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Central Alberta rugby teams battle in provincial finals

High school provincial rugby wraps up in Red Deer

After a hectic weekend of provincial high school rugby in Red Deer, the champions have been crowned.

From June 7-8, the top girls' and boys' rugby teams in the province made their way to Red Deer to compete for provincial titles in three tiers.

After numerous games on Friday, the championship games were held on Saturday on fields across the city.

Among the local teams competing for titles were the West Central High School senior boys out of Rocky Mountain House and the Rimbey High School senior girls.

West Central, who competed for the Tier II boys title at Titans Field on Saturday, lost 63-0 to Winston Churchill High School from Lethbridge.

Head coach Camryn Leavitt-Bonazza, who co-coaches with her husband Dominic, said her team played amazing considering how shorthanded they are.

After losing a few players to injuries and other reasons they came to provincials with just three substitute players. Despite that, they beat Lethbridge 22-0 in their opening game before losing to Churchill twice.

"We've played with very few subs all year. At most, we had 18 players on our roster and they wanted it," she said.

This is the first group of guys to form a rugby team in Rocky Mountain House since 2019. Following the COVID-19 pandemic the school had a hard time finding enough players to form a team.

Last year they had enough to enter the 7s league and this year with more interest were able to join the 15s.

"It became really difficult to try and get a sport going again that isn't the most popular but these guys showed a big interest and here we are," she said.

"I'm hopeful this program will continue to grow especially if we can continue to compete at this level... The boys here really showed what it means to play as a team and not give up on each other."

The Rimbey High School senior girls, who competed in the Tier III girls division, lost to Sexsmith Secondary School 19-0 at Annie L Gaetz in Red Deer on Saturday.

Head coach Ceara Newman said despite not coming out on top in the provincial final the girls played an incredible game.

"They pushed to the final second and we had a ton of injuries. We went in with only three subs but I couldn't ask anything more from them. I'm really proud," she said.

Rimbey was right in it through the first half but Sexsmith scored 19 unanswered points in the second half to pull away.

"I think in the second half we got a few really unlucky bounces. It was a really well-called game but I think we just got tired. We had a really physical tournament and ran out of subs. They're a great team though," she added.

Early on in the provincial tournament, Rimbey beat Matthew Halton 17-5 before losing to Sexsmith 19-5 in their second game. Overall, Newman said it was a successful season.

"It was a bit of a growth year for us. We have a ton of rookies and they did incredible."

In Tier I girls action, the Notre Dame Cougars beat Lindsay Thurber Raiders 53-7 to claim seventh place and in the same matchup in Tier I boys the Raiders beat the Cougars 48-12.

The Lacombe Rams also beat the Hunting Hills Lightning 10-5 in Tier II girls' tournament play for seventh place.

In Tier I Girls play, Lethbridge Collegiate Institute beat Raymond to earn gold. In Boys Tier I, Holy Trinity Academy earned gold over Chinook. In Tier II Girls, Sturgeon beat Holy Trinity to earn top spot. 

Ian Gustafson

About the Author: Ian Gustafson

Ian began his journalism career as a reporter in Prince Albert, Sask. for the last three years, and was born and raised in Saskatchewan.
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