The Lacombe Bantam Raiders might not be ending the season as league champions, but they did wrap up their year with a bronze medal victory over the Drumheller Titans.
The Raiders took down the Titans 22-14 to take Central Alberta Football League (CAFL) bronze Saturday afternoon in Drumheller, in a game where it seemed like the odds were stacked against them.
“Initially, on paper, we wee the underdogs, for sure,” said Head Coach Fred Knip. “However, after looking at the statistics, we realized that Drumheller played mostly the lower-seeded teams in the league and really did not face many difficult teams during the season. We, on the other hand, had a tougher schedule.”
The Raiders and Titans both had 5-2 records, but the Titans had home field advantage thanks to their points for and against differential and their 46-point average per game, compared to the Raiders 24-points.
However, the Raiders put an end to their opponents’ high scoring trend, with the defence stepping up early and stopping the Titans first opportunity for offence in what Knip called a “small victory” for the team.
Raiders Scott Magee and Michael Waite marched the ball down the field, wearing the Titan defence down, and at 6:36 into the first quarter, quarterback Ethan Reglin handed the ball off to Elliot Wyse, who then made a two-yard run to give the Raiders a 6-0 lead.
The Raiders defence kept pressure on the Titans for the rest of the frame, but the second proved to be more of a back-and-forth game until the Titans evened the scored with 4:28 left in the half, and the score would remain 6-6 at the half.
“We felt good going to half time,” said Knip. “They gave us a 15 minute break and that allowed many of our players to catch their breath as we assessed what we were up against. I emphasized that we needed to stick to the skills we had learned all year and we will eventually come out on top. We were fundamentally sound and I was convinced we were in better shape than they were. We had more energy left.”
Knip said the plan going into the second half was to use that energy to catch the Titans off guard, claiming they had trouble calling in their defensive plays. He had the team start the third quarter with a “hurry-up, no huddle, pass only offence,” and it paid off.
On the first play, 37 seconds in, Reglin threw a bullet to Magee for a 65-yard touchdown, and then made good on the conversion to take a 14-6 lead.
With their no-huddle tactic proving successful, the team kept with it, and Reglin would find Adnesse Pannenbecker tearing down the left side of the field for a 56-yard touchdown pass, and after the two-point conversion, the Raiders took a 22-6 lead.
Then, the Raiders shifted to the defensive.
They’d surrender a 46-yard touchdown pass to the Titans with 5:21 left to play, and the Titans would have two more opportunities to tie the game, but the Titans were foiled by an unnecessary roughness penalty that sent them back 15 yards, and led to the Raiders regaining position. However, the team fumbled the ball and gave their opponents a shot at tying the game with 29.8 seconds on the clock. Fortunately, the teamwork of Waite, Harley Gagnon and Tristan Reeves would see the Titan quarterback tumble, and the team held on for the win.
“That was close,” said Knip. “They were a good team and have some great players, but we were better. We were in great cardiovascular condition with a lot of energy and we had sound fundamental skills that helped us carry the game.
“I am very proud of the players. It was good to end the season with a win.”
The Raiders will now look towards 2020, and Knip says more than half the team should return, with holes to be filled by the Lacombe Pee Wee Explosion.