WHITE Hills proved themselves the real deal in the Heathcote District Football League on Saturday after beating Lockington-Bamawm United for the first time in seven years.
The Demons led at every change in their 11.10 (76) to 9.12 (66) victory at Tint-a-Car Oval that signalled their arrival as a force to be reckoned with this year.
"Our backline was fantastic today, our midfield pressure was really good and our tackle-count was high and we were able to stifle them, which was a real focus of ours," White Hills coach Shaun Makepeace said.
"It was obviously a great result for the club having been so long since we last beat Lockington and it shows that we're heading in the right direction."
Before Saturday, the Demons had lost their previous 13 games against Lockington-Bamawm United by an average of 66 points and hadn't beaten the Cats since round 16, 2007.
Adding to the win for the Demons was they achieved it after losing key forward Jake Ward to a hamstring injury in the first quarter.
The star in an even team effort for the Demons was ruckman Matt Lehane.
"He basically rucked unchanged the whole game except for about 10 minutes," Makepeace said.
"He competed really well and provided a contest all game."
Midfielders Caillum Brady and Jake Heavyside and small forward Jake Allport were also standouts for the Demons, who have not only beaten reigning premier LBU, but are also the only team in the first half of the season to defeat North Bendigo.
The defeat was the second in three games for the Cats, who trailed by five points at quarter-time, 23 at half-time and 30 at three quarter-time, before kicking five goals to two in the final term.
"White Hills came with a better intensity in the first half," Cats coach Adrian Dohnt said.
"They really dished it up to us and we didn't stand up.
"Week to week sides are coming for us, and you could see after the game today just how happy they were to have beaten us. We've just got to get better ourselves at getting up for the contest."
Marcus Angove and Dohnt through the midfield and Gavin Broad were the best for the Cats, who have had forward Kahl Oliver added to their injury list after he broke a thumb last week and is likely to miss four to five games.
• North Bendigo has reached the halfway mark of the season a game clear at the top of the ladder after it belted Mount Pleasant by 77 points at Superior Roofing Oval.
The Bulldogs blitzed the Blues 18.14 (122) to 6.9 (45), setting the win up with a dominant second quarter.
After leading by four points at quarter-time, the Bulldogs slammed on 8.4 to 0.3 in the second term to open a commanding 53 point buffer at the main break.
"Our work-rate in the first quarter wasn't where we wanted it and we probably fell into a few bad habits," North Bendigo co-coach Rob Bennett said.
"But in that second quarter we went back to what we've been doing the past month... running hard when we have the footy and applying really good defensive pressure when we don't have the footy."
For the fourth game in a row midfielder Tyson Findlay was the best player for the Bulldogs, and also impacted the scoreboard with five goals.
"Tyson's work-rate and contested footy the past month has been nothing short of fantastic," Bennett said.
"He's a bit of a barometer for us and again, he set the tone for the rest of the contest for us and that's a real credit to him."
Fellow midfielder Daniel Sipthorp was also again outstanding for the Bulldogs.
"He was best on ground by a mile in that first half and with the way he goes about his contested footy, he's just like a dog with a bone... he won't come out of the pack until he has the footy in his hands," Bennett said.
The Bulldogs' wide array of avenues to goal was again evident with 11 goalkickers.
In the Bulldogs' past five games they've now had 12, 13, eight, 11 and 11 individual goalkickers.
"That was our aim at the start of the year after we'd been a bit one dimensional the past couple of years when (Michael) Spooner was there," Bennett said.
The loss was Mount Pleasant's third of the season, with all three of their defeats by at least 58 points.
Pat O'Brien, Tim Hill and Carl Thiesz were named the best for the Blues, who had star forward Kain Robins kick four of their six goals.
Mount Pleasant slipped from third to fifth with the defeat.
• Leitchville-Gunbower bounced back to its early-season form, belting Huntly by 65 points.
The Bombers - coming off three losses in a row - held the Hawks to just one goal in the first half in their 19.15 (129) to 8.16 (64) victory at Huntly that moved them back into the top three.
"Today we had 22 contributors over four quarters, instead of having just patches here and there like we had been," Bombers coach Marty Shadbolt said.
"We were able to put a full game together and that made a big difference.
"We worked hard, hit our targets and ran the ball well, so it was a really good turnaround by the boys.
"Hopefully, it will give us a bit of confidence going into next week's game against White Hills, who are obviously playing some good football."
The Bombers broke the game open in the second quarter when they kicked 6.3 to 0.6 against the wasteful Hawks to lead by 39 points at half-time, 7.10 to 1.7.
Joel Helman (six) and Jake Williams (four) kicked 10 goals between them for the Bombers, whose better players also included Ryan Hocking, Shadbolt at centre half-back and Bendigo Pioneer-listed Marty Hore.
The defeat leaves last year's grand finalist Huntly two games outside the top five and its season at the crossroads.
"We got given a football lesson today, especially when it comes to ball movement and skill," a bitterly disappointed Huntly coach Stacy Fiske said.
"As group we failed today and there are a few question marks over a couple of players commitment to playing our style of footy.
"The most disappointing point of the day is we have been ultra competitive over the first half of the year and weren't far off putting it all together, but today we took two steps backwards.
"I know we have the playing group capable of a lot more, but at the end of the day it will be dictated by the group if we respond in seven days' time."
The best for the Hawks were led by captain Braidy Dickens, Matt Klein-Breteler (two goals), Fiske and Garrett Davies.
• Colbinabbin squared its ledger at 4-4 after defeating Elmore by 18 points.
The Grasshoppers consigned Elmore to a winless first half of the season with their 14.16 (100) to 13.4 (82) victory at Colbinabbin.
Colbinabbin did the bulk of its damage in the first and third quarters when it outscored the Bloods 10.10 to 3.1.
"Elmore played some good footy today and we really had to work hard," Colbinabbin coach Phil Morgan said.
"One of the things we've been focussing on is trying to stop opposition midfielders kicking goals and we didn't do that today, so that's something we need to keep working on."
The best for the Grasshoppers - who jumped out of the blocks to lead by 25 points at quarter-time - were onballer Tim Holobowski, Tim O'Dwyer, in-form big man Lochlan Sirett and defender Matt Riordan.
Leroy Miller, Sirett and Linton Jacobs kicked three goals each.
Despite suffering another loss, Elmore moved off the bottom of the ladder, with its percentage of 45.6 now ahead of the HDFL's other winless team, Heathcote (43.7), with the two sides to meet this Saturday.
"Our slow start probably cost us the game, but after that we were able to play the footy we know we can play," Elmore coach Stephen Arthur said.
"We played some good run-and-carry and pressure football, so there were good signs there."
Midfielder Phillip Wills again dominated for the Bloods - who were within four points at half-time - while ruckman Jack Hayes and Ben Makepeace also played well.