After their heartbreaking loss at Friday Night Lights to Moose Jaw Central, the YRHS Raiders football team bounced back with two straight 40 point performances on offense in wins over Swift Current and Estevan to improve their record to 5-1 and lock up second place in the Moose Jaw football league in their first season.
With their loss to Central the Raiders needed two wins to lock up guaranteed home field advantage in the quarter and semi-final playoff games and to do so needed to win on the road in Swift Current Thursday night and on Tuesday afternoon at Century Field at home. In Swift Current the Raiders had to fight lag from the long bus ride from Yorkton according to coach Sharpe, but they ended up leading the entire way after allowing a field goal on the opening possession according to Sharpe. Sharpe praised backup tailback and usual receiving option David Balysky, who ran for 200 plus yards in the game saying, “Swift Current gave us the outside all game, and David Balysky did a great job in carrying the ball for us in the second half.” Balysky’s 200 yard effort came after standout starting running back Zack Kais injured his ankle, forcing the Raiders to adjust and employ out of position players in the backfield.
Kais absence extended to Tuesday’s home game against Estevan, a winless team who were pretty much a lock to face the Raiders in the 2/7 matchup in the first round of playoff action on Saturday. The Raiders gave first year player and normal linebacker Tyson Haas his first ever start at tailback in Kais’ absence and he did not disappoint offensive coordinator Jason Boyda as Haas busted out for a long touchdown in the first half that set the tone for the rest of the game.
Dalton Fichtner scored three touchdowns in the first half, running in one of his own and connecting on long yardage passing touchdowns to Layne Hall and Michael Balysky in a game that the Raiders dominated. Estevan did keep things interesting in the opening moments with a touchdown to tie things up early and nearly answering back again before fumbling on the one yard line on a passing play, creating some controversy as Estevan contested that they crossed the goal line before the ball hit the ground. However it proved to be a non factor in a game that saw Fichtner sit out a majority of the second half as Ryan Krochak took snaps under center as the Raiders coasted into second place and have a serious mental edge going into their rematch at Century Field on Saturday. Snowy conditions hit the field to start and end the second half and looks like Century Field will continue to be frigid in the next few weeks, something that Sharpe considers an edge heading into the playoffs. “We are always a ground attacking team and believe in using the run to set up the pass, both Central and Peacock use a lot of passing on offense and with weather that can see anything happen on any given day in October it is an advantage to have a strong running game,” said Sharpe.
In other action on Tuesday Moose Jaw Peacock earned a 28-14 victory over Central off of four rushing touchdowns which created a three way tie that saw Peacock surprisingly lock up the first place bye and the winner of the Swift Current-Weyburn quarterfinal in the semi-finals. Central finished third and will face a Vanier squad they beat on a last second punt through the end zone in the other quarterfinal before likely heading to Century Field for a rematch of the Raiders only loss of the season in the semi-finals.
Coach Sharpe knows that even though they beat Estevan handily on Tuesday, they might be a different team on Saturday afternoon in a playoff atmosphere. “Anything can happen, and even though we didn’t show them all of our playbook, they will likely have done the same thing,” mentioned Sharpe. Looking ahead in the playoffs Sharpe lamented on the fact that they were just four points away from a first round bye as Peacock needed to win by ten points or more to lock up first place and ended up winning by two touchdowns over Central, but has high hopes going up against both schools going forward. If a rematch against Central is to happen Sharpe mentioned that they did out gain the Cyclones by over 100 yards and if the Raiders erased their five turnovers on the game it might have been a different story saying “We shot ourselves in the foot in our one loss of the season.”
The Raiders will be looking for Zack Kais return in the playoffs and coach Sharpe hopes that Kais down the middle style will allow him to play at less than 100 per cent. If Kais does not return expect Haas to be the X factor in the Raiders playoff run as he will need to provide the Raiders rushing offence in a relatively new position if Kais is unable to play.
With their 5-1 record Sharpe anticipates a good run at the championship from what he considers a great team, but alludes to the fact that “Anything can happen in the game of football, a call here, an inch there, a fumble, an interception, can change a game or a season in the playoffs.”
Homefield advantage in the playoffs will be enjoyed by the Raiders for the first time in over a decade as the move to Moose Jaw will allow the Raiders to play their next two games at Century Field up until the potential City Championship game which will continue to be held in Moose Jaw. In just their first year in a new league the Raiders head into the second season with a new identity and new experiences and now a chance to make their mark on the league with their first ever MJFL title.