May 25th, 2024

Cougars getting their claws


By Dale Woodard on October 22, 2021.

Despite some early-season adversity, the Catholic Central Cougars are confident they’re putting it all together at just the right time.

The time is now as the Cougars face the Chinook Coyotes in the Southern Alberta High School Football League Tier II playoff today at 5 p.m. at the University of Lethbridge Stadium.

As the Cougars – who have gone 0-2 in SAHSFL Division A play and 2-5 overall – look for a little payback over the west side school after the Coyotes 48-7 league interlocking win Oct. 1, Catholic Central head coach Tyler Mantyak noted his team is hitting its stride following some early season injuries that rocked their roster.

“We had some mid-season shake-ups with injuries and things like that kind of threw us off the mid-season groove a little bit,” said Mantyak as his team ran through practice Thursday afternoon at the Catholic Central East campus.

“But I think the guys are finally starting to find their groove. We’re hopeful we can piece together a few more things consistently than we were able to when we faced them last time.”

That early-season adversity hit hard when star slotback Derek Trapp went down with an MCL and ACL injury in Week 3 versus the Cardston Cougars.

“Obviously it’s a bit of a mental blow in what is already kind of a weird year,” said Mantyak.

“Kids over the province are facing a lot of adversity they haven’t had to before. When you lose your star player that’s obviously a readjustment phase for us. The kids are starting to respond, they never gave up. They continued to work hard and it’s nice we’re starting to figure out a couple of those things that seem to be just in time for playoffs.”

Mantyak said he thinks Trapp is still the Cougars touchdown leader despite going down earlier this year, but credited the rest of his team for picking up the slack.

“I think the main thing to highlight is it’s been an up-and-down year with injuries and we’re finally starting to hit our peak a little bit that kind of held us stagnant for a few weeks in the mid-season. Our guys are starting to figure out some stuff and piece it together.”

That will come just in time for the Coyotes tonight after Chinook posting a convincing win at the start of the month.

“I know Chinook is going to come with the ground-and-pound and I’m sure (Coyotes head coach) Nick Straat has a few trick plays for us,” said Mantyak. “They have a simple game, but what they do they do really well. So I think for us to be successful we’re going to have to stop the run game, especially between the tackles. I don’t think it’s a big secret. They pushed us off the ball a little bit in the first match and we’re going to have to dig in deep and hold the line a little better.”

No matter what the outcome tonight, Mantyak spoke of the importance of his players being able to return to the gridiron after losing the 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In fact, it was about more than just football.

“The kids are just happy to be out here,” said Mantyak. “I think there is a little more found respect and thankfulness for it, that’s what we’re seeing. I think the kids just couldn’t be happier to be out and about and making new friends. That’s the thing for even these young guys. For some of these Grade 11s, this is the first time in high school they’re actually getting the experience to make friends and connections and start developing some of those social skills the high schools are teaching. It’s hard to learn some of that social stuff from online. There is more to teaching than just the curriculum. There is the sport and the social dynamics that go along with it. It’s nice for these new guys to get those, finally.”

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