Cougars 40 Rebels 6
Notre Dame Cougars head coach Gino Castellan was a little worried heading into his Central Alberta High School Football League season opener against the West Central Rebels of Rocky Mountain House.
In the end there was no need as the Cougars rolled to a 40-6 victory at Great Chief Park Thursday.
“They’re a big, tough team and I was worried as I had no idea how good we were,” said Castellan. “In the end I was pleased with what I saw considering it was our first game. Our defence did a great job and while there’s still a lot of work ahead on the offence they started to come together.”
The offence, led by first-year starting quarterback Kyle Devine, started slow, but by the middle of the first quarter showed signs of coming together.
“A slow start was to be expected as the kids had to be a bit nervous,” said Castellan.
Devine, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student, agreed.
“I was nervous before the game, but I settled in after a couple of series,” he said.
He did that as he threw the ball with precision from the outset, connecting on seven of 13 passes for 184 yards and four touchdowns. He also had three other passes dropped.
“We’re looking at throwing the ball a little more this year, or at least I hope so,” he said. “Tonight I didn’t throw with a lot of confidence from the pocket, but I did when I rolled out, which I enjoy.”
Castellan expects to ride Devine’s strong right arm a lot this season.
“We hope to open things up for the running game with the passing game,” he said.
“That is a bit of change for us,” added Devine. “In the past we ran to open up the passing game.”
The Cougars’ running game wasn’t bad either as Grade 11 tailback Dale MacDonald carried the ball 15 times for 167 yards and two touchdowns. He opened the scoring at 7:44 of the first quarter on a 63-yard dash and added a second-quarter major on a six-yard run.
“Dale did a good job considering he played defence last year,” said Castellan. “He still need to work on a few things, but he ran hard.”
Nathan Stearns, who had six catches for 94 yards, scored touchdowns on passes of 26 and 18 yards while Connor McLachlan scored on a 63-yard toss and Glen Ritchie on a 27-yard pass and run.
Aaron Moritz kicked four converts.
Jesse Cooling scored the lone Rebels major, on a one-yard run early in the third quarter, which made the score 27-6.
Cooling led the Rebels with 66 yards on 11 carries while Braden Fordyce had 27 yards on five carries for the Cougars.
The Cougars, who rushed for 225 yards and passed for 184, held the Rebels to 96 yards rushing and 32 passing.
While the Rebels struggled it’s been a rough few days on many of the players after losing school mate Tanner Mayer in a freak accident.
“It’s been a tough three days,” said Rebels head coach Vance Curtis. “A lot of the kids are still mourning his loss and there wasn’t much fire in their eyes.”
As well the Rebels were without one of their top running backs in Jordan Hare, who has a slight leg injury.
“His loss hurt, but I can’t say that would have made the difference,” said Curtis. “They kicked us with their passing game. Their quarterback threw the ball real well and was on the money all night.
“It was a good lesson for us. We’ve been talking about that part of the game and now the kids hopefully understand what we’ve been saying.”
But Curtis did see some positives.
“Our No. 70 (Chris Lublinkoff) is a Grade 10 kid and we put him on the defensive line and he did a good job. We don’t want to lose him off the offence, but we’ll have to look at him going both ways.”