The formerly known Doghouse Bulldogs finished last year with a deep playoff run. They lost out to the Cox Colts in a semi-final contest where a well-rounded Bulldog team lacked execution. This year, the Club House Bulldogs are after a different result.
Last year’s wide receiver/cornerback and Offensive Player of the Year Jon Pump is a former Most Valuable Player and a key contributor for the team, playing both sides of the ball. He states the personnel is there for a title run.
“We were a really solid team last year,” Pump said. “Over the offseason we added some new bodies and really improved the lines.”
The Bulldogs have managed to already improve a talented roster, perhaps setting up an even deeper run than last year. The team held onto the same group of core guys over the course of the offseason such as Dave Velez and Jeff Alban. That group would propel the Bulldogs to produce flag football’s best offence, with 197 points scored and the 2011 East division crown.
The beginning of this year will be no picnic. Key Bulldog members Chris Spigner (quarterback) and Zak Kepner (cornerback/wide receiver) are competing in the Reebok 2012 Crossfit Games in California, which leaves the Bulldogs without some of their offensive catalysts for the first four weeks of the season.
“Being without Chris and Zak is going to be tough, but we can manage,” Pump said.
Playing without your starting quarterback is no easy task, but Pump and the rest of the Bulldogs seem up to the challenge, “We just got to play really hard without them and win, I’m confident we can do that.”
Team captain and starting free safety Todd Hazlewood has clear-cut views about the upcoming season.
“We’ve been to the championship game three times in the past and come away with nothing,” Hazlewood said. “We’ve had amazing regular seasons finishing 11-1 and 8-4 last year, but we can’t get over the hump. It’s a finals-or-bust attitude for me this year.”
Hazlewood spoke with a focus and determination in his voice that has been unprecedented by any other team. He knows what his squad has to do and he knows the Bulldogs have to put in hard work for their dreams to become a reality.
“Last year we were depleted, we had 10 guys go down by the end of the year and a lot of guys were playing both ways and out of position.”
A full roster consists of 25 players, the Bulldogs had an active roster of 15 players by the time the playoffs started and had cornerbacks playing on the offensive line as desperate replacements. Obviously not ideal when trying to put together a championship run. In addition, the Bulldogs had to get creative at the quarterback position after legendary hurler Jon Mack had a season-ending injury at the start of the campaign.
Hazlewood states his team has now added depth across the board, especially at the offensive line position.
“Our lack of depth at the lineman position hurt us last year and we’ve definitely addressed that over the offseason. We have the talent to win it. We just need to stay healthy and put it together.”
Despite a tough beginning to the season ahead, the expectations are still high, “We’re expecting to win.” Pump put simply, “We’re expecting a finals berth. Our core guys are getting older so our window for a championship is closing.”
The Bulldogs are getting older, but their talent is definitely still present, sporting players such as last season’s Rookie of the Year Chris Spigner and pass-rusher Kevin Zimmer, as well as national-team offensive lineman Josh Parsons.
With new pieces and veteran talent and experience, the Bulldogs go into the season with very high hopes. Hopefully the veteran cast can put together a final playoff run before their window of opportunity closes.
If Hazlewood’s attitude is contagious, the Bulldog team is going to come out this season with chips on their shoulders, winning on their minds and an intense drive for a championship victory.