South Peace News
The Peace River Pioneers ended the high school football season in the first round of the provincial playoffs.
Battling in the Tier III playoffs, the No. 9 Pioneers were blanked 36-0 by the No. 6 Sturgeon Spirits in St. Albert in the north semifinal Nov. 13.
Head coach Mark Owens says the game was difficult for the team in many ways.
“Our team struggled to finish a drive on offence and put points on the board,” Owens says.
The team’s starting quarterback was in a minor vehicle crash the week before and was not able to play due to a concussion.
Darren Hudak stepped in at quarterback.
“He threw well, but too many fumbles and dropped passes made it difficult to score,” Owens says.
“Our defence played very well in the second quarter, holding the Spirits to only one score even when our offence turned the ball over in our own end.”
Peace River trailed 14-0 at the half.
“We were very much still in the game,” Owens says.
However, the Pioneers couldn’t bounce back.
“We made mistakes like a dropped ball on a kickoff return that pinned us deep in our end, missed catches and several fumbles,” Owens says.
“The offence moved the ball well on the ground, but we could not finish a drive to score points.
“We had to change our game plan with time running out and start throwing the ball more.”
The Pioneers dressed just 21 players while Sturgeon played with a full roster of more than 40 players.
“Sturgeon was ready to play and made fewer mistakes,” Owens says.
“They capitalized on our mistakes and put points on the board.”
Players and coaches were excited to got back on the field after the 2020 season was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was great to finally have a full season again,” Owens says.
“We had lots of work to do to get the cobwebs out and get back to the basic skills and drills in order to play the game successfully and safely.”
The team improved over the season.
“We saw lots of growth throughout the season,” Owens says.
“We made some changes to our positions and game plans and had to ask players to learn new positions and roles on the team.”
Despite the disappointing end to the season, he says the players gave it their best efforts.
“We are so proud of how the team grew together throughout the season,” Owens says.
“The core group of our team was one of the closest I have had the opportunity to coach in a long time.
“They were supportive, dedicated and passionate through all the ups and downs.”
He is confident that will boost the local program moving forward.
“This will help to continue to build football in our community,” Owens says.
“We made lots of mistakes as players and coaches and we learned from them.”
Next season, the Pioneers lose 12 players who graduate from high school.
“We may see some of them in the junior and university world very soon, which is extremely exciting,” Owens says.
“We also look forward to next year when a number of Grade 9 players move up to fill some much-needed roles in our team.”