The Springbank Phoenix football team battled valiantly but, in the end, was unable to lay siege to the Knights’ castle. In the first round of the provincial push that will culminate in the 2018 Alberta Bowl Nov. 24, the Phoenix fell 32-7 to the Holy Trinity Academy (HTA) Knights, Nov. 3 at Shouldice Athletic Park. The defeat ends Springbank's 2018 season. While the Phoenix led 7-6 in the second quarter, the Knights’ strong offence propelled the Okotoks team to three unanswered touchdowns in the second half. “They’re a good team, all around,” said Springbank head coach Shane Martell. “I think in the second half, our guys just started to get gassed and they out-willed us.” The Knights tacked on the first touchdown of the game five minutes into the first quarter, when quarterback Ben Leggett muscled into the Springbank end zone from the three-yard line. But Springbank responded quickly, with one of the team’s most impressive plays of the season. Pinned in the red zone, Springbank’s sophomore quarterback Danny Skelton released a rocket of a throw, caught at the 50 by receiver Brendan Frolek. With acres of space in front of him, Frolek was able to out-pace the Knights’ defensemen into the end zone for a 90-yard major. “They’re playing cover-zero, and when you’re on a man-coverage, they’re susceptible to the deep ball,” Martell said. “We got them once – and usually, you only get them once, because they’re a good team.” HTA regained its lead in the second quarter. Following a botched snap on a punt return from Springbank, the Phoenix’s punter was sacked in his own end zone, resulting in two points for the Knights. HTA took its 8-7 lead into the locker rooms at halftime. Whatever the HTA coaches said during the break was effective, as the Knights came out ready for battle in the second half. Holy Trinity’s special teams unit did a good job pinning Springbank deep on its punt returns – meaning the Phoenix spent a considerable portion of the second half playing dangerously close to its goal line. Halfway through the third quarter, Skelton had to take a knee in Springbank’s end zone, bringing the score to 10-7 for Holy Trinity. “They made adjustments accordingly, and they were able to defend us for the rest of the game,” Martell said. HTA extended its lead to 17-7 after wide receiver Riley Dallaire was left wide open on the right side of the field near the Springbank red zone. Dallaire caught QB Noah Gutek’s pass and had a clear route for the TD. Holy Trinity scored again on the last play of the third quarter, when Spencer Kessel rushed the ball into the Phoenix’s end zone on a second-and-goal. With an 18-point cushion heading into the fourth quarter, the Okotokians were easily able to hold off the Phoenix’s offence for the remainder of the game. Springbank did come close to scoring on another deep pass from Skelton, but receiver Dillon Cozac was brought down on the Knights’ 10-yard line, and the Phoenix was unable to score on the drive. HTA running back Brad Lojstrup scored another insurance TD for the Knights with a minute left, putting the final nail in Springbank’s coffin. The final whistle did not just bring the end of the season for Springbank, but with it, the end of high school football for the Phoenix players who will graduate next spring. Quarterback Cooper Manes said he was thankful for the three years he spent with the program. “I don’t think I’ve been this sad before,” he said after the loss. “But, also, I’m grateful I’ve been able to play this game at this level. “I’m lucky and I’m so thankful for this group of guys.” Considering the relative youth of the squad, Martell said it is already time to start building towards the future. “We have a great, solid young core, and we’re looking forward to working with them,” he said.