Lacombe Bantam Raiders gear up for season

Tristan Reeves of the Lacombe Bantam Raiders, #20, and teammate Gabe Hiebert, #11, work together to take down the Lethbridge Jr. Cougars quarterback during Bantam football provincials Saturday at MEGlobal Field. The Raiders defeated the Cougars 32-6. (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe) Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The Lacombe Bantam Raiders are already gearing up for another season-long journey to what they hope will finally be a provincial title.

The reigning Central Bantam B Football League champions have fell shy of capturing a provincial crown for the past two years – including a 61-0 shutout at the hands of the Grande Prairie Broncos last season – but they want to build on the success they did have in hopes a third appearance will be the charm.

“It would be nice to win the final game, sure… I thought about it all winter – what do we need to do?” said Raiders Head Coach Fred Knip. “Honestly, I’m not sure. We’ve just got to keep grinding at it and see if we get another kick at the can.”

There will be no bold changes to the gameplans, or a rewrite of the playbook in order to get that third crack at a provincial championship. Knip says he doesn’t see much sense in throwing something out that has played an integral role in their success so far.

Instead, he says they’ll focus once more on conditioning, as well as building a family of goal-oriented players that are always working to take their skills to the next level, which will in turn take the team to the next level.

“Changing something because we didn’t win the (provincial) final would be a poor reason to change – what we’ve done for the last 20 years works,” he said. “We’re usually on the winning end of a game, we get great players and they develop to be good members of our community.

“I’ve always said as long as I’ve been coaching, I coach kids. Our football program is a place for players to belong – they’re part of the family and we’re moving forward together…(Players’) contribution to the whole is a lot more than it is individually.”

Fortunately, he’s got a good crop of players to continue to foster that culture, including about 15 returning players from last year’s team, and rookies who were on last year’s Lacombe Pee Wee Explosion team that was undefeated until they, too, fell at provincials.

“We have some great athletes that have stayed and developed over the last year and we have some excellent pee wees that have come up. They’ve been well-trained, well-coached at the pee ww level and tehy have a good sense of football so we have an excellent team,” said Knip.

“I’m excited about this year. Will we make the finals? Yes, we will. Will we win the finals? That’s the goal.”

Before then, they’ll have a full season to play, which will officially begin Sept. 7 in Ponoka at 12 p.m. Their first home game will be Sept. 14 vs. Hunting Hills High School at MEGlobal Field at 10 a.m.

Admission for games is $3, which goes towards offsetting playing fees and equipment costs for the players.

Full season schedule as follows:

  • Sept. 7 @ Ponoka at 12 p.m.
  • Sept. 14 vs. HHHS
    MEGlobal Field at 10 a.m.
  • Sept. 21 vs. Stettler
    MEGlobal Field at 11 a.m.
  • Sept. 28 @ Sylvan Lake
    Time TBA
  • Oct. 5 @ Rocky Mountain House
    Time TBA
  • Oct. 12 vs. Strathmore
    MEGlobal Field, Time TBA
  • Oct. 19 @ Notre Dame
    Great Chief Park at 4:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 26 – Playoffs Week 1
  • Nov. 2 – Playoffs Week 2