POTOMAC — Coming into this season, one word can sum up the theme of Bullis School’s plan “redemption.”
It is the name of a group-text among the football team, named as a reminder of how the Bulldog’s season ended by losing the Interstate Athletic Conference (IAC) title. Last year, the Bulldogs could only watch, as Georgetown Prep celebrated winning the IAC Championship on their home field.
For the Bulldogs, having to watch Georgetown Prep celebrate an IAC Championship on their home field was a stinging feeling. It was the second-straight year that Georgetown Prep beat Bullis to win the IAC and the feeling the players had after that loss is something they are carrying with them the rest of the way.
“It hurt a lot, especially because during the season…all the ups and downs that we went through. We had it right there in our grasp, and we let it slip out of our hands,” said senior running back Caleb Robinson.
Robinson and his teammates have not forgotten what Georgetown Prep did to them, after suffering a 21-5 loss on their home turf.
While Head Coach Pat Cilento does not place a lot of emphasis on redemption for the Bulldogs, he insists that the team is only focused on its week-one game on Aug. 30 against Archbishop Carroll High School. Robinson said the Georgetown Prep loss has served as extra motivation this offseason.
That extra motivation comes in the form of a quest for redemption, not revenge. While none of the players at Bullis have forgotten losing to Georgetown Prep in consecutive seasons, they kept themselves relatively even-keeled.
“We talk about it in more of a way where we try to learn and grow from it, not in sort of a negative tone,” Robinson said about the loss to Georgetown Prep.
Bullis finished 7-3, last season, losing by a single point to both Landon School and St. Mary’s Ryken High School. Cilento said many games turned on individual plays — a blown coverage, a missed onside kick recover or just stupid penalties.
“We have to take care of ourselves and not so much worry about our opponents. But we need to go out there and execute,” Cilento said.
Bullis has a lot of talent, but like many private school teams, Robinson said they lack depth with the small roster they have. This year Bullis is returning senior wide receiver Ashton Allen, junior lineman Nigel Tate and senior Isaiah Brown.
Most notably for the Bulldogs, it is who is not returning — quarterback Jackson Greenleaf who has transferred to Dr. Henry A. Wise Jr. High School in Upper Marlboro. Replacing him, is Christian Veilleux, a 6-foot-3 quarterback from Canada.
Veilleux played last season at Canisius High School in Buffalo, New York, where he threw for 1,699 yards and 17 touchdowns. This season, he transferred to Bullis, in the search for better competition, Cilento said.
Veilleux’s size and athleticism has drawn the attention of his teammates and coaches alike — a tall quarterback that can stand in the pocket and an athlete who can run.
One could say expectations are high for Veilleux as he is getting looks from major college programs such as Michigan, South Carolina, Penn State and Tennessee.
Cilento even went as far to mention the offense will now resemble something close to what it was when famous Bullis alumni, Dwayne Haskins was running it.
For coaches and players, there will be a bit of a transition as quarterback, but given Veilleux’s talent, Cilento thinks it will be an easy adjustment.
“He has a different skill-set than Jackson (Greenleaf), so we will have to change our offense to best suit our skill guys and our athletes,” Cilento said.
That skill set will let the run-heavy Bulldogs, air the ball out and spread things out more, Robinson said. While it has been early, he felt like the offense started to click during the team’s camp at Lycoming College
“I definitely think this is the closest-nit group that I have ever been a part of,” Robinson said. “So I just feel like we have a stronger connection than teams that I have played on in the past.”
Also, new this year is linebacker Ethan Royer, who transferred from DeMatha. Royer will be joining Myles Turner and Caleb Tomlin on defensive completing a veteran linebacking core.
Bullis will test their new squad early when they take on Archbishop Carroll on Aug. 30 to open the season.