The road for the Stettler Cougars in the post-season was short as the Cougars were defeated on home turf 9-7 by challengers Lethbridge Coyotes on Saturday, Nov. 12.
The Cougars, who won the league championship earlier in the year after a six-year drought, ended the season with a nail-biter of a game. By the end of the first half, the score was 7-7 after a touchdown by quarterback Cole Nichols, who also kicked a point.
“Our team was very prepared for the game,” Head Coach Ernie Shirreff said. “We watched game film of our opponents all week, so there wasn’t very much that surprised us.”
It wasn’t until near the end of the third quarter that the Coyotes pulled ahead, after a grudging yard-by-yard push against the Stettler defence, who built a nearly impenetrable wall just feet from their end zone.
“Our defence made a great goal-line stand to prevent Lethbridge from scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter, but unfortunately on the first play, our offence gave up a safety. Those were the winning points,” explained Shirreff.
The first half of the game saw the Cougars easy-going, but it was this cavalier approach that resulted in a few problems later on.
“Penalties and turnovers have been our problem all season, and they showed up on Saturday at inopportune times,” Shirreff noted.
After the half-time break, the team returned with fire, grudgingly giving ground to the Coyotes and taking yards by leaps and bounds.
“I’m very proud of this team for everything they have accomplished,” Shirreff said. “Making it to a provincial semi-final is always a great achievement.”
He said that sometimes “you have to lose to achieve greater glory later,” and noted that when the Cougars last lost a semi-final in 2009, that same group of kids went on to win a provincial title in high school football two years later.
Desmond Ansorger, defence coach for the Cougars reflected the same thoughts.
“We are done, but we are league champions and that’s something these boys should be proud of,” he said. “We end the year with a nail biter.”