By Cole Parkinson
For Taber Times
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
After a strong showing in Week 1, the W.R. Myers Rebels hit the gridiron once again this past weekend as they looked to add another win. With another home game on tap, the Rebels were hopeful to put together another strong effort as the Cardston Cougars came to town.
“When Cardston comes to town, we know we’re in for a tough game. They’ve been a perennial powerhouse at Tier 2 and Tier 3 levels in this Province for decades, and they’re always fast, tough, and well-coached,” explained Jason Jensen, head coach of the Rebels. “It was estimated that somewhere in the neighbourhood of 1,000 people showed up for the doubleheader, and I think it was a pretty even split between Taber fans and Cardston fans. It certainly made for an electric atmosphere at Ken McDonald.”
The strong performance in Week 1 was a good building block for the Rebels and the coaching staff was eager to see what the team had for an encore performance. But considering the Rebels hadn’t faced Cardston in a number of years, that also provided an additional challenge.
“We haven’t played them at the high school level since 2014, so it was kind of exciting to test ourselves against that level of opponent, and for it to count towards league standings made it even more of an important test. All week, we preached how important it was to improve on our performance from the last game, as we knew Cardston would raise the bar for us even higher,” stated Jensen.
Heading out for the first quarter, the team looked to provide a quick offensive strike to set the tone. Despite some visible nerves in front of the big crowd, the Rebels stabilized quickly and were able to score the first points of the game. From there, the Rebels’ defence continued to be tough as nails.
“Well, I think we got that message home, and though our boys were obviously nervous, they came out of the gates strong. A four-play opening drive was capped by a 23-yard touchdown run by reigning division MVP Elias Cooper to put us up 7-0 less than three minutes in. I stressed to the defence that we needed to get a good stop here. Being up a score early was fortunate, and Cardston could erase that lead very quickly. Sure enough, the rest of the quarter was a dogfight, as both teams dug in. Late in the quarter, the Cougars threatened with an eight-play drive deep into Rebels territory, but our defence locked down, and forced a turnover on downs to end the first.”
The second half saw both teams get the ball and it was another battle with neither team giving much up.
“The second quarter was similar to the first, with both teams exchanging short drives, but unable to score, until Allen Clements broke things open with a 29-yard touchdown run, putting us up 14-0 with 2:17 to go in the half. This time however, the Cougars were able to answer back right away, and 8 plays later a Cardston running back drove into the endzone for a score of their own, sending us into halftime with a 14-7 lead,” continued Jensen.
After finally allowing an opposition into the endzone, the coaching staff was there to preach how quickly games can turn. Despite the touchdown by Cardston, the Rebels were in good shape heading into the third quarter and some minor adjustments were made.
“That Cardston touchdown proved just how quickly this game could turn on us, and we warned the players about that at halftime. We absolutely could not let up in the second half, and if anything, we needed to find a way to play even better if we wanted to come away with the win. I think that message got home, as the nervousness seemed to disappear, and the boys realized that not this win was within our grasp,” said Jensen. “I think the Cardston coaches must have been preaching a similar message, as they came out just as determined as our boys did, and we exchanged two-and-out drives.”
Late in the quarter, the Rebels were able to capitalize on offence once again and extend their lead.
“Something had to give, and finally Cooper broke free with a 52-yard run, and Clements again found the endzone with 4:05 left in the quarter, to give us a 21-7 cushion. After that, the defence took over, and allowed the Cougars offence absolutely nothing from there on out,” added Jensen.
Knowing the game was far from over, the defence looked to batten up the hatches for the remainder of the game. Cardston continued to give everything they could, but the Rebels’ defence was up to the challenge.
“Of course, there was no quit in those Cardston boys, and even when we put together an 11-play drive in the fourth quarter, they pulled out a stop on their own one-yard line, denying us another touchdown. Unfortunately for them, this Rebels defence smelled blood in the water, and forced the Cougars to concede a safety to bring the score to 23-7,” said Jensen.
“That score would hold until the end, as the Myers pass defence broke up several deep passing attempts from Cardston, and our offence was able to grind the rest of the clock out with punishing runs to seal the game. Once it was all wrapped up, to go along with the touchdowns on offence, Clements tied linebacker Blake Bareman for the team lead in tackles with eight, with one of the Bareman tackles being the game’s lone quarterback sack.”
With another huge win, the Rebels have started the new season with a pair of hard-fought victories that no doubt will lead to some confidence moving into Week 3.
“A win like that is huge for these boys. We haven’t beaten Cardston since 2001, and these guys all knew that coming in. And to do it in front of a crowd that huge made it that much more special. Cardston definitely didn’t make it easy for us, and I was very happy to see my players overcome some injury adversity and keep plugging away,” explained Jensen.
The coaching staff was particularly happy with the fact players up and down the roster contributed to the win. Both offence and defence have been stellar in the early portions of the season and the expectation is with more reps will come even better results.
“Once again, the team contribution was apparent, with 13 different players registering tackles. Next up we have what should be an even tougher test for us, as we face the Chinook Coyotes out of Lethbridge this coming Friday. That is a program that has been steadily on the rise over the past few years, and boasts a roster of over 50 players, while being ranked number four in the Province at Tier 2. They beat us pretty handily the past two seasons, so we know we’ll have our work cut out for us. I look forward to a good week of practice here, and yet another tough test on Friday night,” added Jensen.
The Chinook Coyotes come to town on Sept. 15 with kickoff at 7 p.m. at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Complex.