BY NATHAN DOLE
MOUNT Pleasant put North Bendigo out of the Bendigo Bank Heathcote DFNL senior footy premiership race in Sunday’s first semi-final.
Faced with a must-win scenario in both finals so far after finishing the home-and-away series in fourth place, Mount Pleasant has thrived under pressure.
In Sunday’s first semi it was the Blues who led 20-10 at quarter-time of the clash at Elmore.
North Bendigo hit back to win the second term, 20-19.
In the third it was the run of the Mountain Men which troubled the Dogs.
Mounts scored 4.5 to 2.0 as it led 68-42 at a quarter to go.
With its season slipping away, North Bendigo hit back brilliantly.
A run of four unanswered goals put the Dogs within two points.
From there it was the Mount Pleasant team, jointly coached by Adam Baird and Ben Weightman which regained control.
The Blues lifted their play to score three goals on the way to an 88-74 victory.
The pace and skill of Mitch Rovers playing on-ball or in attack was a highlight as he kicked three goals in a best afield performance for Mount Pleasant.
Zach Charles and Zebb Murrell also kicked two goals for the Blues as Adam Baird, Nick Edwards, Riley and Tyler McNamara added one.
North Bendigo’s attack was led by Jordan Ford on three as Dylan Klemm and Cody Riddick added two each.
Other goalkickers for the red, white and blue were Aaryn Craig, Lachlan Furness, Hakeem Johnson and Billy Robertson.
Best for Mount Pleasant were Mitch Rovers, Adam Baird, Caelan Smith, Chris Down, Riley McNamara and Zebb Murrell.
Young wingman Riley Paetow was the Bulldogs’ best along with Bailey Wingrave, Tim Deveraux, Billy Robertson, Nic Waterson and Aarryn Craig.
After finishing the 16-round season in second place the Rob Bennett-coached North Bendigo was on the end of a 40-point loss to White Hills in the qualifying final and then outplayed by the Blues.
For Mounts the run keeps rolling.
Gun forward Ben Weightman has not played in either final because of a back injury.
Mount Pleasant will now tackle White Hills in next Saturday’s preliminary final at Huntly’s Strauch Reserve.
Heathcote will await the winner of that contest after the Saints won through to the grand final.
The Andrew Saladino-coached Heathcote was in control for a lot of last Saturday’s second semi against White Hills at Colbinabbin’s M.J. Morgan Oval.
Brilliant forward Corey Grindlay was in hot form as he kicked five goals in the first half.
The Saints led 48-34 at the main break.
Defences were on top for a lot of the third term, but the Saints were able to score 2.3 to 1.3.
Grindlay showed he is not just a goalkicker as he moved to midfield where he won a fair amount of the footy and took some fine marks across half-back.
White Hills turned up the heat in the last term.
A Liam Birch set shot gave Heathcote a 32-point lead in the seven minute.
A run of three consecutive goals by the Demons reduced the margin to just nine points in the 22nd minute.
After being declared the winner of the Sam Cheatley Medal as league fairest and best earlier in the week, Heathcote on-baller Liam Jacques capped the Saints’ victory.
Jacques was rewarded for a great tackle and lined up for goal as the siren sounded.
The talented on-baller coolly slotted the goal to complete a 78-63 victory and put Heathcote into its first seniors grand final since 2010.
Grindlay finished with a match-high five goals as Liam Birch, Jesse Davies, Shannon Dowsett, Liam Jacques, Billy Price and Braden Padmore added one each.
The Demons’ attack was led by Kaiden Antonowicz, Cohen Kekich and Nic Warnock on two each.
Mitch Dole and Patrick Eefting also goaled for the Demons.
Best for Heathcote were Corey Grindlay, Bill Direen, Braden Padmore, Joseph Beedle, Jesse Davies and Liam Jacques.
Nic Warnock, Ryan Walker, Thomas Brereton, Mitch Dole, Jake Dickens and Nathan Moffat were best for a Demons team led by playing coaches Jack Fallon and Jake Pallpratt.
