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Spirits, Blues come up short in championship games

The Spirits will look to rebound in their provincial game against the Peace River Pioneers this weekend. 
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Sturgeon Spirits' Devlin Freemont returns a kick 90 yards for a touchdown in the Gilfillan Championship game against the Lillian Osborne Legends at Commonwealth Stadium on Nov. 6, 2021. SHELLEY COWAN/Photo

A pair of local high school football teams went into last weekend gunning for titles but in the end each settled for second place.

The Sturgeon Composite Spirits and Paul Kane Blues played in their respective championship games at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, but both fell short of taking home the hardware. 

The first game saw the Sturgeon Spirits battle the Lillian Osborne Legends with the Gilfillan Division crown on the line. The first quarter saw the Spirits push the pace with a few plays deep in the Legends end. However, some timely defence by from Lilian Osborne prevented Sturgeon from punching the ball into the end zone. 

Spirits head coach Chad Hill says early missed opportunities cost them the game. 

“We had a couple of missed cues and penalties against us that cost us early on,” said Hill. 

In contrast, the Legends didn't squander their early chances. They forced a fumble on one of Sturgeon's first possessions, which eventually led to a touchdown. The Spirits found themselves down 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. 

Hill says that while Sturgeon’s special teams played well, it wasn’t enough to overcome a Lillian Osborne team that was clicking all night long. 

“Our special teams gave us a bit of a spark, Devlin Freemont got a kick return for a touchdown that was about a 90-yarder… it got us back in it at 21-7,” said Hill. “It was not to be; [Lillian Osborne] has a really strong running-back and we had a tough time with him.” 

“Lillian Osborne’s passing game took over.” 

At halftime, the score was 31-7 for the Legends and that was enough to put the game out of reach. From there, Lillian Osborne cruised to a 42-13 victory to capture the Gilfillan championship. 

Hill says the team is disappointed with the result, but he is proud of how far they came and is looking forward to the team’s provincial schedule. 

“We have lots to be proud of and this is obviously not the outcome we prepared for,” said Hill. “As much as this hurts and as much as this sucks for today, the sun will come up tomorrow and we’ll move on.” 

The Spirits will look to rebound in their provincial game against the Peace River Pioneers this weekend. 

The late game on Saturday featured a heavily injured Paul Kane Blues team taking on a very strong Leduc Tigers club. Much like Sturgeon in the early game, the Blues had early chances but just couldn’t convert. 

Head coach Rob Strecker says the team gave it their all, but a nasty combination of injuries to key players this season hampered the team's ability to realize its full potential in the championship game. 

“Leduc was by far the better team,” said Strecker. “We had our chances early on in the game but we didn’t take advantage of it.” 

Leduc took advantage of those missed chances by Paul Kane and turned them into touchdowns. This included a TD on the very last play of the first quarter. 

Strecker says that his team had their looks and played decently but just couldn’t stop Leduc. 

“Our defence did their best to keep them out and they did a pretty good job,” said Strecker. “It was the same offensively; we just couldn’t get going and the times we did we just stalled.” 

The final score was an ugly 36-0 for the Tigers as Leduc secured the Miles Division Championship. 

Paul Kane did not qualify for provincials, so the Blues will have to stew on the loss until next year. Strecker is disappointed in the way the season ended but is proud of how far his team came, considering the number of injuries and complications it faced. 

“It was such a crazy year between COVID and injuries,” said Strecker. “Injuries are a big part of football and I get that, but for our team it was unbelievable.” 

“I have never gone through something like this in my life. Not one game this year did we play with our full roster, which was a crying shame because I like the look of our team on paper.” 

The message that Strecker gave to his team is that they will be back here again next year, hungrier than ever. 

“It was a roller-coaster,” said Strecker. “We gave it our all and the guys gave it what they had.” 

“We got to the final and didn’t play the game we wanted but I told the boys that's the way sports go. We’ll be back, I’m looking forward to next year already, and we’ll see what happens.”

About the Author: Preston Hodgkinson

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