All it took for the Lacombe Bantam Raiders to win the league championship was a little faith, trust (in the process), and patience.
Saturday night, the Raiders flew over the Ponoka Broncs 25-8 in the Central Bantam B Football League final at MEGlobal Field, earning themselves their second consecutive league championship.
While the teams were evenly matched for most of the game, it was a late effort against a tiring Broncs team that ultimately put the hometown Raiders ahead.
“The Broncs are a tough team, otherwise they wouldn’t have been here,” said Head Coach Fred Knip. “We knew they might score one or two, but if we just trusted our process and were patient, then we’d wear them down and eek ahead and that’s what happened.
“It was a good game.”
Not that it was an easy one.
Despite the Raiders spending most of the opening quarter in the offensive zone, the Broncs defence was able to stop them from gaining too much ground and they headed into the second quarter with the score tied at zero.
Starting deep in the Broncs zone in the second, it didn’t take the Raiders long to push their offence to the four yard line. While a bauble forced them back to the seventh yard line, Raider Alexzander Williams was finally able give his team an 8-0 lead with the conversion with 8:28 left to play.
The Broncs almost came back late in the second, sitting on the 1.5 yard line, but weren’t able to find a hole in the Raiders defence, and the home team took their one-touchdown lead to the dressing room at the half.
Ponoka did manage to finally tie the game with 5:50 left in the third as the Broncs biggest offensive threat, Jordan Young, used his speed to slip through the Raiders defence and finally run across the end line. While the Broncs would rely heavily on Young for the rest of the game and came close to taking a lead, it would ultimately be their only touchdown.
Early in the fourth, the Raiders went ahead on a two-pointer, and with just 2:14 left, Drizzitt Bittorf dodged his opponents and ran straight up the middle for a 57-yard touchdown that gave the Raiders a 25-8 lead.
“I had no idea the kid had that much speed – I don’t know he did, either,” said Knip. “But that was a result of their defensive line being tired and Drizzitt really wanted to move it forward.”
Overall, he said the key to winning the game was conditioning – something they’ve placed a focus on over the course of the last 10-12 weeks.
“We do a lot of cardiovascular. The kids run two to three kilometres each practice. Some of them don’t like it, but tonight, the proof is in the pudding,” he said. “We’ve been pulling away in the third and fourth quarters, and next week we’ll try to do the same thing.”
The Raiders will now host provincials at MEGlobal Field. The first game of provincials will be held on Saturday, Nov. 10 against the Lethbridge Jr. Cougars. Kick off is at 11 a.m.