The CobraCats girls rugby team is heading to the provincials after a landslide victory over long-time rivals of Foothills Composite in the ASAA south-central zone championship on May 30 at the Calgary Rugby Union.
It was a 71-0 win over a team they hadn't been able to topple before this season, adding a thick layer of icing to the cake.
The CobraCats have been all but unbeatable this season with plenty of depth, finishing the season with 30 on the roster.
Only a couple of the players were on the last team before the pandemic and a few play with the Bow Valley Rugby Club. Otherwise, this is a group of athletes largely learning the sport.
"We've had a pretty strong showing this year," says Brian Morgotch, one of the coaches. "From where we've come from at the beginning of the season to now, our girls are pretty unbelievable."
They play their first two matches of the provincials on Friday in Edmonton. First up is Notre Dame from Red Deer. How they make out in their Friday games will determine their Saturday matchup.
Due to the Bow Valley and Cochrane High graduation celebrations this weekend, they expect to be competing with 18 players.
"We will be going with only a partial crew, but I think our girls have been playing well all the way around, so I think we'll still have a really strong showing," says Morgotch.
He gives a shout-out to co-head coaches Steve Horton and Lisa Tolton and coach JoAnne Howard for how they developed the team into such a strong unit in short order.
"They've been awesome at creating something special in the few months they've been together."
It's Morgotch's first year of coaching the team and second year at Bow Valley High. He's no stranger to Cochrane, though. He previously taught at Mitford School and knew a few of the players from there.
"It's great to see them get to the level to compete with teams from across the province."
The boys' team came up just short of winning their zone banner. They won their semifinal matchup the week before but fell to the Holy Trinity Knights, 33-5.
Grant Bauer, who coaches backs for the team, says despite the loss, it's been a great season of rebuilding the sport. He says the improvement in play was noticeable in their second matchup of the season against the Knights.
"Unfortunately, we didn't get the win, but the boys played hard and it was a good game."
Bauer says it's unlikely they would have been able to field a team had they advanced to provincials because of the graduation celebrations.
The CobraCats beat Foothills Academy both in the semifinals and in the regular season by close margins.
"It was insanely close both times against them. It was a really good experience for the boys to play against Foothills."
Having Bow Valley and Cochrane High athletes playing together is unique and has not gone unnoticed.
"That's been a big piece of comradery that I know our kids have appreciated," says Morgotch. "It builds it. We're going out there playing as a community as opposed to playing as a school."
Bauer says he's thrilled with the return of rugby. He says it's not just about getting on the field but building comradery and community.
"After the game, you would get together with the other team. Rugby is all about getting to know people, so we all have pizza or sometimes a barbecue and you stay for an extra half-hour to an hour because you're getting to know people and you're creating a good community of people. It's much more about getting the students together than just playing a game and being done with it."
The junior and senior girls CobraCats have won three banners so far this season, and it's the first time the senior girls have won the zone banner.
NOTE: Special thanks to professional sports photographer Mike Reece for his continued generosity in sharing his images with CochraneNow.com. Great seeing you again on the sidelines.