The Lacombe Bantam Raiders belted out John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads as they headed off the field after defeating the Lethbridge Jr. Cougars 32-6.
Just like take taking the country roads instead of the highway, they didn’t get caught looking too far ahead, and took their first provincial playoff game one mile – one play – at a time.
“We tried to emphasize process, to just trust what we’ve been practicing for weeks and go one play at a time, and that’s what they did,” said Raiders Head Coach Fred Knip. “We don’t have a lot of heroes – we have a lot of journeymen. They knew what their job was, and they did their work.
“I’m just so proud of those guys.”
The Raiders got off to a good start, using the conditioning they’ve worked on in practice all year to their advantage, scoring twice, and wearing their opponents down. At the half, they led 18-0, and it was already clear they Cougars didn’t have much left in the tank.
The intermission proved to help the Cougars recover some – it took the Raiders the entire third quarter before Landon Schneider – who had a hand in much of the Raiders’ offensive gains in the game – ran the ball across the endline with 18 seconds left in the frame to put the team up 25-0 after the conversion.
“Landon’s our beast. He never quits, he just goes and goes and goes. He was having a good game,” Knip said. “But they all played together. They were one team, one boat, all rowing in the same direction and working in sync.”
The fourth quarter was much of the same, with the Raiders slowly but surely pushing the Cougars into their own zone. With 2:09 left to play, Drizzit Bittorf capitalized on his second attempt in as many downs to finally increase their lead to 32-0.
The only blemish of the game came on a late touchdown by the Cougars quarterback, #14, who ran the ball across the line himself. The ensuing two-point conversion attempt, however, failed and the Raiders booked their ticket to a second provincial game next weekend.
With their Southern Alberta opponents out of the way, the Raiders will now go up against the Northern Alberta champions, the Grande Prairie Broncos, for the provincial title which they’ll look to bring home to the place they believe it belongs.
“They’re a strong team. We’ll have our work cut out for us, for sure,” said Knip. “We have one more weekend left. Hopefully the snow stays away and we’ll do well.”
The game will go on Saturday, Nov. 17 at MEGlobal Field. Kick off time to be announced.