The Notre Dame Jr. Cougars football team capped off a redemption tour for the ages this season.
A loss in the bantam high school football championship final a year prior fueled them en route to an undefeated 7-0 season and a championship title over Sylvan Lake.
The loss in 2021 stung but instead of feeling sorry for themselves, they went to work and dominated the 2022 season.
Head coach Kyle Liptak said an injury to their quarterback before last year’s final hurt them and players on the squad felt there was unfinished business to attend to.
“There was definitely a goal set by a lot of those players and an expectation, so I think that really helped as well. These kids were right away coming into camp and were ready to get back to that championship game and get the title,” Liptak said.
“When you’re that close, I think all the players felt the silver medal is the worst medal to win because you’re always getting that medal when you lose a game. I think that inspired our kids. There was one goal and the kids stuck to the road map and they stuck to the plan.”
With the amount of talent that returned this season, their expectation was a championship. What made this team special he added, was a great group of coaches as well as athletes who bought into their system.
“We definitely had a lot of talent on the team and we had a lot of depth, which helped. When we needed people to step up into roles they did it. We had a team that just kept improving every week they kept getting better,” he said. “They’re a really good group of kids who worked hard so it is really nice to see.”
They’ll have plenty of players returning for next season but will also graduate players to the senior football program. This season the Cougars fielded a more veteran squad with Grade 9’s and will have some of their linemen and receivers return in 2023.
“We should compete well again next year but it’s always at this level the veterans who lead it. For our kids who are in their second year, they did a great job of leading by example and showing the kids what it took to be a champion,” he added.
With the win, the Cougars will head to Medicine Hat for the provincial championship on Nov. 12 and will play either Medicine Hat or Brooks.