Expectations never waver for the Eastside Bulldogs football squad.
The Bulldogs, who captured back-to-back Northwest Junior College Football League (NWJCFL) titles in 2015 and 2016, pushed themselves to the max during the first practice session of the 2017 season on Aug. 9. Bulldogs’ head coach Kevin Bouwman is a strict disciplinarian who ensures each of his players take care of details on and off the field.
“We have a certain way we do things,” Bouwman said.
The Bulldogs stress competition and that couldn’t be more apparent than the battle for the most important position on the field. D’Marye Dedrick, Kyle Tief, Jakhari Singh and Henry Vu are the quartet of signal callers vying for the starting quarterback job.
“That is a great competition. It is wide open and whoever comes out on top, that is who is going to start,” Bouwman said with a smile.
Eastside Bulldogs middle linebacker Michael Harper, who missed the majority of last season after suffering an ACL injury, is ecstatic to have one final season with the Bulldogs.
“It is great to have another year after thinking it was over. I’m happy to be getting one more shot at it. It is the sport I love and grew up with. There is no way to really explain how big of a deal it is for me to play just one more year,” Harper said.
Harper believes the fact that four quarterbacks are battling for the Bulldogs’ starting quarterback job is a good thing.
“They are going to make each other better and show each other their strengths and weaknesses. Each of them can start if we need them to,” he said. “The competition is going to make all of them better.”
The pressure to win a third consecutive NWJCFL title is something on each players mind.
“I think its almost the same as last year. There is a lot of pressure to come back and win another championship,” Harper said of expectations. “About one-third of our team is back from last year and we got a lot of new talent coming through. With the correct coaching that we have, I think we will be able to get another title.”
Kentwood High School alumnus Derrick Bell, who previously played for the NCAA-Division II Central Washington University Wildcats, hopes to make a sizable impact at the running back position with the Bulldogs this fall. Bell said he played free safety at CWU but is thrilled to return to his favorite position on the field—running back.
“A couple of my friends were playing for the Bulldogs that I played with in high school. I was just looking for a place to play. I know this team has won the two past championships and I want to help this team win a third one,” Bell said.
Bell said his best attribute on the ground is pure speed.
“I’m trying to add that truck sticking (breaking tackles) to my arsenal right now. Hopefully that will come this season,” he said with a smile.
The Bulldogs will face Central Sound in the season opener on Sept. 2.