The Springbank Phoenix’s season of ascension met its match in the provincial playoffs.
The defending Tier II provincial champion Holy Trinity Academy Knights scored a 41-0 victory over the Phoenix Friday afternoon in Cochrane to eliminate the Phoenix from the high school football postseason.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game and we just wanted to give them a scare,” said Phoenix head coach Tyler McRae. “It’s tough to end the season like this, but I’m proud of the guys. We’ve really built a program this year from last year.
“Our goal this year was to play in this game so we met out goal and we’ll move forward.”
The Knights scored four running touchdowns and benefited from three safeties with the Phoenix electing to take a knee in the end zone rather than attempt to punt out of bad field position.
HTA’s Ben Gutek had three running touchdowns to lead the visitors, the No. 2 ranked Tier II team in the province.
“Defensively, we played really,” said Knights head coach Matt Hassett. “There was just that one series in the second half where they changed a few things and put (Mark Schroeder) at QB and tried to stretch the field horizontally with his speed.
“They got a few first downs and earned it and then our guys kind of got used to it a little, took better angles and were able to cut him off.”
The Phoenix finished with just one win during its 2022 rebuilding season and this year easily bested that mark.
Springbank’s Rocky View championship victory over W.H. Croxford the week prior, with the Cavaliers taking the previous meeting, cemented its spot in the provincial playoffs.
“Croxford beat us 55-0 last year so that was our big game,” McRae said. “That just shows you the improvement.”
McRae said the team’s steady rise came about from adding strength in numbers.
“Getting some new athletes on the team, getting our numbers up, that will be important moving forward,” he said. “We’ve leaned on a couple of other schools to get some kids out, we’ve got a few new coaches and changed the direction of coaching and the program and our philosophy. That was big this year.”
“That was our message to them all year, we’re building the program. We’ve got 11 seniors leaving and they’re leaving us in a good spot.
“We’re on the up for sure and hopefully next year we get 20 more athletes and just keep moving up.”
And they won’t have to look far for a model program.
McRae praised the Knights across the board following the Friday contest.
“They’re just so disciplined and they execute on all their plays, there’s no mistakes,” McRae said. “They’ve got big kids, their size is big and they’ve got numbers.
“They’re a good example of a program that has grown over the years, they have a solid program and that’s what we’ve said to our kids, ‘That’s the pinnacle, that’s where we want to be in a few years.’”