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HTA Knights run away with provincial rugby title

Rugby: HTA boys win gold, girls take silver at Alberta provincials

The Knights simply wouldn’t be denied in their shot at provincial redemption.

One year after a runner-up finish, the Holy Trinity Academy Knights left no doubt as to who holds the crown in the Alberta Schools’ Athletic Association Tier I boys rugby ranks with a dominant 52-17 win over Chinook High to capture the provincial title Saturday in Red Deer.

“This year, we came with a goal from the very start of the year, we knew we wanted to get to this point,” said HTA back Julian Pacione. “We all had the heart, we all wanted it so much and in the finals it really showed.

“Our heart throughout our entire team is what brought us to this result.”

To kick off the eight-team competition, the Knights ruled over the All Saints Legends 24-8, a game that was tied for parts of the second half, followed by a 29-10 triumph over Archbishop O’Leary in the semifinal.

“Our first two games, we knew coming in they were going to be really tough games,” said HTA scrum-half Colton Boychuk. “We knew that other teams had been watching us throughout the year and looking at our gameplay.

“We just dug down deep.”

In the final, HTA squared off against a Chinook side it had not seen since exhibition tournament action early in the season.

 “We knew they had a couple of hard runners, they had some skilled players,” said HTA’s Jacques Henning. “So if we could just keep our spacing on defence and shut them down with our tackles then once we had the ball in our hands we knew would be able to beat them flying.”

“The first few of our tries were mistakes we capitalized on from the other team,” added Boychuk. “And then eventually we just found the holes that they were opening for us.

“It’s something that last year we came short of and a big goal of ours this year was to get back into provincials and take it home.”

The Knights, who fielded a strong team in rugby sevens that finished fourth at provincials the week prior, had high hopes for this season with a strong core of returning seniors.

The Tier I provincial title is the first for the Knights since 2012.

“First off, all the glory to God,” said Henning. “And to be able to say that I’m a provincial champion alongside all of my friends and teammates this year is such a blessing.

“Aside from being the best team in the province I just say the camaraderie that came with that means more than the medal.”

The Knights brought home another medal from Red Deer.

The HTA senior girls won the silver medal in the Tier II provincials to cap off a resurgent season for the program.

"There was a little bit of expectation that this would be more of a rebuild year based on their results last year, they had a tough season last year," said Knights head coach Nathan Marquardt. "But just as a group we really addressed that and decided to make a stronger intention towards what we wanted and the girls really followed through with everything from their training to the fact they were doing film sessions on Wednesdays at lunch hour and just really taking ownership of the group and what they wanted to do for this season.

"It really showed through."

HTA dispatched Hunting Hills 54-0 in its opener and edged Grande Prairie’s Charles Spencer 12-10 in a nailbiter semifinal.

Sturgeon Composite outlasted the Knights 32-0 in the gold medal game.

"The girls did really well at provincials," the coach added. "The final was a much tighter game than the score reflected.

"For what a lot of people considered a rebuild year or a transition year, I couldn't be more proud of those ladies and their results, making it to the final is an incredible result."

Marquardt, a fixture on the club rugby scene with the Foothills Lions, said he's encouraged by the terrific run of success Okotoks has seen at both the sevens and fifteens rugby provincials from the Knights and Foothills Falcons.

"I love the direction it's going," he said. "I'm extremely pleased with all of the results from the draw schools for the town and for the possibility of the (Lions) as well.

"As a community this was really a bounce back year from the COVID drop in numbers that most sports saw across the board, numbers came back again and people were really intent on coming out and playing. It bodes really well."

Remy Greer

About the Author: Remy Greer

Remy Greer is the assistant editor and sports reporter for and the Western Wheel newspaper. For story tips contact [email protected]
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