It was a perfect day for the Taber bantam Rebels football team on Saturday in Lethbridge, as the team gears up for the regular season.
Taber went 3-0 in a trio of games at Winston Churchill High School in a preseason jamboree.
“We only had 21 kids for the three games, which we played back-to-back-to-back, so everyone saw the field a lot, which is the goal with preseason,” said head coach Garrett Simmons.
The Rebels scored a three-touchdowns-to-one victory over the Lethbridge Bulldogs in the opener, as Mike Sawatzky, Corny Froese and Brett Andrus recorded the majors.
“Those three grade 9s will be key for us all season, on both offence and defence,” said Simmons, who added all three scores were on the ground. “We utilized our speed well on both sides of the ball in that game.”
The defence surrendered one score to Lethbridge’s bruising running back, who broke his fair share of tackles on the Bulldogs touchdown run.
“But overall, our defence was solid. We were a lot smaller than Lethbridge, but our kids flew to the ball and played well,” said Simmons.
Quinn Bailey had an interception on a leaping effort to snuff out one Lethbridge scoring opportunity, as the defence held the rest of the way.
In Game Two, Taber scored four majors and surrendered two against the Coaldale Pride, as the Rebels mixed up the offensive attack. Andrus scored touchdowns on the ground and through the air, while Sawatzky also ran one in himself. Sawatzky also threw a touchdown pass to Tyler Kornelsen.
“We were really clicking on offence in that game,” said Simmons, who added the defence gave up one score per half and made some big plays of its own along the way.
Bailey created another turnover with a fumble recovery and Cody Jonker also jumped on one fumble, while Johnny Tams recorded a quarterback sack.
“It was nice to see some kids step up on defence,” said Simmons, who highlighted the play of Jonker. “You can see he has come a long way from being a first-year bantam last year. Cody was all over the field in those first two games on defence.”
In the final game of the day, Taber recorded a 5-0 victory over the Lethbridge Cougars. Andrus hauled in a touchdown pass from Sawatzky, while Tams, Kadin Reynolds and Tyler Szigli added touchdown runs.
Brett Bullock also caught a touchdown pass from Tristyn Kozak, as the back-up quarterback also recovered a fumble on defence.
“We played well from start to finish in that game,” said Simmons.
“We had a lot of our starters rest in the second half, and the kids who came in to play carried that momentum and really kept the pressure on.”
The coach added he was pleased by what he saw on both sides of the ball, especially due to the fact a couple of key players were missing from the lineup on Saturday.
“These were just controlled scrimmages, but it was nice for the kids to have some success and play well against some of the teams we’re going to see once the season kicks off for real. Now, the real work begins, preparing for the season opener, cleaning up some things on offence and defence and installing our special-teams systems.”
The Rebels are off the next two weekends, and do not open the Southern Alberta Minor Football Association season until Wednesday, Sept. 16, when Taber hosts the Lethbridge Coyotes at 7 p.m. at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Park.