Canadian’s crushing loss to Gunter doesn’t change its tradition of excellence
Gunter’s Peyton Lowe (35) catches a pass that resulted in the eventual game-winning touchdown as the Tigers held off Canadian, 27-20, in a Class 3A Division II semifinal thriller on Friday night on Leo Brittain Field at Lions Stadium in Vernon. [Michael Kerrigan/ Press Pass Sports]
The Class 3A Division II state semifinals was one for the ages between rivals Canadian and Gunter at a packed Leo Brittain Field at Lions Stadium in Vernon on Friday night.
Meeting up for a fourth time in as many years, this contest was definitely one that will be talked about for years to come.
Trailing 27-20 with one second to play in the game, and a berth to AT&T Stadium in the balance, Canadian was given an untimed down off a pass interference call on the final play of regulation on a desperation heave by Grant McCook from the Gunter 20-yard line to the right corner of the endzone on a ball intended for Reagan Cochran.
The Wildcats were set up at the Tigers 3-yard line, giving themselves one final snap to try and force overtime.
McCook took the snap from shot gun, rolled right, threw a screen back left to Twister Kelton who was dropped less than a yard short by Bryson Grisby, persevering the 27-20 victory.
The crushing defeat ended Canadian’s quest to get back to a seventh state championship game since 2007. It ended the Wildcats perfect season at 14-1, and was a gut punch to the team, coaches and a proud community that showed up in droves to cheer their beloved Wildcats on.
But what the loss doesn’t do is wreck what head coach Chris Koetting and his staff have have built year and year out for over a decade.
Canadian is a statewide blue blood at the small school level. The Wildcats have been arguably the top program in the Texas Panhandle, playing in more playoff games then any other school since 2007.
Numbers don’t lie, and Canadian’s number’s speak for itself.
Since 2007, Canadian is an unprecedented 259-34 overall with four state champions (2007, 2008, 2014, 2015).
The four state titles are tied with the 1930’s Amarillo High teams for the most in Texas Panhandle history.
Since 2014, Canadian has played in six straight state semifinals, and three state championships, winning back-to-back Class 2A Division I titles in 2014-2015.
In those past six years the Wildcats have played a total of 92 total games, boasting an impressive mark of 85-7.
Then, there’s Koetting, and his success.
Koetting and his staff have taken the Wildcat program to new heights with a 128-17 record in his 10 seasons.
However, it’s his postseason record is what will what make fans double take.
Through a decade, Canadian’s all-time winningest coach has put together an incredible 37-8 record in 45 UIL playoff games.
However, through all the wins, through this tradition of excellence, the wrenching loss to Gunter will more than likely hurt more than any other loss to Koetting.
Canadian coach Chris Koetting, middle, coached the final game with his twin sons, Bill, left, and Jack, Friday night. [Provided photo]
Canadian says goodbye to 18 talented seniors, including his twin sons, Bill and Jack. Bill and Jack bleed black and gold, and have been a part of the Wildcat tradition since they could walk.
The twins, who have lived and breathed every moment of football with their father, played their final game in a Wildcat jersey Friday. An experience that will not be lost on Koetting.
“It’s been something I’ll never forget,” Koetting said. “I’m very proud that I got to coach them. I’m so proud of both them. I’m going to miss that. I’m going to miss this senior class. They were a special bunch, and we’ll miss them.”