The Notre Dame Cougars just needed some adversity in the Central Alberta High School Girls Rugby Tier II Zone Final.
Falling behind the Hunting Hills Lightning 10-0 in the opening 10 minutes of the game turned out to be the perfect storm for the Cougars.
They awoke from the early hibernation and hunted down the Lightning with a vengeance.
Behind the strength of Taya MacKersie, who scored three tries in the 38-15 victory, the Cougars picked up the zone title.
“This was our most complete game. We’ve talked about polishing and peaking at the right time. We’re getting there. We went down 10 right off the hop and scored 38 in a row. That was phenomenal,” Cougars coach Ian Rattan said.
“We’ve been spotting teams all year and it was great to see the ladies fight back. They believed and they were as good as (Hunting Hills). It was anybody’s game, they bought it and it was great to see. I’m so proud of these girls.”
Two tries from Paityn Babb finally woke the Cougars up midway through the first half. She buried the convert on the second and hit four on the game.
They lead 19-10 at half and just poured it on from there, scoring three more on the way to the win.
Considering the Lightning we’re undefeated in the regular season, it made the victory that much sweeter for Notre Dame.
“We’ve had a tough go against them the last couple years,” Rattan added.
“They beat us in the last two zone finals of Tier II, it’s just nice to get one against them and have success. It’s great for the girls going forward. We have a lot of girls coming back next year.”
Not to be outdone, the Cougars senior boys put on a show in the Boys Tier II Zone Final with a miraculous comeback of their own.
Trailing the Hunting Hills Lightning 26-10 at the half, Notre Dame rallied with three straight tries, including one on the final three minutes to pull out the 27-26 victory.
It was Limuel Lazaro who finally punched through for the Cougars after they battled to get within five of the Lightning. When the go-ahead try was touched down, pure elation on the Notre Dame sideline.
“We started protecting the ball better and taking care of it, which was awesome. We supported each other,” Rattan said.
“We’ve had phases through the entire season where guys would go on long rips and stuff like that, but we don’t have a guy around his hip. We did a pretty good job supporting the ball and then crunch time when we were up one, we didn’t turn it over once. It was amazing. Such disciplined rugby. Awesome to watch.”
Rattan said he preached the same message to the boys when they fell behind 10-0 early, exactly the way the girls did earlier in the night.
They battled back and got within two points, but Zac Sanderson scored twice for Hunting Hills late in the first half to pull his side ahead 26-10. From there, the comeback was on.
“That was unreal, the fight they had all season long– to just keep battling back the entire time… just told the boys, ‘hey, a couple breaks’ and then three minutes left to play, we punch one in to go up one, unbelievable,” said Rattan.
Both the Notre Dame girls and boys will play at the Alberta Schools Athletic Association Rugby Provincials in Lethbridge on June 7 and 8.
The Lindsay Thurber Raiders will represent the Central region in Tier I play.