The celebration was so sensational and loud, it might have sounded like someone won a championship.
That was the feeling being given off by the Ponoka Broncs high school football club and their fans following a mind-blowing 43-yard field goal by Conner Stiles to give the home squad the 22-20 victory in its season and home opener Sept. 6 against Rocky Mountain House.
“It was a great back and forth high school football game,” said Broncs head coach Cody Baird after the excitement had slowed to a dull roar.
“It’s early in the season, so there is a lot to work on and a lot of mistakes were made on both sides. In the end though, we had the field position and a kicker who sure can kick.”
A scoreless opening quarter was hardly unexpected, but Rocky held much of the field position and time of position for the first half. That would culminate in a touchdown with a minute left in the second quarter for a 7-0 lead.
Rocky would extend that to 14 with another touchdown four minutes into the third quarter, aided by some offside penalties along with a 15-yard unnecessary roughness call.
It wasn’t until the last three minutes of the third and the first play of the fourth before Ponoka’s offense was able to gain some real momentum, punctuated by a six-yard touchdown pass by Luke Bonnett to Joel Hollingsworth.
The Broncs closed the gap to two points just over a minute later via a 25-yard pass and run that earned Hollingsworth his second straight TD, followed by Ponoka grabbing the lead close to the midway mark with a TD pass and run from Erik Mathieu. Bonnett would cap it off by running it in the two-point convert to make it 19-14.
Both teams would batten down on defence, forcing each side to punt or turnover the ball on downs, until near tragedy hit the Broncs with slightly more than two minutes remaining. With the ball near mid-field, Bonnett would get hit hard with the ball popping loose and right into the arms of a Rocky defender who scampered for a touchdown.
With the convert good, Ponoka got the ball back with okay field position, but a couple penalties nearly jeopardized the Broncs chance at a win as Stiles 48-yard attempt with just five seconds left fell far short.
However, an offside call gave Ponoka and Stiles one more chance five yards closer, so with no time left Stiles pounded the ball through the uprights for the victory.
“We clicked on offense, but what killed us was the penalties. We had too many and even a touchdown taken away,” Baird said.
“Even the penalties after we gained the yards hurt. We probably lost more than a field’s worth.”
Baird added they were trying to run out the clock when the fumble return happened and then the plan was simply to get the ball into range for Stiles.
“That was our goal. There is no question he is capable. We wouldn’t let him kick a 40-some yarder if we didn’t have faith,” he stated.
“At the same time, we got a bit lucky at the end with the offside penalty.”
Ponoka also ran a short playbook on both sides, so Baird knows there is work to do and things to clean up. He also gave props to Rocky for shutting down much of the Broncs passing attack.
Ponoka will head up the road to take on Camrose Sept. 12 with kickoff set for 7:30 p.m.
“We have a lot of work to do. We ran small playbook, so it will be nice to clean up what we had and add some to make our offense a bit more dynamic,” said Baird.
“But, I have a feeling (Camrose) is going to be a really good game and I am looking forward to it.”