COCHRANE— The Cochrane Cobras were back on the field on Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 28 and 29), preparing for their season opener against Airdrie’s Bert Church High School on Friday (Sept. 3) at 4:30 p.m.
Head Coach Robbie McNab said he feels excited for the Cobras’ players who have been looking forward to the return of football this year. After COVID-19 cancelled their previous season, some of the athletes have been without competitive play for nearly two years.
“It’s been a long haul for them. We trained in the offseason and they didn’t get play last year, so I’m pretty excited for them more than anything. I’ve coached a long time, but they only get a short period of time to play, so I’m hoping it all goes well and we get a full season in,” said McNab.
McNab said he is not sure what will happen this season with COVID-19 cases on the rise, but is preparing the players for a full season of play.
“We’re going in full bore, ready to go, and we’re anticipating a great season. Hopefully everybody stays healthy and we can finish off the season at the end of November,” he said. “God only knows what’s going to end up happening here, the numbers are up, but we’ll just control what we can control.”
Although the Cobras are coming off summer break, McNab said he feels confident that they will show up ready to work, as the dedication of the program runs deep in its athletes.
“We got after it a little bit in the spring – three or four days there. This is a really close group of kids, I haven’t had a lot of contact with them – obviously we’re not supposed to – but I do know that they will be ready. We’re going in tomorrow morning at 9 o’clock like it’s mid-season,” he said. “I know they’ll be ready. The tradition of Cochrane High is a long one and I think they want to keep the tradition going.”
That commitment to the program comes from the long-standing legacy of athletic excellence at Cochrane High and within the Cobras program. With their position on the team, McNab said, comes a responsibility to carry on that tradition of success.
“When you put that cardinal jersey on, you’re not only representing today, you’re representing the past and future, so you’ve got to be ready for it.”
Although the pressure is on the Cobras to defend their provincial championship status this year, McNab said he is focused on getting the players familiar with their systems right now.
“We do always set goals, and obviously our goal is to win a provincial championship, but that’s a long way away. We’re day to day, week to week. This weekend will just be getting our feet under us, doing some installs of our playbook – defensively and offensively – and then as of Monday we will start preparing for Bert Church.”
McNab said he places the responsibility of leadership on the shoulders of his senior players – the Grade 12 students who are familiar with the team’s systems – and is excited to see what the home-opener will look like given the long hiatus of the sport due to the pandemic.
“These Grade 12’s that are going to be the leaders of the team, they were in the 10th Grade when all of this took place, so they haven’t played football in the last couple of years. I’m really excited to see what these kids can bring to the table, and as well as just football in Alberta generally,” he said. “We’ve been sitting a long time.”
Despite the long break, McNab said he is confident that the Grade 12 players can handle the role.
“Fortunately, these Grade 12’s were in Grade 10 the last time we had a full season and won a provincial championship. What I’m hoping is the leadership that group of Grade 12’s gave them when they were in the 10th Grade resonates, and they take up the challenge to be like that group,” he said. “During the offseason training program, we talked about that a lot, I’m looking for leaders, this team is looking for leaders. I’m not going to lead the team; the kids have to lead the team. We’ve always done that so it’s very important that these kids step up, and fortunately they did see some fantastic leadership a couple of years ago with our Grade 12 group.”
There are also some big changes in the coaches roster as well at Cochrane High. McNab is stepping back to co-head coach position along with Ken Polson, who has been with the Cobras for 18 years.
Tom Knitter is stepping into the defensive coordinator position, and will remain the special teams’ coordinator for now as well.
Derek Cooper will be co-offensive coordinator as well, sharing the responsibility with McNab.
McNab said the moves will benefit the team, as well as secure its future as he is in the “twilight” of his coaching career.
“I think with Ken coming up, that relieves a little pressure on me. We can split up some duties, that sort of thing. As a head coach there’s a lot on your plate – a lot of moving parts,” he said. “With Tom Knitter, he’s fast becoming – I believe he’s going to be one of the best coaches in the province at some point, he just needs that experience. For him to pick up that defensive coordinator position, that’s going to be big for him. He was influential in our win two years ago for sure, but now it’s on him.”
The Cobras kick off their season on Friday (Sept. 3) at 4:30 p.m. on the turf at Bow Valley High School against Airdrie’s Bert Church High School