What a season it was for Central Alberta football teams.
Unfortunately though, only a couple will still be playing this weekend.
Hunting Hills saw its season come to screeching halt this past Saturday, when the Lightning lost 11-3 to St.Mary’s in Calgary in the Tier II regional semi-final.
It was the first loss of the year for the Lightning, who went undefeated in their march to winning their first ever Central Alberta High School Football League championship.
But that’s the way it goes sometimes in football, a sport in which playoff games are a winner take all event, as opposed to a five or seven game series.
I know all too well what Hunting Hills is going through this week.
I’m sure most are patting the players on the back, telling them to hold their heads up high and that they have a lot to be proud of, but that can be cold comfort to a team that fully expected to be on the gridiron this weekend.
That’s not to say they aren’t appreciative of the comments, but a playoff loss can be tough to take, especially for the graduating players, and no amount of positivity can console them.
Back when I was playing high school football, I went through a similar experience.
Our team tore through the regular season, we didn’t lose a game, we won the league, but when we got to provincials, we got our rear ends handed to us in the regional semi-finals.
I still, to this day, think about what could have been and I’m sure more than a few Lightning players are having similar thoughts.
What Hunting Hills has going in its favour though is that Saturdays game was a close contest.
It was an eight point loss, or in football terms, a touchdown and a two point conversion.
When my squad lost at provincials, the point differential was north of 40 points, and while we didn’t enjoy the lesson we learned on the field that day, we certainly didn’t feel like we deserved to win.
We lost to a better team, plain and simple.
But for Hunting Hills, this was a game that was there for the taking and the disappointment will last for a while, even if all of us spectators are very proud of how they did.
The Stettler Wildcats, meantime, will be moving onto the Tier III regional finals after a hard fought 35-32 over Cold Lake this past weekend.
It was a huge win for the Wildcats, as this was a squad that went 0-7-1 last season, and they’ll next face Peace River with a trip to the provincial final on the line.
At the bantam level, the Lacombe Junior Raiders are done after a 27-26 loss to Edmonton in the Tier II provincial semi-final, while the Tier III semi-final saw Stettler fall 58-7 to Calgary.
Another Central Alberta squad saw its season come to an end when Sylvan Lake lost 40-20 to Medicine Hat in the Tier IV semi-final.
The provincial final at the Pee-Wee level though will feature a Red Deer squad.
The Red Deer Steelers advanced to this Saturday’s championship game with a 28-0 win over Foothills.
So, we saw a couple of wins, a couple of tough losses, and a couple of blowouts, but it doesn’t change the fact that fans in this area were treated to an outstanding season of football, one that still has a couple of games left to go.
And I’m sure I speak for most of us when I say thanks to all the players, coaches, families and volunteers for all the hard work done this year.
I don’t care what the final scores were, we have the best football teams right here in Central Alberta, and I sure am looking forward to next year.