An early hole was too much to overcome in the Knights' return to the gridiron.
The Medicine Hat High Hawks upended the Holy Trinity Academy Knights 20-8 in the high school football 2021 icebreaker on Aug. 27 at Knights field.
“They’re a pretty veteran team, pretty senior loaded where we’re pretty young,” said Knights head coach Matt Hassett. “They jumped all over us. I kind of knew after watching their warm-up that they looked very ready.
“And we had a lot of guys where it was their first football game ever and in the first five minutes they scored 14 points and the rest of the game they got six.”
HTA settled into the game, particularly on defence, just not as quickly as the visitors.
“It just showed us we’ve got some work to do,” the coach added. “We’re young, we’re talented but we have some work to do and they showed us a few things we’ve got to work on.”
The Knights got on the board late in the third quarter.
Grade 11 quarterback Ryan Petersen scrambled out of the pocket, something he’s quite proficient at, and found Grade 10 receiver Jake Bourdin in the back of the end-zone for a 25-yard touchdown.
HTA would add the two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 20-8 and were poised to add to its output in the fourth quarter with a deep drive that put them in the red-zone after some strong running from Petersen down the sidelines.
“Ryan is a great athlete, he’s fairly accurate throwing and he’s got a lot of upside,” the coach added. “He’s going to be really good for us. Sometimes he tries to do too much, but for the most part, he’s a great talent and he’s going to fit in nicely here.”
With the turnover on the team since its provincial championship season in 2019, the Grade 12 players are the only ones on the squad who’ve played full campaigns on the heels of the 2020 pandemic shortened schedule.
“That’s something we have to gauge a little bit and maybe a bit of the slow start is two-thirds of the team haven’t played a game for us,” Hassett said. “We played a little bit last year, but not a tough team like that.
“...We made some adjustments on defence and settled down the rest of the game and offensively, we had some really nice drives and then we would shoot ourselves in the foot. So young mistakes, but definitely fixable.
“I think this will be good for us. It will re-focus everybody that we’re not 2019 and we’ve got work to do, we’re going to get at it and see what happens.”
Following the varsity game, the Knights and Hawks JV teams played a scrimmage with HTA earning the upper hand.
“We have a lot of players this year, about 65 players, so we did what’s called a fifth-quarter, a 40-minute jamboree or scrimmage with all the young guys,” Hassett said. “It was neat to see some of the young athletes get an opportunity to show what they did and it’s kind of a reward for the senior guys to get time on the field and develop as a player.”
The Knights’ preseason has been characterized by an enthusiasm to return to the sport, something Hassett said has been a common refrain in the community.
“It’s lots of kids getting back to it,” he said. “Kids I think are enjoying it, I’ve heard in talking with people that community basketball has a lot of kids, I know community football does.
“People are just anxious to get back and do things.”
Next up for the Knights is a road tilt on Sept. 3 versus Grande Prairie’s St. Joe’s in Fort Saskatchewan. HTA is back at home on Sept. 10 against St. Albert’s Paul Kane High.
The Foothills Falcons kick off their season with a home-heavy schedule to start.
Foothills is home to Red Deer’s Notre Dame on Sept. 3, a 6 p.m. kick-off, followed by a Sept. 10 clash versus the visiting Catholic Central Cougars.
The Falcons and Knights are playing in an exhibition league this season and will see action against the likes of Medicine Hat, Catholic Central, Lethbridge Collegiate Institute, Raymond and Cardston.