The Holy Trinity Academy Knights had more pressing issues than retaining their no. 1 ranking in the Tier II football ranking in the province on Friday.
They first had to prove they were no. 1 in Okotoks.
The Knights outlasted their cross-town rivals the feisty Foothills Falcons 38-18 at the Comp in a penalty-filled game in front of a full house at the Comp.
“I thought Foothills played well — they came to play,” Knights coach Matt Hassett said. “You have to respect your opponent, you still got to play them.
“We faced some adversity and we won.”
HTA improved to 4-0 on the season with the victory.
The Knights took a 2-0 lead on the final play of the first quarter when the Falcons in punt position, snapped the ball over the punter’s head deep in their own territory. He wisely kicked it out through the end zone for the safety.
However, there’s nothing safe about kicking off to the Knights’ return team.
The Knights’ Nick Dielissen took the kick and scampered virtually untouched up the middle for an 85-yard major to put HTA up 9-0.
“I saw the big gap made by the big boys on our team and it just played out — it was perfect blocking set up perfectly,” Dielissen said.
HTA would take a 17-0 lead into the half thanks to a seven-yard power run by sparkplug runningback Sawyer Quinlan. Foothills would concede another safety to give the Knights the 17-0 point lead.
The Falcons proved they had some offensive moxie virtually right from the get-go in the second half as they marched down the field and seemed poised to punch the ball in the end zone.
The bend-but-don’t break Knights defence then broke the Falcons' heart.
Knights defensive lineman Andrew Rowan picked up a lose ball and ran 100-yard for the major.
“I just picked up the fumble and I didn’t want to get hit by No. 2 (Eton Nelson) because I knew he was their fastest runner and I ran my heart out and followed my players,” Rowan said.
The TD gave the Knights a 24-0 lead, but apparently Foothills didn’t get the memo that they were supposed to rollover when you’re playing the top team in the province.
Foothills was able to drive down the field late in the third quarter highlighted by quarterback Tyson Camel scrambling out of the pocket and hitting Nelson to set up a first and goal. Camel would finish the drive with a seven-yard quarterback keeper to cut the lead to 24-6.
Foothills was able to regain possession and cut the lead in half on a Nelson seven-yard run.
HTA would then salt the game away with a pair of touchdowns, the last one a pin-point 33-yard pass from Ben Leggett to Dielissen in the corner of the end zone.
Falcons back-up quarterback Ryker Blankert rounded out the scoring with a two-yard TD run up the middle to make the final 38-18.
Falcons coach Nathan St. Dennis said he was impressed with his team’s effort against the no. 1 ranked Knights.
“We made a ton of mistakes, we spotted them a bunch of points off of fumbles and bad snaps on special teams — considering that I feel better about it,” St. Dennis said. “I definitely feel confident about our kids. I think a lot of people wrote us off — all the power to HTA they have some great and dynamic kids.
“But I think we get forgotten in the mix, but I have confidence in my kids. We have room to improve, it’s things we can improve.”
Runningback Michael Eagle Bear turned in a strong effort on both sides of the ball, St. Dennis said.
“We definitely had kids do some great things," he said.
The loss dropped the Falcons record to 1-3 in the season.
Rowan definitely wasn’t writing off the Falcons.
“I was kind of scared because they were the underdogs,” Rowan said. “They played well. We have to keep moving forward and getting better.”
The Knights will take on the Highwood Mustangs in a JV game on Thursday in High River.
The Mustangs, under the guidance of Bryan Brandford from Okotoks, are playing their first game since 2016 due to a shortage of players.
The Falcons next Big Rock Conference game is Oct. 10 when they travel to Rundle College.