By Greg Price
Three locals more than held their own at the Alberta Summer Games in Grande Prairie as three vital cogs in a Zone 1 (South Knights) football team which ended up going 1-2.
The South Knights started its Games journey with a 29-26 loss to Zone 2 (Big Country-near Calgary), which may very well had been a win had the game gone another quarter with how the momentum was shifting.
“That was a tough one. We got off to a slow start,” said Jason Jensen, who coached the defensive line for the Knights. “We found ourselves down 29-6 at the start of the fourth quarter and we ended up losing 29-26. It was a pretty spirited third and fourth quarter comeback there. We just sort of ran out of time where I think we could have taken them, and they ended up winning the bronze medal. For the most part, the field was pretty tight. The Calgary team ended up stomping their way through everybody.”
The Knights proceeded to drop a 20-0 game to Zone 7, which had players from the Northeastern Alberta area (Fort McMurray/Cold Lake/Lloydminster).
“They had the top running back in the province at this age group. It was one of those games where our defence came out well and held, but we couldn’t get anything going offensively,” said Jensen. “It was a much tighter game than the score made it sound, being 7-0 at half-time.”
The South Knights ended its Games run off on a high note on Sunday with a 33-32 overtime win over Zone 8 (Grande Prairie/Peace River). The Knights got seven points in overtime and Zone 8 scored a major as well, but failed on its two-point conversion for the win, facing a daunting situation without an injured kicker.
Taber’s Tucker Mouland did not take a snap off on the offensive line at centre.
“He never got a breather all three games. Tucker was great, he was probably our best offensive lineman,” said Jensen.
Johnny Klassen played defensive tackle and occupied tons of space — and attention from the opposition, freeing his teammates up in gaps going upfield.
“Our D-line was probably one of our stronger facets in our game and Johnny was a big part of that. On a lot of plays Johnny was having to take on a lot of double and even triple teams. Johnny was eating up blockers more than anything where teams were wanting to keep him under control and not get into the backfield. That opened up blitz lanes.”
One of the younger players at the game was Aiden O’Connor at wide receiver, who made his zone team as a Grade 8 and is still eligible for one more year of bantam football.
“We had a pretty consistent rotation at receiver and Aiden was right there in the mix. He had a big catch for us in (Sunday’s) game that extended a drive for us,” said Jensen.
With fall pre-season camps fast approaching, the trio of Taber-area players will have the Games experience under their belts as they prepare for their respective high school and bantam seasons.
“This tournament will only be a help to them, having experience that a lot of other players don’t have,” said Jensen. “For the guys going into high school, we just got finished playing the best the province has to offer, so that should put them in good shape to take on high school players. They will have a good head start heading into camp.”
W.R. Myers Rebels football pre-season camp is expected to start in mid-August.