By Cole Parkinson
For Taber Times
With home-field advantage secured for the Provincial quarter-final game, the W.R. Myers Rebels knew they’d have a tough test to move on — but being at home has its advantages. A big crowd was expected and the Rebels were fired up when they hit the gridiron on Nov. 11 at Ken McDonald Memorial Sports Complex to take on the Canmore Wolverines. It was a familiar foe for Taber, which meant they knew what to expect from a tough team.
“This is the third year in a row that we’ve faced Canmore in the provincial quarter-final, so it’s a team that we’re very familiar with. They always bring a good fight and last year they held a lead on us at halftime, so we knew the importance of getting off to a good start,” stated Jason Jensen, head coach of the Rebels.
With the coaching staff asking for a good start — they got exactly that from the Rebels. The home team was able to get out to an early lead thanks to some strong defensive play that got the ball moved to their high-powered offence.
“Well, saying we got off to a good start is maybe an understatement. The defence came out hot, holding the Wolverine offence to minus one yards on their first two plays before they were forced to punt. The high winds caused some chaos on the punt attempt, and returner Carson Becker was able to scoop the ball up, break a couple of tackles, and take it 43 yards for a touchdown, putting us up 7-0 mere minutes in,” explained Jensen.
From there, the Rebels poured it on and continued to put up points before the end of the first quarter.
“This was momentum that was difficult for Canmore to stop, and despite their best efforts, Dane DenHollander and Elias Cooper each managed to score rushing touchdowns, which, along with a Canmore conceded safety, put the score at 23-0 at the end of the first quarter,” added Jensen. “The second quarter was more of the same, as many of our players remembered the first-half consequences of taking Canmore lightly last year, and kept the intensity up all the way through.”
The Rebels’ defensive unit continued to stymie any Canmore chances of a comeback. Thanks to that effort, the offence was clear to continue to put up points and make the gap even bigger before the break.
“The defence continued to be stifling, while Cooper and runningback John Van Uden both recorded rushing touchdowns, and defensive lineman Jess Nielsen sacked the Canmore quarterback in the endzone for another safety as the half expired — sending us into the locker room up 39-0,” said Jensen. “With a score like that at halftime, it was definitely time to start getting all of the backups into the game, but we challenged the boys to keep up the same level of intensity as our full starting lineup had. I was pretty excited to see how some of these younger players would do on the big stage of a Provincial game, and I have to say, I was pretty impressed.”
Changes were made for the third quarter, but the effort remained the same — which was a big positive for the coaching staff. The entire second quarter was as impressive as the first as the team would completely stop any scoring from Canmore while also continuing to put points on the board.
“The defensive line was swapped out entirely and still did a good job of plugging up the middle and getting pressure on the quarterback. Our offence found the endzone one more time, with Van Uden again topping off a five-play drive with a four-yard touchdown. The ensuing kickoff had impressive distance, and Canmore was forced to concede a rouge, capping the score at 47-0. From there on out, both defences held firm, with each team gaining some yards, but neither finding the endzone,” added Jensen.
With several weeks without game action in October, the coaching staff wasn’t sure if the team would show so some early nerves in the biggest game of the year. That wasn’t the case and from top to bottom, the coaches were incredibly encouraged with how the team responded in the biggest game of the year so far.
“After that long layoff through October, and our rusty showing last week, it was nice to see that the boys had found their groove again. We seemed to be firing on all cylinders, in every aspect of the game through the first half, and even with our bench getting a lot of quality playing time in the second half, there wasn’t much of a drop-off performance-wise. That kind of play makes a coach pretty proud,” continued Jensen. “To go along with all of the touchdowns, a whopping 15 different players recorded tackles in the game, with linebacker Allen Clements leading the way with five, and cornerback Kade Hansen recording four, while also contributing an interception. Logan Van Uden, and Tate Nakashima each had fumble recoveries as well.”
There’s not much time for celebration for the Rebels as they’re already gearing up for next weekend’s semi-final. Waiting on the other side is another rival the Rebels are more than familiar with — the Drumheller Titans.
“Going forward, we have to travel to Drumheller to face the Titans in the Provincial semi-final. We’re old rivals, again facing off in the past three Provincial semis, with us coming out on top in 2021, and Drumheller winning last year. We know we’re in for a dogfight again, and it’s going to take a great week of practice to be ready for them. I’m excited to see if these boys can prove to be up to the challenge,” stated Jensen.
Kick-off goes at 1 p.m. on Nov. 18 in Drumheller.