High-school sport made its long-awaited return to Airdrie on Aug. 27, with the Bert Church Chargers football team taking on the Chestermere Lakers at the Ed Eggerer Athletic Park, in front of a crowd of more than 250 fans.
The game marked the first competitive high-school sporting event in Airdrie since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic brought games and competitions to a screeching halt.
However, a torrential downpour and ensuing lightning early into the second half meant the game had to be postponed partway through, with Chestermere leading 11-4 with eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. The final 20 minutes will be played Sept. 6, when the Lakers return to Airdrie to determine the game’s victor.
“The rule is, if you see lightning, you have to wait 30 minutes, so we waited the better part of an hour,” explained Tony Lucas, the Chargers’ acting head coach. “We did wait as long as we could, but it got to the point where there was another lightning strike and if we waited another 30 minutes, the [daylight] would have been dimming, and it would have been difficult to finish the game anyway.”
While the Chargers started strong in the first quarter, Lucas said the offence struggled to capitalize on their good field position. Bert Church went into the second interval with a narrow 4-0 lead, with their points coming off of two safeties.
Chestermere tied it up with a field goal and a single in the second quarter, before receiver Ryan Grabmuller scored a touchdown for the visitors off a long pass-and-run, with just a minute left in the half, to take an 11-4 lead.
The Chargers were able to make it to the Lakers' 10-yard line on their ensuing possession, but the buzzer sounded for halftime before Bert Church had the opportunity to punch the ball into the end zone.
“The game was competitive, and in that sense, we’re happy,” Lucas said. “On the other hand, I think we made a lot of mistakes, so we’re pleased we have the opportunity to try and get back in the game [on Sept. 6], because we felt we left a lot out there. We had some turnovers and some penalties and things like that.”
Airdrie’s public high schools’ sports teams compete the Rocky View Sports Association (RVSA). The league's inter-school competitions were all cancelled in the 2020-21 school year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The RVSA's fall sports calendar includes competition for football, girls' soccer, volleyball, golf, and cross-country running.
While student-athletes were able to practise and train for parts of last school year, Lucas said high-school athletes are excited for the opportunity to play competitive games against other schools this year.
“Playing against other schools makes it feel real,” he said. “Last year, we worked toward an inter-squad game that went really well, and we treated it like a real game, but it can’t be real. In this case, the fact we’re playing actual opposition makes a big difference, and there is a lot of excitement, for sure.”
That being said, Lucas acknowledged the ongoing spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Alberta, adding the pandemic could once again jeopardize high-school athletics this school year.
“It’s been a couple of weeks and it kind of feels normal now, but hanging over all of us is the fact the pandemic is not gone and we don’t know how long it’s going to last like this,” he said. “With the numbers spiking, we don’t know what’s going to happen, so we’re trying to enjoy it while we can.
“Hopefully we get a full season and get to participate in provincial playoffs if we’re in it, but I don’t think anything is guaranteed.”
For more information on the RVSA, visit rvsa.rockyview.ab.ca