The Bert Church Chargers football team’s dream of ending the Cochrane Cobras’ five-year dynasty in the Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA) came to an end Oct. 24, with a 31-7 loss in the division’s championship game.
Despite a valiant push in the second half, a flat-footed start for the Chargers and a 23-0 deficit in the first half proved too much to overcome.
“It’s not the outcome we wanted,” said head coach Steve Larsen. “Unfortunately, we got off to a slow start. We picked it up near the end, but it was just too little, too late.”
The Cobras offence scored on its first possession, when star running back Chase Hunt scored a rushing touchdown to cap off the home team’s opening drive.
Starting quarterback Xavier Vaillancourt – a University of Calgary Dinos commit for next year – doubled Cochrane’s lead with his own running major just a few minutes later.
After only 12 minutes, during which the ball was almost exclusively in Bert Church’s half, the Cobras held a 16-0 lead.
The Cobras – the five-time reigning provincial tier 3 champion – continued to play well in the second quarter. Vaillancourt ran for another TD to extend Cochrane’s lead to 23-0.
Chargers’ fans finally had reason to celebrate near the end of the first half, when Lucas Alway caught a long pass that brought the visitors into the Cobras’ red zone. A few plays later, linebacker Tyler Ruck pushed the ball over the line to earn Bert Church’s sole TD.
“We just started to give up once they started rolling, but once we got the touchdown, we picked it back up,” Ruck said.
After a one-sided opening, the second half was much more even. Both teams were able to cancel each other out and force turnovers on downs.
“We’ve shown we can run with these guys. We just need to do it more consistently,” Larsen said.
Other than a single for Cochrane, the points came late in the game, when Hunt muscled his way into the Chargers’ end zone for his second touchdown.
Bert Church qualified for the championship game in dramatic fashion, clawing back from a 16-1 deficit and scoring two touchdowns in the final three minutes to defeat the Springbank Phoenix in the semi-final game Oct. 18.
In the final 30 seconds, the Chargers won it with an end-zone catch from Blaise Newberry and an ensuing one-point convert from kicker Owen Cory.
Larsen said the unbelievable finish demonstrated his players’ resilience.
“That’s something that, as coaches, we can’t just go on the sidelines, give them a pep talk, and have them come out and start playing like that,” he said. “It’s something they’ve been building as players for the last three years – they’ve been in a lot of those situations. I’m really proud of the way they didn’t give up.”
While RVSA football is done and dusted for another year, Bert Church has at least one more game to play. As the RVSA’s highest-placing Tier 2 team this year, the Chargers will contest the Holy Trinity Academy Knights in the regional qualifier for provincials. The winning team will compete in the Alberta Schools Athletic Association’s Tier 2 playoffs, with the ultimate goal of playing for the Alberta Bowl in late November.
The Knights will be as tough a challenge as Cochrane – the Okotoks-based team is currently the top-ranked Tier 2 side in the province, and won this season's Big Rock football conference with an unbeaten record.
“We went out to their game last night to scout them out. We have a game plan for them and will give it the best we can," Larsen said.
“I think, if our kids play at the level they’re able to, we’ll be able to run with them.”