By Dale Woodard on November 23, 2021.
The Taber W.R. Myers Rebels football team has gotten over the provincial final hump.
The route they took to get there, however, was interesting.
Facing the number-two ranked Drumheller Titans in the Football Alberta Tier IV South championship Saturday afternoon in Drumheller, the fifth-ranked Titans posted a 17-14 victory.
For that, the Rebels not only shrug off some provincial semifinal disappointment from years past, they also earn a trip to Edmonton this Saturday as they face the North champion Sexsmith Sabres in the Tier IV championship at Commonwealth Stadium at 11 a.m.
However, the Rebels trek to that provincial final berth that has previously eluded them included a typical southern Alberta breeze, a lengthy and downright unusual drive from the Titans and a dying-minute field goal from Brennan Abela after a previous attempt just missed.
Despite the craziness, the Rebels have earned the right to play one more game, the same privilege head coach Jason Jensen said his team would have to earn going into Saturday’s South final.
“Those boys were on Cloud 9 (Saturday),” said Jensen. “I haven’t seen that kind of emotion after a win in a long time. Those kids, some of them couldn’t even talk, they were so excited. We’ve come up short in these provincial semifinals three times. The last time was 2018 and my seniors this year were on the sidelines that game as Grade 9s. So they still remember that feeling of losing that one. So this is still overcoming a challenge for them. They got the monkey off their back that way, too. It feels good to get to the big dance.”
Evan Rabusic scored the Rebels first touchdown on a long run and quarterback Kade Lund connected with Mason Werewka for a passing touchdown before Abela’s game-winning boot.
There were, however, obstacles to deal with.
“We had a nasty crosswind roll in right before kickoff,” said Jensen. “We were fighting that 30 to 50km and maybe even higher wind through most of it, which really didn’t do us any favours and certainly helped Drumheller a little bit because they were on the classic double wing as one of their offensive schemes. So they were just coming out with the ground and pound. We came out in that double wing and the guys were on it.”
“We forced them to go three-and-out.”
Getting the ball back, Rabusic got things rolling for the Rebels with a lengthy romp for the game’s first major.
“We broke off a long run and scored and kind of thought maybe we were off to the races,” said Jensen. “But Drumheller came back on us and they put together a six-play drive and they scored.”
The teams headed into the second quarter tied 7-7 and locked into a defensive grind.
“From there, both teams just dug in their heels and we basically moved the ball back and forth between the 30 (yard lines) for the whole rest of the half, just an absolute dog fight both ways,” said Jensen.
The Rebels broke the 7-7 deadlock early in the second half on a 10-yard pass from Lund to Werewka.
Then came one of the craziest drives Jensen said he had ever seen as the Titans countered with a 17-play drive that featured a little bit of everything.
“We had a faked punt in there, we had possession changes on turnovers and they had a fluky forward fumble they managed to recover. They went about 70 yards total on 17 plays to score and tie it up at 14-14.”
Heading into the fourth quarter the teams went back to trading the middle of the field before Taber attempted a 37-yard field goal.
“With that cross wind the ball just went out by inches,” said Jensen. “In fact, my kicker swore he made it, but the refs standing under the goal post said he didn’t. Watching it back on film, if the ball had been lower it probably would have hit the goal post and gone in. It actually kind of went over top of the goal post.”
Despite the near miss, the Rebels defence shut down the Titans on the ensuing drive and got the ball back, setting up the game-winning field goal late in the game.
“We drove down again and this time kicked a field goal to go up 17-14 and then on for the win,” said Jensen.”
The Rebels now head north to face the top-seeded Sabres Saturday at 11 a.m. Saturday.
The Sabres beat the Ardrossan Bisons 38-0 in the North final Saturday.
It’s now a chance for the Rebels veterans to take the last step toward a provincial title.
One of those veteran presences is at quarterback.
“Kade is a leader and those kids will follow him to the end of the earth,” said Jensen. “He said all he wants is a gold medal.”
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