The Lacombe Bantam Raiders’ offence and defence alike were chewed up by the Stettler Cougars as they were handed their first loss of the season Saturday.
In front of the hometown crowd during Football Day in Lacombe at MEGlobal Athletic Park, the Raiders were pillaged 63-8, causing them to fall to fifth place in Central Alberta Football League (CAFL) standings.
“We got a genuine, good ol’ game beating,” said Head Coach Fred Knip. “The guys didn’t show up. They forgot to come to the game.”
It showed early in the first quarter, where Knip says some of the players seemed to almost freeze up at the sight of the larger Cougars’ players running onto the field. Kyle Dennis made a 50-yard run for the Cougars first touchdown, and the next three touchdowns would also be his handiwork.
While the Raiders tried to slow down their opponents offence with some of their own, the Cougars not only expoloited their size, but appeared to almost predict their every move, intercepting passes and stealing possession, and sacking quarterback Scott Magee on more than one occasion.
“We couldn’t move their defensive line. I thought maybe we could run up the middle, but they were right there. I thought we could run around the sides, but they would crash through our offensive line and get our running backs from behind, so it got tough,” Knip said. “On our sideline, [the message] was don’t give up, don’t give in, don’t quit. Then, it got to the point where, as a coach, you start thinking you’re at a point of no return and it’s time to put in the backups.”
In the second quarter, receiver Adnesse Pannenbecker caught a 15-yard pass for what would be the Raiders lone touchdown, with Ethan Reglin adding two points on the conversion. However, it wouldn’t be enough to spark a comeback or even temper Stettler’s dominance at both ends of the field.
Changes to the lineup on the field continued throughout the rest of the game, with players getting injured and frustrated, which only added to the Cougars’ offensive success. Jakob Lewis and Zach McCord would each add touchdowns for the Cougars, while Colton Blanchard would score the final two of the game en route to the 63-8 final.
“We had a couple of injuries in a couple key places, so all of a sudden we’re putting players in that hadn’t played in that position, and when you get guys who are playing in spots they haven’t before, the plays are new,” said Knip.
“Would I have liked to have won? Yeah, but there’s some silver lining. We revealed some character, we saw what the boys were made of, and I’d prefer to do that in the third game of the season than the last game or when we get to the league finals or provincials.”
The challenge for the team now is to learn how to bounce back from a loss, and Knip promised that will be part of their practices over the course of the next week
“We’ll do a lot of running, then Tuesday and Wednesday, we’ll correct some of our deficiencies, we’ll correct some of the motivational issues,” he said. “Nobody’s going to give you victory – you have to work for it.”
The Raiders will play their next two games on the road, including Sept. 28 in Sylvan Lake at 12:30 p.m. and Oct. 5 in Rocky Mountain House. On Oct. 12, they’ll return for their final regular season home game against the Strathmore Badgers. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.