The Wildcats take provincials

Stettler has a population of around 5,400; Cochrane has a population of just about 14,000.

These two towns don’t have much in common. It would seem almost unfair to pit these teams against one another in a football game. Cochrane should have the easy advantage based on their ability to draw from more people. But that’s just isn’t the case.

Our story begins with the Stettler Wildcats facing an uphill battle as they played against the Cochrane Cobras for the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association’s Provincial Playoff Tier IV finals. They were an eighth-ranked team playing against a number one ranked team.

Is that a decent storyline of David and Goliath? What if the teams had history?

“We played our 2007 game film on the bus on the way up there, where they beat us 43-7,” says the Wildcats head Coach Norbert Daharally.

“They had the number one ranking however they do that, that’s between Football Alberta and those people that do that, and that’s fine with me. I don’t mind being the underdogs ever.”

Daharally was the head coach for Stettler back in 2007, so he still feels the burn from that loss. “Their head coach is Robbie McNabb who I grew up with in Calgary; we played football together and all those sorts of things.

“Another part of the puzzle was their starting quarterback is my cousin’s son, so I have my kid playing middle linebacker, against my cousin’s son at quarterback.”

The underdog team is heading to the finals after a Cinderella playoff run to the finals. Only to play the heavily favoured team who beat them four years earlier. And to top it off, there’s history between the head coaches that dates back to when they played football together.

Hollywood eat your heart out.

“First play off the game, my running back Braden Nelson went 73 yards up the middle for a touchdown untouched.” David was ready to take on Goliath.

Daharally making his team watch themselves getting their proverbial butts handed to them on the way to Lethbridge paid off. By the half the score was 21– 9 for Stettler.

Defense played a big role for the Wildcats. “Our defense played phenomenal, twice in the first half they had first and goal and we shut them down both times.”

In the second half, the Stettler defense shined once again. Cochrane couldn’t take advantage of a fumbled kickoff that gave them the ball on the Stettler 12-yard line. The Wildcats stuffed Cochrane on a third and one. And perhaps, we could call that the TSN turning point because right after that, Stettler went on a 108 yard drive to go up 28-9.

From then it was history. Cochrane’s offence led by quarterback Cooper Hamaliuk could not handle the pressure from linebacker Nicholas Daharally and the Stettler defense.

The final score was 55-15. The old rivals, Daharally and McNabb met at midfield to shake hands. McNabb wasn’t exactly humble in defeat. Daharally says McNabb was making excuses for the defeat.

“He tried to point to other things as to why they didn’t play their best.”

Daharally and his old pal broke bread together after leading their teams in combat. “We stayed around and had some stuff to eat with them there. Even though he congratulated me, I would like to think it’s sincere but I’m not 100 per cent sure.”

He can say this because they’re close, they always have been.

“Rob and I, we go way back, he was in my wedding party, I was in his wedding party.”

And now they’re tied in provincial championships when facing one another, one a piece.

“Winning a provincial title is a special thing; you only get that once in a lifetime maybe.”