September is here and football is underway in southern Alberta. The W.R. Myers Rebels saw their season kick-off last Friday as the team started their season at home against the Crescent Heights Vikings.
“It’s been a long off-season, and we were pretty excited to get back on the field,” said Jason Jensen, head coach of the Rebels. “Crescent Heights is always a tough test, especially with them having one of the more highly touted senior linebacker/slotback prospects in the province, Carter McLean. After last year’s dogfight to start the season, we expected more of the same this time around. We weren’t disappointed there.”
Getting to start the season at home in front of their fans was certainly a good boost for the Rebels. And the team showed it right from the opening kickoff.
“We received the opening kickoff, and the offence got right to work. We rounded out a nice 14-play drive, capped by senior slotback Brigham Porter finding the endzone on a one-yard run. A successful PAT attempt later put the score at 7-0 with 4:48 to go in the first quarter,” explained Jensen.
The defensive unit was also fired up to get back on the field. With an early lead, the defence was eager to keep it a 7-0 lead.
“The defence took over, and weren’t willing to be outdone, forcing a two-and-out on the Vikings’ first possession. Porter again made his presence felt, returning the Crescent Heights punt 42 yards, and giving the ball back to the offence deep in Vikings territory. Three plays later fullback Bryden O’Connor plunged in from the one-yard line to put the second score on the board. The Medicine Hat boys weren’t going to roll over and lay down though, and managed to get a hand on the PAT attempt to keep the score down to 13-0,” added Jensen.
While the Rebels had a decent lead heading into the second quarter, they knew there was still plenty of game to play and that Medicine Hat wouldn’t just hand them the game. The offence for the Rebels continued to fire on all cylinders and saw another early score.
“The second quarter began with the Rebels’ offence again on the march, with a seven-play drive that saw quarterback Dane DenHollander connect with O’Connor on a short pass to widen the gap to 19-0. The Vikings kept bringing the fight though, stringing together their longest drive up until that point, one that saw them recover a bobbled punt return to extend their effort. But the Myers defence held strong, eventually shutting down both of the Crescent Heights offensive series to send the teams into halftime with the score still 19-0,” said Jensen.
Heading into the break, the coaching staff was happy with how the team was able to find ways to score on offence and also shut down any attempts at a comeback. But with two quarters still to play, there were still things to work on to seal a victory.
“It’s tough to make halftime adjustments when up by a few scores, but this game was much closer than the score indicated, and we knew the Vikings would come out of the locker room roaring. We had some ideas as to how they were going to start to attack us on both sides of the ball, and we just preached to the players to not let up, or Crescent Heights was going to be right back in this game,” explained Jensen.
Right out of the gate, the Vikings showed a willingness to make adjustments and the Rebels had to do the same. With the Vikings needing a few scores to close the gap, the Rebels’ defence was tasked with shutting down a desperate offensive unit.
“Sure enough, the Vikings staff came out with some new ways of utilizing McLean to him the ball more, and kind of put us on our heels. Thankfully these boys regrouped on the fly, dug in, and shut down the offence after six plays, forcing them to turn over the ball on downs, with no points to show for it,” stated Jensen.
With the ball back in the hands of the Rebels’ offence, the team was once again able to capitalize.
“The Rebels offence took over, and after a 10-play drive that saw slotback Elias Cooper recover a bobbled punt return, rookie kicker Carson Becker nailed a 27-yard field goal to extend the Myers lead to 22-0 with 4:29 left to go in the quarter. Crescent Heights kept coming, with their offence again putting together a solid drive before being forced into a turnover on downs as the third quarter came to an end.,” said Jensen.
A big lead favoured the Rebels heading into the fourth quarter and Taber was doing its best job of running out the clock.
“The fourth quarter saw the Rebels’ offence doing a nice job of grinding the clock out with an 11-play drive, before being stopped deep in the Vikings end. The Myers defence again stepped up when called upon, with defensive end Grant Petronech having the presence of mind to dive on a Crescent Heights fumble on the first play in the drive, letting the Rebels offence have a second crack at scoring. Three plays later, running back John Van Uden smashed his way over the goal line on a two-yard run, extending the lead to 29-0, with five minutes to go in the game,” added Jensen.
Despite the large lead, the coaching staff preached hard-nosed defence as the Vikings continued to show no quit in their game. Looking to make another stop, the defensive unit continued to stand tall against any pushes made by Crescent Heights.
“There was no quit in that Vikings team, however, so the Myers defence still had to keep vigilant, continuing to shut down any attempt at a comeback. The scoring on the evening was capped off with the Rebels punt team pinning the Crescent Heights returner in the endzone, forcing a rouge for a single point, bringing the tally to 30-0. One more dangerous Vikings scoring attempt was cut off by a Becker interception on a late hail-mary pass, leaving DenHollander with the task of taking a knee to run the clock out, and seal the Rebels’ win,” continued Jensen.
With one win under their belt, the coaching staff was happy with how the team was able to not only capitalize on offence but also make stop after stop on defence. It was a battle from start to finish and the Rebels are hopeful to continue the momentum moving forward.
“Man, for a first game, I couldn’t be much happier with my boys’ performance. That Crescent Heights team never stopped taking it to us, and despite what the score might indicate, it never felt like they were out of the game. Carter McLean is an amazing athlete, and containing him all night was a tough task. A few of my guys came away banged up, bloodied and bruised, but I sure never saw the fight go out of them,” added Jensen. “Thirteen different players registered tackles in the game, which tells me that it was a true team effort. Kade Hansen led the way with five tackles, followed by linebacker Allen Clements with four, and Porter, O’Connor, Tyson Harker, and Blake Bareman with three a piece. An effort like this is something I really needed to see out of this team to start the year, as we’ve got what’s probably our toughest schedule in around a decade ahead of us. Our league voted to amalgamate the previous two divisions into one, which changes the landscape significantly.”
The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Rebels this fall as they’re taking on some great southern Alberta teams. The coaches and players are eager to get to work and compete as hard as they can.
“We’re now looking at games against Cardston, Catholic Central, and Chinook — three teams that have been perennial Tier 2 and Tier 3 Provincial contenders over the past 20 years, along with our usual division opponents and traditional rivals, Winston Churchill and Willow Creek. I feel like my boys are up to the challenge, and can contend with any of those teams, but we need to play the games to find out. That starts this week with Cardston coming into town to play us on Friday night in the second half of a double header with our respective bantam teams. It should be a really fun night, and I hope a lot of people come out,” continued Jensen.
The Rebels lined up against the Cardston Cougars at Ken McDonald Sports Complex on Sept. 8 with kickoff at 7:30 p.m. The bantam Rebels and Cougars kickoff at 5 p.m. in the first part of the doubleheader.
By Cole Parkinson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Sep 07, 2023