By Tyler Lowey, Times Reporter
Crowther Memorial Junior High School field turned into the North Pole overnight following a second massive dumping of snow, as the Strathmore Community Football Association peewee Badgers attempted to defend their league title.
The conditions couldn’t have been any worse. Luckily, the nice people from Gray’s Limited donated three skid-steers hours before the Central Peewee Football League final between the Badgers and the Stettler Panthers. Parents and volunteers were shoveling the field for hours, as snow banks four feet high lined the field. The temperature at kick off was a frigid minus 14, and a soft and steady breeze numbed any exposed skin to the conditions.
Playing in a winter wonderland, the Badgers were blanked 14-0 by the Panthers Nov. 4.
It was a meeting of two unbeaten teams with one spot up for grabs in the provincial final. With a strong first half, the Panthers (6-0) coasted to the 14-0 victory in the “snow bowl.”
“I think our guys were a little too nervous at the beginning of the game,” said Badgers Head Coach Doug Thiessen. “We made some mistakes that we never made all season. Those mistakes extended their (Panthers) drives and allowed them to score.”
The Badgers committed six different offsides or neutral zone infractions in the first half, which allowed the Panthers to strike first with a three-yard pass to Reid Shirley, who then ran 39 yards to the house.
“We hardly ever went offside this year,” said Thiessen. “We had a lot of 10-year-old kids up on the line that were trying to jump the ball and get in on the tackles. They were probably trying to get any advantage they could in the slippery conditions.”
Just handing off the football was challenging enough, as the leather on the ball froze and became slick. The Badgers surrendered a safety when a halfback toss deep in their own territory took too long to develop, and was tackled in their own end zone, giving up the two points.
The Badgers tried to get things going in the first half. Brady Johansen, who has been unstoppable this season when he rolls out to the right, was making his way down the field, but was unable to bust out the big run the Badgers have grown accustomed to this season.
Smaller and more agile running back Austin McInnis tried dancing up the middle of the field, but had problems planting and cutting in the frozen turf.
After a McInnis fumble under the three-minute warning in the first half, Shirley broke four tackles on the first play from scrimmage, scampering 44 yards to the end zone.
“We sat them down at half and talked about our mental mistakes and the kids made a great adjustment,” said Thiessen. “There wasn’t one kid on my team who wanted to quit and go stand by the heaters. They were all cold, but they all thought we had a chance to win it up until the last play.”
The defence tightened up in the second half, as neither team was able to push across any points. Punts didn’t travel anywhere with significance, and handoffs were understandably dropped from time to time, halting drives.
And so, the Panthers hung onto their two-touchdown lead and will now battle the Lloydminster Colts for the provincial title in Lloydminster on Nov. 11 at St. Mary’s Field.
Thiessen now plans to take a month off to decompress from another successful and busy season, before deciding about returning to coach the peewee program once again.
Bantam Badgers finish up
Successful bantam season comes to an end
The conditions weren’t much better in Rocky Mountain House, where the bantam Badgers were taking on the Rocky Mountain House Rebels in the C final Nov.4
After registering their first win of the season last week in the Central Football League semis, the Badgers were shut out 28-0 in the championship.
“We just couldn’t get anything going,” said Badgers Head Coach Mike Hopp. “We were not prepared for these weather conditions.”
The Badgers only held two practices before their C final. The snow had not yet arrived and Hopp did not have a full crew in practice, so when they showed up for their final game of the season, they were underprepared.
“We came out pretty flat,” said Hopp. “We had a couple great individual performances, but by the time we got anything going, the game was out of hand.”
The Rebels didn’t have access to the heavy machinery like the bantam Badgers had, making it tough to trudge through the snow for three hours.
“We all would have liked better results this year, but when you look at it, all our kids worked their butts off. And yeah, we got beat, but we came together as a team and those are some of the small victories that we will have to take into the offseason and into next year,” said Hopp, who added that he was open to coming back to coach the Badgers again next season.
The Badgers will put a bow on this season Dec. 1 when they hand out their annual awards.