After winning their previous six games, the Stettler Wildcats suffered their first loss of the season last Friday at the most inopportune time.
The visiting Notre Dame Cougars of Red Deer defeated the Wildcats 42-14 in their Central Alberta High School Football League semifinal.
Notre Dame landed a berth in the final against another Red Deer school, the Hunting Hills Lightning, while the Wildcats will battle the Sylvan Lake Lakers in a third-place game that also has provincial implications.
The Lakers lost 14-10 to the Lightning in a rescheduled semifinal Saturday at Lacombe.
“Our game against Notre Dame did not go as we had hoped it would,” said Stettler coach Norbert Baharally. “We lost to a more dominant team on that day. We did not play our greatest game and certainly not our best effort.
“However, I do not want to take anything away from Notre Dame. They deserved to win.”
Fortunately for the Wildcats, their season isn’t finished. At home 2 p.m. this Saturday, the Wildcats host a team they beat earlier this season in Sylvan Lake.
“Our game on Saturday will be the biggest game, for us, of the year,” Baharally said. “We will be playing for third place, as well as for a berth to represent our league in the Tier 3 provincial playoffs.”
Last season, of course, the Wildcats were the provincial Tier 3 champions.
They’ve battled through key injuries for all of this season, and the trainer’s room continues to be a revolving door for the Wildcats.
“We had Morgan Loshny back in our lineup on a limited basis (last Friday), but Ty Page, Austin Peterson and Tyler Greiner did not play due to injuries,” Baharally said.
Loshny and Tyler Stewart each scored touchdowns for the Wildcats, while Frank van Ommeren kicked a pair of converts.
For the first time this season, the Wildcats aren’t ranked atop the provincial high school Tier 3 rankings. In the Week 9 rankings, they dropped to No. 5 in the latest Football Alberta report. The new top-ranked team is Crescent Heights (9-0) of Medicine Hat, followed by Cochrane (8-1), St. Paul (7-1) and Calgary’s Rundle College (6-1).
Hunting Hills (7-0-1) is ranked fourth among Tier 2 schools.