May 18th, 2024

Rebels, Comets ready for final

By Dale Woodard on November 27, 2021.

As they head to Edmonton for the Football Alberta Tier IV provincial championship, the Taber W.R. Myers Rebels are taking some of Taber with them.

What’s better, some former parts of Taber and the Rebels program will meet them there as well.

It’ll make for a downright home field vibe when the fifth-ranked Rebels face the top-seeded Sexsmith Sabres in the Tier IV gold medal game today at 11 a.m. at Commonwealth Stadium.

Even before the team bus pulled out of town Friday morning, Rebels head coach Jason Jensen noted the rock star treatment he and his team were already receiving.

“The vibe around Taber is fantastic,” said Jensen.

“The whole community is excited as can be. I’ve had random strangers holler at me at the gas station and stuff like that, it’s been pretty cool.

“We’ve got a pretty big contingent coming up for the game. We’ve even got some alumni who live up in the Edmonton area or around northern Alberta. So that’s pretty exciting. Even former teammates of mine back in the 90s have gotten ahold of me saying they’re coming to the game.”

In Raymond, the Comets also head to Commonwealth Stadium for their Saturday tilt against the ninth-ranked Edmonton Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds in the Football Alberta Tier I final at 2:30 p.m.

It’s a foe the Comets – ranked fifth in the province in Tier I – haven’t seen for a long time.

“So it’ll be fun playing a team we haven’t seen in a while,” said Comets head coach Connor Ralph.

“It’ll be good. In the football world I feel everybody has film on each other. Everybody kind of runs the same concepts and plays. But it’ll be fun to play in Commonwealth. The kids are excited to play in a pro stadium with lots of divisions.”

The Comets downed their southern rival LCI Rams 16-14 in the South final last weekend at the University of Lethbridge Stadium.

Both the Comets and Rams were left out of the new Brian Fryer division, featuring the selected top-four teams in Tier I.

Still, the Comets head to Edmonton today with something to prove nonetheless.

“They started the new system with the top-four teams, so I feel like on one hand our kids are a little frustrated they weren’t included in that conversation, but on the other hand they’re ready to show how much they’ve improved,” said Ralph. “They’ve worked very hard this year. They want to showcase their talents on a stage where there will be lots of people from all over the province watching the game.”

Meanwhile, the Rebels get ready for their opponents from the Peace Country up north in the Sabres, a somewhat mirror image to Taber in the eyes of Jensen.

“From what I’ve seen on film of them, they’re a team very similar to ours,” said Jensen. “They’re a speed and skill team. On one hand, we know what kind of matchup that is going to give us, but it also means we’re going to have our hands full. To look at the film, they definitely look like a team we can hang with, it’s just going to come down to who executes the best. It’s going to be a really good football game.”

With four Grade 12s on their roster, it’s a young Comets team that will take Commonwealth Stadium today.

But it’s a young team that has tested itself against the top Tier I teams in the province.

“We’re very young and I think that was some of our growing pains early, but our young kids have really stepped up and it’ll be exciting to have a lot of our same team back next year,” said Ralph.

Those tough games earlier this season should pay off today.

“I think with these kids and giving them the experience of playing in big games, we’ve played LCI three times and those are huge games with a lot of adrenaline, intensity and emotion,” said Ralph. “I think playing in those LCI games gave our kids a lot of good experience and I think when we see tough teams down the road that’s going to help those young kids because they’ve already been in those stressful situations.”

No matter what the score today, Jensen noted it will be the end of the line for his seniors.

“It’s always so difficult when a football season ends for the seniors because football is not a game most people can play as an adult,” he said. “So the sport is cruel that way, when kids play for 10 years and then all of a sudden it’s over. But it almost never ends on your own terms. So this senior group, you can see that they know football is ending for them (today), but they have the chance to go out on their own terms, which is really fantastic. That’s kind of how they’re looking at it.”

But win or lose, those seniors will close the books on their high school careers on the turf of a CFL team and in a stadium setting.

“Half of the excitement in all of this is getting the chance to play in Commonwealth, it’s the largest stadium in Canada,” said Jensen.

Still, the Rebels coach noted a cool roster of players over the past four days despite their provincial championship game in a stadium setting today.

“It’s been a great week of practice,” said Jensen. “I mentioned to one of the coaches (Thursday night) about just how much I really liked the vibe in practice last night. These boys don’t seem like they’re a bundle of nerves. They just seem like they’re level, locked in and ready to play football.”

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