A significantly retooled Stettler Wildcats were defeated on home turf in their first game of the 2023 season on Sept. 8, 2023.
Hosting the Bonnyville Voyageurs for a pre-season exhibition game, the Wildcats are entering a rebuilding year after losing 13 players in the off-season due to graduation or other commitments according to team manager Erin Sparks.
Still, under the leadership of Coach Norbert Baharally and the rest of the coaching staff, despite coming out on the wrong end of the score, the Wildcats were able to hold their own on the field against Bonnyville.
The Wildcats got the scoring started early in the first quarter with Koen Hagel running in an early touchdown, though the team was unable to score on the conversion.
Bonnyville struck back 10 seconds later, with Johnny Murenje managing to slide past the Wildcat players and have a clear run down to the end zone. Mureje did succeed in the conversion kick, putting the Voyageurs up by a single point.
Striking back 14 seconds into the second quarter, Hagel ran in another touchdown putting the ‘Cats up with a score of 12-5.
It was a closely contested battle of wills for the next 10 or so minutes, with neither team managing to gain an advantage over the other. That changed with 20 seconds left in the half with a Voyageurs touchdown and run-in by Liam Critch followed by a conversion point added by Murenje.
At the end of the half, the score was 14-12 for Bonnyville.
Returning to the field after the half, the Voyageurs came out ready to play; the next pair of touchdowns, and conversions, were run in by Bonnyville players Connor Balash and Critch. Murenje scored the extra points with both conversion kicks.
The Wildcats managed to stop the bleeding just before the end of the third quarter; Hagel ran in a touchdown and Taylor Watt scored on the conversion kick.
It was too little, too late for the Wildcats; heading into the fourth quarter Stettler picked up a pair of points on a safety play on Voyageur player Balash, and Voyageur Murenje picked up a single point with one minute left of play.
The final score was 29 Bonnyville and 21 Stettler.
Stettler is back in action on the road in Sylvan Lake on Sept. 14.