Prior to the game, the Grande Prairie Broncos bantam football club left the warmth of the Eastlink Centre and walked in extended line fashion—through teeth chattering cold—heading for CKC Field, looking for the warmth only a win could provide.
Alas, it was the opponent who walked away swathed in warmth as the Lloydminster Red Dogs picked up a 51-7 win the Alberta Minor Football provincial Tier II Semi-Final on Monday afternoon.
Broncos Head Coach Anthony Wall was quick to point out both teams had to play in the same frigid conditions, but he did say his team’s style of offence—which is predicated on finding the edge—just wasn’t working, as Monday morning gave way to Monday afternoon.
“The biggest impact on us, at least offensively, was our inability to move the ball with speed, laterally on the field,” Wall said. “It was a slick track and it definitely favoured the team that was able to run or pass the ball north/south. It was a combination of not being able to do that—and the strength of their team was the ability to run the ball, vertically, between the tackles—while being bigger than us, overall. They were able to push us around.”
While Wall was speaking personally, no doubt his staff felt the same way, about a season that fell one game short of a provincial final. The Red Dogs will host the Stettler Cougars on Nov. 16 in Lloydminster.
“I’m happy with winning the Horner Cup, and the season, overall,” Wall said. “I’m very proud of what the players accomplished. It’s a tough way to go out, to lose a game as badly as we did. At the same time, from a coaches perspective, you want to take every opportunity you get to instruct. Talking to the players after the game, how it’s the end but not the end. They’ve got a big future ahead of them if they choose to keep playing. We talked about learning from it and that’s all you can do. You have to move on and look to the next challenge and try to get better for next season.”
Last season, the Broncos went undefeated in winning a provincial championship—and while that was the ultimate goal this year—the sheer amount of football talent they lost to the local high schools made winning another title a big ask for the current version of the Broncs. Still, Wall was OK with a season that revealed more than it hid, finishing up one win short of the ultimate goal.
“I think, as a coaching staff, we were pretty realistic with what our expectations were,” Wall said. “Obviously, your goal is to win a provincial championship. But the truth is, a lot of things have to come together quite perfectly for that to happen.”
In typical Broncs fashion, the club gathers in the south endzone, the home endzone, to hand out game balls.
Graduating players Anton Grassl and Nicholas Lavallee picked up the last awards of the season.
Despite the score, both players displayed the qualities the coaching staff and the game itself would find appealing. Above all, Wall and his staff are looking to develop fundamentally sound human beings and both players were rewarded for displaying strong humanistic qualities in the face of a tough loss in the provincial semi final.
“It was attitude, both were very positive in the face of a one-sided game and both were very encouraging to their teammates,” Wall said. “And then it was leading by example, their play on the field.”