It was a frosty day in Whitecourt when the HJ Cody Lakers took on the Whitecourt Cats on Saturday. The battle was for the right to move on to provincial finals.
The start of the game was vaguely familiar, except it was the Cats that scored the first touchdown in the first minute of the game, starting the scoreboard at 7-0 for the Cats.
Tyrese and Landon eked down the field toward the end zone, giving Seth Blagen the opportunity to kick a field goal and bring the score to 7-3. Dylan Keller gained possession of the ball to run it down the field. From there, Landon Rosene stretched it out for a touchdown and Seth got the convert, bringing the score to 7-10 for the Lakers.
The Cats stepped up to the plate and, even with Carter Theriault and Sulley Larocque diving, tripping and sit-spinning Cats, Whitecourt managed to get to their end zone. The Lakers defence line pushed against the Cats offence line in a battle of strength and will. But finally the Cats line broke through, putting the score at 14-10 for the Cats.
Skylar passed to Landon who ran a first down. Lordy, lordy, Kyle Eckenswiller nabbed a 40-yard pass from Skylar. Another pass to Landon, who turned on the wheels for another touchdown, bringing the score to 17 for the Lakers (after Seth nailed the convert) and 14 for the Whitecourt Cats.
Back and forth it went. Sulley Larocque slammed Cat after Cat. Dylan Keller dove and caught any Cat within his reach. Matthew Bossert and Chase Elwood had fun making Cat sandwiches. With the Cats at the five-yard line in their end zone, the Lakers defence became an impenetrable wall, and try as they might, they couldn’t break through.
Passing to Landon, then to Kyle, then to Tyrese, Skylar’s passes were true. But the Cats didn’t let the Lakers get ahead. Whether it was through talent or fluke, the Cats took possession and ran the ball down the field for a touchdown and convert, bringing the score 21-17 for the Cats.
Landon Gyori pressured receivers to keep missing passes, while Kyle Eckenswiller tripped and grabbed a Cat or two. Seth Blagen managed another field goal, bringing the score to 21-20 going into the second half.
The second half saw the competition increase between these two well-matched teams. Fumbles, recoveries, possession, passes and tackles, back and forth, these boys were warring in a fair game absent of nit picking, sucker punches and sneaky shots. It was just a good, clean football game.
Kyle Eckenswiller, Landon Rosene and Sulley Larocque played both offence and defence, as did several of the linemen, giving all they had to the game. Dylan Keller had his eye trained on #77 of the Cats, preventing him from running anywhere in the second half. Ryan Arnold was able to get his hands on the ball, and Austin Ilcissin made a few Cats eat grass. The Cats got in another field goal to bring the score up 24-20.
The Lakers gave everything they had, but the Cats wouldn’t give an inch. The last five minutes were a frenzy of activity on the field as the pressure increased for the Lakers trying to get a touchdown and the Cats trying to increase their lead.
Josh Rideout twisted his back leaping over a Cat and was escorted off, the game finished for him. Skylar Selk got sacked hitting the ground head first, ending the game for him in the final seconds. Sulley Larocque received multiple helmets to his knee, and although finished the game, needed help to the bus. All three are healing.
But it just wasn’t meant to be. With another field goal and a safety point, the final score was 28 for the Whitecourt Cats to 20 for the Lakers.
The season is now over for the Lakers, but they remain league champions and can now heal from the last few games before snowboarding season begins.
For many of them, this was their last high school football game. Some of them are planning to continue playing football either at university or with junior teams, but whatever they decide, it is assured they will succeed — just as they did in football.
Congratulations on a well-played season.