By Greg Price
Two worthy adversaries squared off in Canmore on the weekend to earn a berth into the Tier IV provincial football championship.
Coming down to the last meaningful play of the game, unfortunately, the W.R. Myers Rebels came out on the short end of a 21-20 decision against Canmore Wolverines on the road on a snowy Saturday afternoon.
“We’re obviously all heartbroken over this loss. These boys worked so hard this season, and to lose out at this point, in a game this close, is awfully tough,” said Jason Jensen, head coach of the W.R. Myers Rebels football team. “Hats off to Canmore though, they were very prepared, and they took it to us. The game was a dogfight from the get go, and their defence certainly dug in and made things difficult for us.”
The Rebels managed one scoring drive in the first half, with quarterback Mike Sawatzky managing to get into the endzone on a short run. But the relentless Wolverines defence were able to block the extra point.
Canmore immediately answered back with a long passing touchdown, bringing the score to 7-6 Canmore.
After that, it was back to dueling defences, as the Rebels were able to hold the Wolverines to short gains. The Wolverines answered, as they managed to stop the Rebels in the redzone. Their pressure on kicking attempts came into play again, as they disrupted a field goal, forcing it wide, but still garnering the Rebels a single point to go in tied 7-7 at half-time.
The Rebels were victims through the air once again, as the Wolverines attacked on two long-passing plays that pushed them ahead 21-7.
Mirroring their late comeback against the Drumheller Titans, the week before, the Rebels managed a multi-play drive that saw Sawatzky once again hit paydirt with a one-yard plunge that brought W.R. Myers to within once score with six minutes left in the game.
The Rebels would later look to have the tying score, if not for a Wolverines interception right around its own goal line.
Nevertheless, the Rebels forced a punt on a two-and-out which they blocked and had the Rebels knocking on the doorstep once again. Sawatzky rumbled in for his third major of the day with about a minute left.
It was then a roll of the dice strategy-wise that unfortunately came up snake eyes that would seal the Rebels’ fate in the loss column.
“Before that last drive, after consulting with my other coaches, and some of the players, I made the decision that if we scored we would be run a trick play on the conversion attempt to go for the win. It was a fake PAT kick, a play that we had practised all year, with a situation just like this in mind. We knew the pressure would be coming heavy from the Wolverines defence, so I thought this would work,” said Jensen. “Sure enough, the pressure came hard, but two Canmore defenders spotted our receiver breaking into the endzone, and one of them made a great play to bat the ball out of his hands. That essentially ended the game.”
They say hindsight is 20/20 and as Jensen noted if he could do it all over again, he would have done it the same way with the confidence he had with his team.
“I’m sure there are a lot of people questioning my decision there, but I’ll stand by it. It was the play I thought would work in that situation, and I called it. We played aggressive, and played to win all season, and I guess if you live by the sword, you die by the sword. But all season long, when the chips were down, I believed in my players, and put my faith in them to make a play when we needed it the most. And in the end, they still never let me down, an opposing player just made a great play of their own. So I’ll own that, and I’ll live with that, but I’ll never apologize for having faith in my boys,” said Jensen. “I couldn’t be more proud of this team, and how they played this season. This is a very special group of boys, and I’m sure going to miss our graduating seniors. We reclaimed the Jerry Dawson trophy, we won our first zone banner in a decade, and we finished up as one of the final four in the province. Once the sting of this loss fades, we’ll all look back on this season and see it as the truly amazing thing it was.”
For offensive co-ordinator Garrett Simmons, the game boiled down to much more than a two-point opportunity at the end of the game, but also missed opportunities during the contest as well.
“Those two stalled-out drives really made a huge impact on the game,” said Simmons. “We tried to put the ball in the air on the first drive, and tried to punch the second one in on the ground, and just couldn’t make the plays when we needed them. We put up over 150 yards passing and 200 rushing, but in the end, those two drives we couldn’t finish in the second quarter really turned the tide. We had an opportunity to put the pressure on Canmore and take a lead into the half, which could have made all the difference in the world.”