White Hills is through to another reserves grand final after it beat Mount Pleasant by two points in Saturday’s second semi.
The Demons led 22-17 at half-time, but the ladder-leading Blues scored 2.3 to 1.3 in the third quarter to gain a one-point lead by the last change.
Accuracy played a key factor for White Hills as it scored 3.1 to 2.4 in the final term for a 50-48 victory.
Matt Cox led the Demons’ attack on three goals as Rohan Cadzow kicked two and Ethan Arnold and Hamish Goggin added one.
Goalkickers for Mount Pleasant were Mitch Bennett, Coby Dunlop, Zac Featherby, Jesse O’Connell, Ryan Patrick Pontell and Jacob Smith.
Best for White Hills were Matt Cox, James Avery, Liam Monaghan, Doolan Nihill, Josh Harris and Jayden Sheean.
Coby Dunlop, Jaxson Nihill, Ryan Patrick Pontell, Mason Wakefield, Zac Featherby and Jackson Hufer played well for the Blues.
North Bendigo won Sunday’s elimination final showdown with Huntly by 28 points.
The Bulldogs led 17-15 at half-time and then scored 4.2 to 2.3 in the third.
Led by the play of Jack Francis, Tyson Towers and Pat Bogers, North Bendigo added 4.3 to 2.0 in the last to complete a 70-42 victory.
Pat Bogers capped a great match with four goals as Lewis Thomas kicked two.
Harlan Draper, Austin Robertson, Jonas Somerville and Michael Thompson were also on target for the red, white and blue.
Goalkickers for Huntly were Kane Andrews, Jack Burns, Brad Chalmers, Matthew Jeffries, Matt Rule and Anthony Tanner.
The Bulldogs’ best included Lewis Thomas, Jayden McCarroll and Tom Tavaga.
Huntly’s best were Kurt Forder, Aaron Cowling, Matt Rule, Matthew Jeffries, Jack Burns and Kurtis McNamara.
North Bendigo has won through to the under-18s grand final.
The Bulldogs were down 13-15 at half-time of the second semi against White Hills.
In the third the Bulldogs slammed on 4.2 to 2.2 to gain a 10-point break going into the last.
Jett Grundy, Will Gilmore and Senna Marsili were in top form as the red, white and blue won the last term, 22-21, to complete a 61-43 victory.
The Bulldogs’ attack was led by Mason Lane on three goals as Brandyn Barilari, Noah Filo, Will Gilmore, Reece Mitchell and Harry Pysing added one.
The White Hills attack was led by Harry Sheilds on three as Finn Foster and Jett Patullo added one each.
North Bendigo’s best included Reece Mitchell and Brodie Reaper.
Isaac Meersbergen, Oliver Edmiston, Seth Boyd, Jett Patullo, Macauley Johnson and Jack Monaghan played well for White Hills.
The Demons will now take on Huntly in the preliminary final.
The Harlowe Huntly Hawks marked a 62-47 victory against Heathcote in the first semi-final.
Heathcote led 18-13 at half-time, but the Hawks then slammed on 6.5 to 1.1 in a third-quarter blitz.
Josh Trotter went on to kick three goals as Judd Gilchrist and Patrick Henderson added two and Hunter Connors and Jett Rowell chipped in with one.
Goalkickers for Heathcote were Kynan Baldwin and Mitchell Buhagiar on three and two.
Huntly’s best were Drew Costigan, Hunter Connors, Ethan Oaten, Daniel Artavilla, Patrick Henderson and Josh Trotter.
Mitchell Buhagiar, Kynan Baldwin, Wyatt Smith, Thomas Johnson, Ryan Foster and Ben Sherwood played well for the Saints.
Schedule for Saturday’s preliminary finals at Huntly’s Strauch Reserve:
Under-18s at 9.45am: White Hills v Huntly.
Reserves at 11.50am: Mount Pleasant v North Bendigo.
Seniors at 2.15pm: White Hills v Mount Pleasant.