Wildcats gear up for new season

After a short training camp, Stettler begins title defence Thursday at home to Lacombe

After taking most of Labour Day weekend off

“One-two-three, Cats.”

With that chant, the Stettler Wildcats ended another practice Monday night and signalled the start of another high school football season.

The Wildcats begin their Central Alberta High School Football League schedule at home Thursday against Lacombe.

Game time is 4:30 p.m.

As the Wildcats practised Monday evening, Football Alberta released its first rankings for this high school season and slotted Stettler at No. 1 in the province among Tier 3 schools.

The Wildcats, after all, won the provincial Tier 3 title last season. Key cogs from that team are back in the bid for a repeat performance.

“This is our fourth day on the field with full equipment,” coach Norbert Baharally said during the Wildcats’ Labour Day practice on the eve of the new school year.

“We’ve got two more practices left before we play this Thursday.”

Including three practices last week, it’s been a slightly shorter-than-usual training camp for the Wildcats.

“We’ve learned over the past that when you try to start back too early that you don’t get a good complement of players, because people are still working, or they’re on holidays still, and so forth,” said Baharally, the Stettler coach for the past 25 seasons.

“We kind of make sure that when we do call (the early practice dates), that everybody has a good chance of being here.”

The Wildcats have 37 players listed on their roster, though the turnout for each practice through Monday was about 30 players.

“We have four players completely new to the game — never played before — right from Grade 12 to Grade 10,” Baharally said.

“And then, new to our team this year, with some experience through the bantam (Stettler Cougars) program, we have about eight of those guys.”

On the returning side of the ledger, the experienced Wildcats include about a dozen players who played midget last spring with the Battle River Shock and the Prairie Fire.

“The guys that we do have coming back were a major part of the team that we had last year, that’s for sure,” Baharally said.

“Playing that (midget) season gives them another year of experience under their belt. Lots of guys were doing stuff in the off-season. We had guys that were attending camps in July, as well.

“Our key thing right now, until we get everybody out here, is trying to stay healthy and injury-free. When everybody is here and we have people in positions, we’re looking pretty decent on the offence, and I think our defence is going to be very solid, with the personnel that we have.”

Along with the graduation of nine players from the 2011 championship team, two other Wildcats left the club prematurely. One departed for personal reasons and another has opted to work instead of playing football.

“We lost a couple of guys along the way, for various reasons,” Baharally said. “But we still have all our key players back, all in key positions.”

With just a short pre-season camp, the Wildcats were banking on players reporting in shape.

“It’s not bad,” Baharally said as his players jogged toward the end of Monday’s practice.

“I told these guys on Thursday, when we broke for the long weekend, that they need to thank their conditioning coaches, because I do think we’ve got some of the best coaches in the province running our conditioning for us. I said (the players) are going to thank them for it someday. They might hate it when they’re doing (drills) now, but when it comes fourth quarter in regular season and playoffs, we’re hopefully going to be in better shape than the opponents.”

While some players participated in personal programs this summer, the Wildcats’ camp has included a fourth-quarter workout for the final 10 to 15 minutes of each practice.

“Coach (Mark) Siemens is the guy that organizes that and puts the guys through the paces,” Baharally said. “A lot of the times, he’s doing it with them or leading them, so it’s good for the players to see that.”

Stettler’s first test comes Thursday against Lacombe, which doesn’t appear in the Week 1 rankings.

“They’ll have a good passing game,” Baharally said of the Rams. “They’ve got a good quarterback that played with the Shock with some of these guys here.”

The Wildcats visit Wetaskiwin on Sept. 13 and host Rocky Mountain House on Sept. 20.

Just Posted

Happy Easter everyone!

Youngsters are excited for the holiday

UCP candidate Nate Horner triumphs in Drumheller-Stettler riding

Horner looking forward to moving ahead with UCP policies in the coming months

Kenney talks pipelines with Trudeau after election win, calls it cordial

Almost a year ago Kenney dismissed Trudeau as a dilettante and a lightweight

Trade show fun!

Annual Stettler Trade Show proves a hit with local residents

Stettler residents cast their votes

Polling station closes at 8 p.m.

‘Open for business:’ Jason Kenney’s UCP wins majority in Alberta election

The UCP was leading or elected in 63 of 87 seats Tuesday night

Undercover cops don’t need warrant to email, text suspected child lurers: court

High court decision came Thursday in the case of Sean Patrick Mills of Newfoundland

VIDEO: Trump tried to seize control of Mueller probe, report says

Special counsel Robert Mueller’s report revealed to a waiting nation Thursday

Alberta RCMP reminds Albertans how to be ‘egg-stra’ safe this Easter

Put away phone while driving, plan for a designated driver

B.C. awaits Kenney’s ‘turn off taps,’ threat; Quebec rejects Alberta pipelines

B.C. Premier John Horgan said he spoke with Kenney Wednesday and the tone was cordial

Federal government extends deadline to make Trans Mountain decision to June 18

The National Energy Board endorsed an expansion of the Trans Mountain pipeline on Feb. 22

Precautionary evacuation for Red Deer, Alta., residents due to industrial fire

City officials are advising people to close windows and doors and to turn off air intakes into homes

Study links preschool screen time to behavioural and attention problems

The research looked at more than 2,400 families

Could a pharmacist’s consultation help more people get vaccinated?

Canadian study suggests giving pharmacists a monetary incentive to consult would cut influenza cases

Most Read