It was a night to remember and a night to forget for the YRHS Raiders football team on Friday night when they hosted the Moose Jaw Central Cyclones in their second annual Friday Night Lights game at Century Field. After a rout in last years game over pushovers Regina martin this game had the extra addition of a battle for first place that made the night truly special. The game started out with a Central rushing touchdown on a quarterback scramble after a David Balysky fumble on a punt return set the Cyclones up with solid field position. Dalton Fichtner answered back before halftime with one of three rushing touchdowns on the day. The Raiders had a chance to score to exit the half after a big catch from Ryan Krochak put them in field goal range, but the Raiders opted to go for the touchdown and ended the half at 7-7.
The second half saw the Cyclones take the lead with the Raiders coming close again and again, Cyclones quarterback Brenden Forbes and the Regional’s Dalton Fichtner both showed their leadership as two Grade Twelve quarterbacks laid it on the line in one of the biggest game’s of their high school career. The Raiders nearly came back off of Fichtner scrambles and a well executed onside kick from Darius Haberstock, but the teams final drive to the endzone ended with a batted down pass intended for Layne Hull that saw the Cyclones hold on to a four point victory in the games final play. Cyclones coach Colin Belsher was happy with the performance of his team saying that heart was the key to the Cyclones victory. Belsher also credited the Regional squad for playing until the final whistle and mentioned that both teams put on a show under the lights in what was the first ever night game for the Cyclones as Moose Jaw lacks the facilities for a night game. The Cyclones finish off their season with a rivalry game against Moose Jaw Peacock in the season’s final week that will potentially set up a three way tie between Peacock, Central and the Regional, but Belsher fully expects his team to finish up the regular season in first place and earn a first round bye.
Raiders coach Roby Sharpe was understandably visibly upset after the heartbreaking loss, but took positives from the close loss saying, “We have a damn good football team.” Sharpe also pointed out that the turnover battle likely cost the Raiders the game as they committed five turnovers in the game, but all in all took the game as another measuring stick for the Raiders in their new league. With two games remaining including a Thursday road trip to Swift Current and a weekend clash at Century Field against Estevan Sharpe expects to bounce back and win the next two games and snap up at least the second place seed and home field advantage in the quarterfinals and semi-finals for the Raiders.
As for the potential rematch in the cars in the City Championship Sharpe said the key to beating the Cyclones if they get a second chance will be protecting the football. Sharpe closed out his comments by thanking all of the fans for coming out and supporting the event and also was happy with what was a very entertaining night of high school football.
At 3-1 with a narrow defeat at the hands of the likely first seed heading into the playoffs, the Raiders have shown makings of a championship contending playoff team. On offense the Raiders have a big offensive line and the senior leadership of Layne Hull and Dalton Fichtner who will likely end up being two of the league’s best players at the end of the season. Young players like wide receiver Ryan Krochak and running back Zack Kais provide skill for the future while providing big performances for the Raiders now. On defense the potent lineup of players like Grey McKen, Tyson Haas, Hull, Haberstock, and Mackenzie Shore give the Raiders the hard hitting and consistent defense they have come to rely on year in and year out as their identity. Players like Adam McCannell, who played with a near broken hand on defense also add to the toughness of a team that is one of the best Yorkton has seen in years.
Despite the loss, which can be attributed to turnovers and a few calls that could have went their way, including a referee error that awarded the Cyclones an extra fifteen yards as well as turning the ball over for the Raiders on a punt return, the Raiders can head into the final two weeks of the regular season with the knowledge that they can beat anyone in the league.
The next two weeks of the season will be crucial for the Raiders as they will look to lock up the all important home field advantage with wins over Swift Current and Estevan, teams that will also be looking to improve their playoff pictures with upset wins over the Raiders.
Friday Night Lights was a special night for Yorkton football in their new league, but it likely won’t be the last special event in the 2012/13 YRHS Football season as championship dreams were born in defeat on a fall Friday night at Century Field.