The Cochrane Cobras sank their fangs into the Holy Trinity Knights for a gutsy win on Saturday to advance to the finals.
The Cochrane Cobras stormed out to a 17-0 advantage and held off a second half surge to eliminate the defending champion Holy Trinity Academy Knights 17-15 on Saturday afternoon at Shouldice Park to march to the Football Alberta Tier II championship match.
“It was a tale of two halves, and we didn’t play very well in the first,” said Knights head coach Matt Hassett. “Credit to them, they took the ball and were pretty accurate with their short passing game and just kept moving the sticks.
“As a group, we just talked about how we’re giving them too much room and too much respect, we need to get closer and get up and we changed things up in the second half, that seemed to work a lot better and just got back into the game.
“But you can’t play a half of a football game and expect to win against a good team.”
In the first half, the Cobras found success with quarterback Noah Makkreel leading an efficient passing game and keeping the Knights offence off the field.
A touchdown saving goalline tackle from HTA’s Ashton Ramsay kept the Cobras from taking a big lead early on, with HTA then giving up a safety to get out of bad field position.
The Cobras would find the end zone early in the second quarter on a goalline run.
“We wanted to get back to what we do well,” said Cobras head coach Robbie McNab. “Often you overthink the process when you go against other teams and you think they might have seen this or whatnot and just went back to our basic stuff.”
The Knights were poised to answer the score late in the half before Cobras linebacker Stanleigh Stone picked off HTA quarterback Declan Lyth, found room on the outside and returned it to the house for a 92-yard pick six. Cochrane added a rouge to take the 17-0 edge.
“That’s what we said at halftime, we can’t do anything about the first half, it’s over,” Hassett said. “We’ve got to just reload, play football and see what happens. We’ve been a second half team for most of the year.”
That proved to be the case once again in the South Final.
The Knights moved the chains on their first possession of the second half with runningback Seth Poelzer scoring a short yardage touchdown to finish an impressive drive.
The Knights kept on coming in the fourth quarter and trimmed the deficit to eight on a 17 yard field goal from Ian Briseno with 3:18 left in regulation.
On the final play of the contest, Lyth found Cayden McCullough in the back of the end zone for an acrobatic five yard reception.
Needing a two-point convert to force overtime, the Knights were held on an incomplete pass.
“We had a great feeling,” said McNab, on the team’s energy going into the contest. “We’ve moved up to Tier II and they’re a very tough opponent and I don’t know what people thought of us coming up, but we’re going to scrap, be resilient and just do our thing.”
For the Knights, the 2023 Alberta Bowl will represent the first since the 2017 season in which HTA won’t be represented. The Knights won titles in 2019 and 2022 along with second place finishes in 2018 and 2021.
“We’re a very young team this year, out of 70 we only graduate 12,” Hassett said. “We’ll be back, for sure.
“It’s just unfortunate we didn’t play our best game on our last day.”