Hawks prepare for their biggest game of the season

By JAMES TUBB on November 4, 2021.

Hat High Hawks quarterback Brody Fink sidesteps the Vikings in Hat High’s 42-7 win over Crescent Heights for the Rangeland Conference Football Championship last Friday. – NEWS PHOTO JAMES TUBB

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Hat High Hawks football coach Quinn Skelton is not to be outdone, Friday’s Zone Championship game against the Cardston Cougars is the Hawks’ most important of the season.

“It’s the biggest game of the year for us,” said Skelton. “The zone championship is always a better step to show how we are doing against the teams from the South. The zone championship has always been important to me.

Skelton, who has been a coach for 32 years, says the zonal championship game has always been about air combat as well. The Hawks shut out Cardston 18-0 early in the season in a retaliatory victory after the Cougars blew up Hat High in the zonal championship two years ago. Skelton says it will be a challenge to make sure the team doesn’t lose sight of Friday’s game with the Provincials on the horizon.

“I think it’s difficult because trying not to look beyond the zones to get into the provincial championships is a challenge,” said Skelton. “But we keep reminding the guys all week that we have a tough game ahead of us and Cardston isn’t going to come in here and give it to us. Remind them that they have to win this zone championship and place themselves in the provincial category.

The Hawks won their last two playoff games against the McCoy Colts and Crescent Heights Vikings by a combined score of 81-21 en route to the Rangeland Football Conference title. Skelton says these clashes, especially against the Vikings, have prepared them for what will likely be a close game against Cardston.

“The physical nature of the game against Crescent Heights definitely helps us stay ahead,” he said. “Our guys are a pretty mature group who know it’s important to focus on every game, every week and we’ve been preaching it well since August.”

The core of the Hawks, like most high school football teams, is made up of many seniors who played together before starting high school.

“They deserve it, they’ve been a tight knit group since Grades 7 and 8,” said Skelton. “These kids, they’ve been through a lot, they won provincial championships in grade 9 when they were in bantamweight and I know anything less than winning provincial championships will be disappointing for the whole crew.

Senior Kai Noon says the Hawks are like a brotherhood and it’s been fun coming to play ball with them all season. He says he and the team are looking forward to the game.

“It’s something we’ve worked hard for,” Noon said. “Cardston is a good team, we are a good team. We’ve both improved since the last time we played, so we know if we lose this game it could be our last, so step up every practice and really take this game seriously and have a good fight, we look forward to it. “

Noon says the biggest thing he learned of the season leading up to the Cougars game was who the Hawks are as a team.

“One thing that remains constant in every game we play is that our identity is physical football,” Noon said. “In every game we make sure to come out from the start and play really physically, hit hard and play hard to give our best and we have to do it again this Friday.”

Skelton says the motivation is even stronger for his team as these games start to have ‘win or come home’ effects.

When asked how he would make sure the team and coaching staff stick to their game against Cardston, Skelton said they have focused on the basics all year round and the coaches have been breaking through the basics of guys all season.

“We preach a lot on the basics, right from spring camp,” Skelton said. “Basically we have a fantastic group of coaches who are working on the fundamentals with our kids every day. This week, last week, getting ready for championship type matches and they’re both banner matches… we’re still working on the fundamentals.

Zonal Championship against Cardston kicks off Friday at the Methanex Bowl at 6 p.m.

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