Just hours before they lost to the Hunting Hills Lightning of Red Deer, the Stettler Wildcats suffered an even bigger loss off the football field Friday.
The tower that houses the public-address system and the controls for the score-clock was vandalized and more than $2,700 worth of electronic equipment was stolen.
Wildcats head coach Norbert Baharally, also the principal at William E. Hay Composite High School, immediately believed reports of the vandalism were a joke.
“We went to open up the tower to get ready for the game, with our score-clock and our PA system,” Baharally said. “The person who opened it up came and said, ‘What went on? Somebody broke in. There’s nothing in there. They wiped it out clean.’
“I said, ‘No, you’re kidding.’ He said, ‘No, I’m serious. Go up and take a look.’
“So I went up and, sure enough, there was nothing up there.”
The Wildcats went on to lose 25-14 in a game played without a visible score-clock, but with a supplementary sound system that provided teams and fans with time and scoring updates.
It appears the damage to the tower could have been even greater.
“If you look around the perimeter of the building, it looked like they tried to start a fire, as well, down by the bottom of the tower itself,” Baharally said.
“I don’t know what happened, I don’t know who did it, but I’d sure like to find out what and why and who.”
The school hopes those answers might come from students or other members of the community.
“I’m hoping that it’s a small enough town that somebody is going to know something and hear something,” Baharally said.
Members of the Wildcats also want the culprits identified.
“We’re hoping so,” said running back Braden Nelson. “I’m pretty much going to keep my ears open, because I’m not exactly happy about it. In a small town, people hear things.
“I was kind of surprised anyone would do that (vandalism). We were all pretty shocked. It was really unexpected.”
But it’s not the first time the tower has been vandalized since it was built about five years ago, initially as an open structure.
“We started with it just bare and we had some vandalism with it, so we tried to fortify it with all the wood around the outside,” Baharally said. “Then (vandals) dug in on the backside, got in a second time, threw stuff around and damaged things.”
“This is about the third time that they’ve broken into it.”
He said there are secure locks at both the ground-level entrance and the entry to the PA booth.
“I think they accessed it from underneath in the back. They dug (ground) and went in and then went up the stairs and cracked the door open at the top before going into the trailer itself.”
Baharally estimated the equipment losses at almost $3,000.
“The console for the score-clock is probably going to be a couple of thousand dollars to replace,” he said. “The PA system is going to cost about $500 to replace, and probably a couple of hundred bucks for the CD player, and also a couple of microphones.”
Police are investigating the criminal activity at the field, which is also the home of the bantam Stettler Cougars and the peewee Stettler Panthers.
The Wildcats are on the road this week for a Friday night game in Red Deer against the Lindsay Thurber Raiders. Their next home game is Oct. 13 against the Notre Dame Cougars of Red Deer.