where, I've got strong spots, but my overall game needs to improve."
This Friday they close out their exhibition schedule in Chilliwack against G.W. Graham at 1 p.m. and Stevenson is hoping this past week was the wakeup call they needed.
"It was waking up with cold water all over us," he said. "I expect a way better effort this week and I think we're going to be knocking some chin pads loose."
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