A change in the offensive playbook was the spark the team needed, as the Rebels ran all over the Pincher Creek Mustangs in a 27-7 win Saturday at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Park. Coupled with the return of starting quarterback Brad Marsden, the Rebels scored 20 first-half points and cruised home the rest of the way for the victory.
“That was a total team effort,” said Rebels head coach Garrett Simmons. “We had six kids gain first downs for us on offence, and everyone got into the act.”
But it was Pincher Creek that got on the board first, as the Mustangs used an old-fashioned offence to bully its way down the field and strike for a 7-0 lead.
“They use the double wing-T, with nine players bunched in a tight formation,” said Simmons. “They have some big, bruising blockers that really took it to us that first drive.”
But after that, the Taber defence stiffened and shut the door for the final three quarters.
“I was very impressed with the way the defense stepped up,” said defensive co-ordinator Jason Jensen. “They were largely overmatched size-wise, and some kids were seeing their first action at their position. The first Pincher Creek drive had me a little scared, but we re-grouped and largely shut them down from then on out.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Jensen added it was also about a team-first approach.
“What really impressed me was the number of different guys that were in on tackles. Instead of just the same one or two guys making every stop, we probably had the best team effort we have had all season.”
That was on display on offence in Taber’s first drive, as the Rebels methodically drove the ball down the field right after Pincher Creek’s first score, to quickly make it a 7-6 game. Marsden finished off the drive with a one-yard plunge on a QB keeper, on a drive where nearly every Rebels skill player touched the ball.
“That drive was really a sign of things to come,” said Simmons. “We used our speed, used some deception and got everyone involved early in the game plan.”
The Rebels struck again in the first quarter on a long Marsden touchdown run, before Ashton Bekkering capped off a long scoring drive with a touchdown in the second quarter to make it 20-7. That score was set up by a huge run from Josh Groft, who was playing slotback for the first time this year.
“He definitely had the key play,” said Simmons of Groft’s rumble deep into Mustangs territory. “He found some open running room and when Pincher’s defenders finally caught up with him, it took three of them to bring him down, after he churned out an extra 15 yards.”
Taber put the game away in the third quarter with another Marsden touchdown run, as Bekkering booted his third convert of the day through the uprights to make it 27-7.
“It makes a big difference having your starting quarterback in the lineup,” said Simmons. “He’s operated this offence for years in atom and peewee and it really showed. The offence also allows a lot of other kids to showcase their skills, and to say everything worked according to plan would be a huge understatement.”
Aside from Marsden, Groft and Bekkering, Cole Swarbrick hauled in a pass and long gains on the ground were had by Jaxon Shimbashi, Michael Dam and Andrew Schimmel.
On defence, Cody Sekura collected a fumble recovery, which stalled Pincher Creek’s second drive and helped swing the momentum in Taber’s favour.
The Rebels hosted the Coaldale Bears last night, with results unavailable at press time. Saturday, the team will travel to Raymond for a 1 p.m. game against the Comets.
“I understand Raymond has a lot of speed,” said Simmons. “We’ll have to find a way to neutralize that and come out with the same kind of emotion we did against Pincher Creek.”