By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
Mother Nature didn’t let the Holy Cross Collegiate Hawks football program wrap up the season on their own terms.
The Hawks were scheduled to host the powerhouse Rimbey High School Spartans Nov. 3 at Holy Cross Collegiate field, but a weather bomb landed the night before, dumping a heaping amount of snow, forcing the Hawks to cancel their final Alberta 6 Man game of the season.
“It was an unfortunate end to the season. We practiced Thursday night; the conditions weren’t too bad, but the snow kept coming down,” said Hawks Head Coach Michael Annicchiarico. “We tried to clear some of the lines with shovels, but the wind kept blowing the snow we had cleared back onto the field.”
With the Hawks already eliminated from playoff contention and the Spartans having wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the division ahead of time, both sides mutually agreed to cancel the game and not reschedule, closing the book on the Hawks second year of existence.
Last year, the Hawks finished 3-5 and reached the B playoffs. This year, a 1-6 record was not good enough to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“There’s no excuse for not making the playoffs. Our record is what it is,” said Annicchiarico. “We were all a little disappointed to finish up the way we did, but if you look at the totality of the season, there’s no doubt that our games were more competitive this year and we were a stronger team.”
When the Hawks lost last season, they lost big. This year, they were in every game deep into the fourth quarter, never losing a game by more than two touchdowns. A couple mental mistakes and a few late gaffs corrected could have easily duplicated the Hawks record to match that of the inaugural season.
Injuries are not always an excuse, but when a team loses its MVP on offence, it is expected to negatively affect their offensive potency.
In the middle of their season, running back Jayden Hendricks went down with an ankle injury. Last season, it felt like Hendricks was the only one scoring touchdowns for the Hawks. It became a common sighting to see Hendricks peel off 50-plus yard touchdown runs multiple times per game. This year, with Hendricks’ nagging ankle and his commitment to his hockey team, other players on offence needed to step up to fill the void.
“It feels pretty good to see some of my other teammates improve,” said Hendricks. “A lot of times, they would put their weakest defender on them as they tried to key on me, and we were able to take advantage of that and score on them.”
Annicchiarico saw others progress.
“A lot of our success is due to the evolution of Tanner Hollingsworth at quarterback,” said Annicchiarico. “He had an amazing year, and the last month he really began to read the defence well, step up in the pocket and make some great passes.”
With the offensive evolution occurring, the Hawks still needed to come up with stops on the other side of the ball. The team’s defence, Annicchiarico thinks, became just as improved, if not more improved, than the offence.
“Our confidence with tackling and getting through the line of scrimmage, putting pressure on the other team was much improved. Our low scoring games this year were a direct relation to the defensive stops we were getting,” said Annicchiarico.
The offseason arrived sooner than anticipated for the Hawks and brings uncertainty. Along with Hendricks, the Hawks will have five other members – nearly half of their roster – graduate the program and high school. Annicchiarico would like to have the program back for a third season, but it depends on how many players he is able to recruit to the program.
Spring camp will take place in May.