By Woodard, Dale on June 10, 2019.
The hat trick didn’t come easy for the Raymond Comets.
But they got it.
The girls rugby team defeated Calgary Notre Dame 22-17 in the gold medal game of the Alberta Schools Athletic Association finals to capture their third straight Tier I title Saturday afternoon at Sherring Field.
Suddenly, all those days running and working out on normal days off paid off.
“It’s indescribable,” said Comets co-captain Sabrina Steffensen.
“We work so hard. I don’t think we’ve ever ran so much in the season and no days off. We had one goal and we just did it, we made it.”
That elbow grease approach paid off in Saturday’s gold medal game as the Comets ran for a try to start the second half, padding their lead and managing to hold off Notre Dame, who added one second half try.
“We worked hard all season,” said Comets co-captain Abby Jensen. “We didn’t just do it at the end. We work hard every day. Sometimes we have practices on Saturday, but that felt so good. Words can’t even describe how good that felt.”
In Saturday’s gold medal game, Notre Dame made sure the Comets earned their win.
“I’d say this is one of the hardest games I’ve ever played,” said Jensen. “Notre Dame is a great team and a credit to them for giving us a great game.”
The Comets weren’t the only South Zone team to come away with a medal as this year’s Winston Churchill-hosted provincial championship wrapped up Saturday.
In the all-South Zone girls Tier III final Saturday morning the Vulcan County Central Hawks defeated the Taber W.R. Myers Rebels 24-19 to win the 2019 banner.
In Tier II boys play, Fort Macleod F.P. Walshe Southern United was defeated 24-19 by Calgary Bowness, while the Winston Churchill Bulldogs lost 34-19 to Calgary Robert Thirsk in the bronze medal game.
Fort Macleod also took home the silver medal in the Tier II girls division as the Flyers were topped 24-17 by Edmonton Sturgeon Comp.
The Winston Churchill Griffins fell short of the bronze medal, losing 27-5 to Calgary Foothills Composite.
In Tier I boys play, the consolation final was a local affair as the LCI Rams defeated the Chinook Coyotes 17-7. The Coyotes were a last-minute addition after Medicine Hat High School withdrew due to injuries.
Calgary Henry Wise Wood won the Tier I gold medal thanks to a 17-10 win over Red Deer Lindsay Thurber, while Edmonton Harry Ainlay earned the bronze medal with a 17-5 win over Calgary St. Francis.
In the girls Tier I division, the LCI Clippers lost 49-33 to Holy Trinity in the consolation game.
And in the final games of the day, the Comets emerged as provincial champs for the third straight year.
“It’s always awesome,” said Comets head coach Dan Bikman. “It’s awesome because each team has a different story, the group of kids you bring together. Anybody who saw this game saw that they really did have to do everything in their power to win. Sports are fun because you see the best of people in certain situations and that’s all we got to see. This is a great group of kids and they came together as a team. It was just fun to be a part of.”
In the Tier II boys final, F.P. Walshe fell behind 21-0 at the half before marching back with three tries to set up an entertaining finish before their comeback fell short.
“I thought they deserve the lead that they had because they just took advantage of our mistakes,” said Fort Macleod head coach Craig Patton.
“I think in the second half we showed character. For me, as a coach, I’m proud of that.”
Hanging onto the ball in the second half cued Fort Macleod’s comeback.
“When we didn’t turn the ball over we allowed ourselves the opportunity to play a style of rugby that were used to playing,” said Patton. “In the first half we just didn’t do that, we didn’t execute. A credit to them, they played very well, but as soon as we started to play disciplined the way I knew we could I thought we started to bring it back. There are a couple of things that as coaches that we talked about that we should’ve done earlier, maybe some interventions. But as a coaching staff we allow our leaders to lead and then we’ll talk about it, learn, and grow from it. That’s what we’ll do.”
As the saying goes, you lose silver, but the Patton was nonetheless proud of his team.
“I knew we had a good team from the get go and will grow from this. The core of our team comes back and we’re going to learn from this, grow, and will be that much better next year.”
One of those players to return next year is Chad Meek, a big part of Fort Macleod’s late-game drives
“In the first half we made lots of mistakes and they really took advantage of it,” said the 16-year-old Grade 11 student. “In the second half we definitely fight back. We just held our heads high and pushed to the last minute. Down 21-0 at half and coming back and losing only by five is pretty good.”
This year’s Southern United featured three Grade 12s who hadn’t played rugby until this.
Meek was proud of all his teammates.
“All of them are played really hard this year,” he said. “They’ve really put a lot of effort in and I’m just glad to be a part of this team.”
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