UPDATE: Saturday's kick-off has been changed to 2 p.m.
The Cochrane High Cobras fought back from a 26-14 deficit at the half to beat the Henry Wise Wood Warriors 50-48 in a marathon 3 1/2 hour-game on Nov, 12 that was settled in the fifth overtime.
The Cobras are now one step away from the big game and host the All Saints Legends in the Larry Wilson Tier One south high school final on Saturday, Nov. 19. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.
In likely the hardest-fought battle in high school provincials so far this season, the Cobras came back from a 26-14 deficit in the first half to almost win 32-29 in regulation until the Warriors scored a touchdown to tie the game with zeroes on the clock.
The Warriors dominated early, leading 16-0 lead halfway through the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns and a safety. Cobras receiver Ethan Clazie pulled in his first of several touchdowns to put the Cobras on the scoreboard 23 seconds later. The Cobras continued to chip away at the lead and tied it 29-29 halfway through the fourth. The Cobras took a shortlived lead on a field goal with 1:17 remaining.
A turning point for the Warriors came when their star runningback Jordayne Falconer went down hard with severe cramps in his leg, taking the edge off of their offense. He did, however, return to the field to play a smaller role.
Warriors coach Kevin Tonak says Falconer has been battling cramps in his legs the last few games and sees plenty of field time on both sides of the ball.
The battle continued to rage through five overtimes until Cobra Ethan Clazie grabbed a low pass in the end zone for a touchdown. followed by a two-point conversion. The Warriors responded with a touchdown but were denied a two-point conversion but a stingy Cobras defense.
Cobras head coach Rob McNab says the team has been in several intense matchups, but nothing quite like this.
"We've been in overtime and plenty of exciting games, but wow!" says McNab. "I mean, that was just a battle back and forth. I'm proud of our kids because that first quarter and a half just didn't go our way. During the half-time speech, we said hey, let's play football, let's go out and play Cobras football and win the half."
"We knew it was going to be tough. We've just got to play football, and that's what makes it fun. I'm a little too old for this. My heart almost jumped out."
It was another rock-solid performance by the entire Cobras receive corps, led by Ethan Clazie.
"We've been spreading the ball around very well, but I've got to tell you when you're in the big game, big players make big plays. He came to play today, I mean both sides of the ball. He was brilliant on special teams too. That's probably the best effort I've seen out of a high school kid in a long time."
Even when the Cobras were down, Clazie says the team never lost faith.
"We all knew we had to keep going, and we couldn't stop."
O-lineman Nathan Jasmin-Cara says it was the longest game he's ever played.
"They put up a great fight," he says. "It was pulling with my heartstrings at the end, but I'm proud of everything, and how our boys pulled through to get us the win."
Cobras receiver Larsen Tate says it was a nailbiter that will only help the Cobras prepare for the next matchup.
"There was a lot of stress near the end, but it was great that we came out with the victory. Next week, we've got a good opponent and we'll try to play a little better."
The competition gets tougher as you climb the provincial ladder, and that's particularly true in Tier One ball when every game is a matchup against a larger high school.
Cobras defensive coordinator Tom Knitter says that's OK. They made the jump to Tier One to give their players stiffer competition.
"The city schools are fantastically-run programs and our guys just need to focus on preparing and delivering an excellent game like they did today."
He says the game was so long that you overshoot the game plan.
"We don't have play calls for fourth, and fifth overtimes and two-point conversions, but I'm just so proud of the way the guys played, and hats off to Wise Wood. I think that's the best that they've delivered for the game today."
Coach Tonak is proud of his team's performance in what has been a challenging season.
"I think our kids left it all on the field and that's all you can ask of them. We've had a tough year and it felt like we kind of hit our stride a bit tonight and played well on both sides of the ball. They were called each way, it wasn't just one-sided, so it was a battle, and it was tough. We're proud of our effort."
The Legends advanced to the south final by beating the Notre Dame Cougars, 42-7.
Was this the longest high school provincial game ever?
This may be the longest game in the new overtime format for Alberta high school football, but by no means is it the longest game played.
"There was a game back in 1992 between Salisbury and Grande Prairie that took four more quarters of overtime to play back when it was an additional quarter of time – not the shootout, extra innings, style they use now," explains Tim Enger, executive director of Football Alberta.
"There was a USport game between the University of Alberta and the University of Manitoba in 2017 that took seven overtimes to decide, but this is the longest I’ve ever recorded at the high school level with the new format."