Cougars 29 Rams 14
Once the Notre Dame Cougars offence found its footing the Central Alberta High School Football League championship final was all but over.
The Cougars scored 29 unanswered points to overcome a 7-0 deficit and rolled to a 29-14 victory over the Lacombe Rams at Great Chief Park Saturday afternoon.
But it wasn’t the Cougars offence that drew most of the raves following the game . . . it was their defence.
The Notre Dame defence held the Rams at bay in the first half until their offence got going in the final two minutes of the second quarter.
Twice the Cougars intercepted Rams quarterback Cole Stewart to snuff out drives. Then with the score 7-0 for the Rams, the Cougars created a pair of fumbles that turned into 14 points and a 14-7 halftime lead.
“Our defence helped us come out with this win,” said Cougars veteran defensive back Tyler LaGrange who had one of the two interceptions.
“We had a couple of breakdowns, but we did a good job of bring it back together as a team. The turnovers were the key. The offence has to have the ball to do anything and we were able to get it back into their hands.”
Cougars quarterback Kyle Devine struggled early, but following the first fumble recovery on the Lacombe 47 yard line he began to find his stride.
“It was the wind and a little case of the nerves,” said Devine. “But then if you’re not a bit nervous in a championship game you’re not human.”
Devine connected with Parker Aubin on a 24-yard pass on the second play following the fumble, then found Glen Ritchie alone on the goal line for a 23-yard scoring strike. Aaron Moritz’s first of four converts tied the game.
The Cougars were unsuccessful on a short kick attempt, but two plays later the Rams once again coughed up the ball on the Notre Dame 47. Two plays later Dale MacDonald broke off tackle and went 58 yards to put the Cougars up for good.
“Turnovers were the key in the first half,” said Cougars head coach Gino Castellan. “They always demoralize a team, especially when they’re driving.”
The Cougars passing game and a switch in blocking assignments, turned the game completely in Notre Dame’s favour in the third quarter.
They dominated play getting touchdowns on runs of nine and 10 yards by MacDonald and a single on a wide field goal by Moritz.
Their defence limited the Rams to just five offensive plays, and one of those was a third-down fake punt that came up well short.
“We had a real hard time dealing with MacDonald in the third quarter,” said Rams head coach Brian Ross. “He showed why he was the league’s top rusher.”
The Cougars also did a good job blocking Lacombe’s outstanding linebacker Brandt Kolybaba.
“He’s a hell-of-a athlete and was in on a lot of tackles in the first half, so we made an adjustment on the O-line and we got a body on him in the second half,” said Castellan.
Brady Olsen scored the Rams first touchdown on a two-yard run in the first quarter while Dalen Kolybaba scored on a 104-yard fumble recovery at 9:28 of the fourth quarter. Cale Jacobs had a pair of converts.
The win gave the Cougars a 10-0 record and a berth in the provincial Tier II championships. They host Edmonton McNally Saturday at Great Chief Park.
Castellan didn’t expect to go 10-0 in league play.
“It was unexpected, but I’m proud of the kids. They played well now we just have to see if we can keep riding this roller-coaster.”
Ross was disappointed, yet proud of his troops.
“They’re a good group. Unfortunately they showed their age today. They’re largely a group of Grade 10s and 11s, so next year, with another year under their belts, they’ll be ready to roll.”
l Olsen, who replaced starter Skylar Sargeant, who played less than a quarter because of the flu, had 134 yards rushing on 14 carries . . . MacDonald had 181 yards on 25 carries.