The Stettler Cougars were convincing winners at home Saturday in their first game of the Central Football League bantam season as they blanked the short-staffed Wetaskiwin Warriors 38-0.
“Pretty good,” Stettler coach Mike Roach said in grading his Cougars’ opening-day performance.
“We weren’t playing against a really strong team, but they gave it everything they had. The advantage is we got all of our younger kids in and they played at least half the game. That really helps to get that game speed, because game speed is so much higher than practice speed. It doesn’t matter how good a practice you have, a game is always at a higher tempo. They got lots of reps.”
Beginning Aug. 22, the Cougars had nine practices over a two-week period leading up to their season opener.
“We generally run nine practices before the start of the season, but we do it over three weeks,” Roach said. “But this year, we did it over two, because I didn’t want to start in the middle of August, because you’re never going to have anybody back (from vacation).”
Wetaskiwin struggled to field a full complement of players Saturday, while Stettler was able to experiment with its 31-man roster.
“That (number) is right about where you want it to be,” Roach said. “You don’t want any less. We’ve played with as few as 22 players, but if you get 30 and up, that’s great.”
“We have a few players going both ways until we get the younger guys (up to speed). We only have (eight) returnees from last year’s program, so some of our Grade 9s will be going both ways until we get the younger ones ready to go.”
Quarterback Jeremy Kirk is among the returning Cougars. The others are Thomas Cassidy, Kyle Froese, Michael Loblaw, Kyle Nims, Adam Standage, Maverick Wilford and Christian Young.
The Cougars are part of a 12-team league. Stettler’s six-game regular season continues at home Saturday with a 1 p.m. game at the high school field against the Rocky Mountain Junior Rebels.
The Stettler Panthers peewee team plays its home opener at 10 a.m. Saturday against the Olds Huskies.
In the Cougars’ lopsided win over Wetaskiwin, Kirk completed five of eight pass attempts for 108 total yards. His 20-yard pass to Clayton Page resulted in a touchdown.
Cody Calihoo scored a pair of touchdowns — on a 44-yard run and a 70-yard kickoff return.
Cassidy, Loblaw and Andrew Shirley each picked up one touchdown as Stettler recorded 291 offensive yards. Kirk and Shirley each added points via converts, while Quinten Wen had two fumble recoveries.
On defence, the Cougars’ top tackler was Brett Roper.
“Christian Young, Austin Hatfield, Cody Calihoo, Michael Loblaw, Andrew Shirley, Carlie Gendre and Santiago Sierra all had multiple tackles as well,” Roach said. “Russell Steen and Kyle Lawrence led the defensive backs with great coverage and a number of pass knockdowns.”