For the first time in the history of the school, the Strathmore High School Spartans Football Team is heading to the finals. A 48-31 win over the Ecole H.J Cody High School punched their ticket to the championship game.
At the halfway point of the season, a finals appearance seemed unlikely to some outside the team. After suffering three straight blowout losses and sitting at a record of 1-3, this team didn't look like a finals-caliber squad. However, Head Coach Danny Warrack never lost confidence in his guys, and since that low point, they have now rattled off 5 straight wins and are riding a wave of momentum into the biggest stage the school has ever seen.
"(Getting to finals) is everything. I said around a month and a half ago that we got a real shot at getting to the finals, and if we get there we could win it all, anything could happen. The boys really took that seriously and we've gotten there and now we just gotta finish the job," Warrack said.
As for what sparked the turnaround, Warrack said it all comes down to the players giving their full effort to get the team where they need to be.
"It took a buy-in from our players, which is what we got. For example, Jacob Robson and Jayden Robson, they're twin brothers at running back and they didn't get off to the greatest start to the season, but they've really bought in the last month and a half and have been two of our better players. When they're going, the team seems to be going. We also started the season with an extremely inexperienced offensive line, and they've played a lot, gotten a lot of experience and they've improved a lot as well."
That buy-in was on full display on Saturday, as Warrack said the key to the offense's success was a dominant performance by the running game that saw Brady Johansen score 3/4 of his touchdowns on the ground. Warrack said all o-line men had a great performance, being: David Marleau, Mitch Moore, Rein Idnurm, Kaden Mensigner, Hunter Corbin, and Ethan Harper.
Warrack also pointed to a dominant special teams effort, with players CJ Nelson, Colton Buckley, and Taehyeon Park standing out.
While the team has many reasons to celebrate after a dominant win, Warrack knows there are still things to work on as they try to win in their first ever finals appearance.
"I think we gotta clean up our pass game on offense, we're going to need it next week. We also struggled a little on defense at times, we played a good team that had a good offense. We gave up 31 points, we struggled a little bit with containment so we need to work on that this week."
The defense has been the key to the team's success all year, so this was an uncharacteristic performance for them. However, Jacob Wilson had a standout game for them, as he hauled in two interceptions.
The Spartans face a tough challenge in the finals against the Holy Rosary Raiders from Lloydminster. Warrack said this will be the Raiders' seventh straight finals appearance, but they have lost the previous six championship games so they'll be hungry. But Warrack said the Spartans are hungry too and will be prepared for the challenge.
"We have to play mistake free football, we have to protect the ball, we have to move the ball. Defense has got to create some turnovers, they got to play tough. I think it's going to be a low scoring game."
The Spartans will fight for their first finals win this Friday at 7:00 PM at Shouldice Athletic Park's Hellard Field in Calgary. Go cheer the Spartans on as they battle for the school's first ever championship!
Warrack said Hellard Field can hold several thousand people and hopes to see the stands full of Spartans fans that will hopefully see Strathmore win it all.
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