The regular season is over, and it’s on to the playoffs for the Taber bantam Rebels football team.
Taber finished with a 5-1 record with a convincing 54-22 win Saturday in Coaldale over the Pride, as the passing game took centre stage for the Rebels.
Quarterback Mike Sawatzky threw for 350 yards and five touchdowns, as seven different Taber players recorded touchdowns.
“That was the plan heading into the game,” said head coach Garrett Simmons. “We’ve kept the offence fairly conservative throughout the first part of the season, and Saturday was the game we decided we were going to throw the ball at every opportunity.”
The strategy worked to perfection, as Taber scored on every one of its offensive possessions, which started with a drive capped off by a Kadin Reynolds touchdown on a short pass from Sawatzky.
The Pride struck back on Coaldale’s first possession, and with a long touchdown run and a two-point conversion, Taber trailed 8-7 early in the first quarter.
Corny Froese put the Rebels up for good with a touchdown run of 22 yards, while the Taber defence battled to keep the Pride off the scoreboard for the next few drives, as the Rebels built a large halftime lead.
“We played our second-team defence the entire game,” said Simmons.
“We wanted to really work to develop our timing in the passing game, and it really paid off with some good, sustained drives and a few quick strikes.”
With Taber up 14-8, the visitors put the game away with a touchdown off a kickoff. Following the Froese touchdown, kicker Levi Tams boomed the ball down the field. Brett Bullock was one of a host of Taber tacklers in on the play, as the Pride returner was swarmed. Bullock eventually ripped the ball loose and took it into the endzone for a touchdown.
“That was a really heads-up play,” said Simmons. “Brett saw an opportunity to make a big play and did it.”
From there, the defence surrendered two more Coaldale touchdowns, while Taber’s offence made sure there was not going to be a Pride comeback.
Reynolds picked up one more receiving touchdown, while Brett Andrus, Tylor Kornelsen and Johnny Tams also hauled in touchdown passes. Sawatzky also ran in another score, as the Rebels finished with 350 yards through the air and 67 more on the ground.
“The goal was to spread the ball around and let a number of kids go out there and make plays,” said Simmons. “For the most past, that worked out really well.”
The Rebels finished the regular season at 5-1, good for first place in Division B. That sets up a first-round playoff game Saturday in Cardston at 1:30 p.m., against the Division A Cougars.
“That’s going to be a great test for us,” said Simmons. “Cardston is a traditional bantam powerhouse, and we know we’re going to have to bring our intensity up another level to leave Cardston with a win.”