It has been a season of firsts for the YRHS Raiders football program in its inaugural season in the Moose Jaw High School Football League. From their first win in their new league, to their first home win, to their 5-1 record and their first home playoff game since 1994, the Raiders have been having one of those special seasons from Opening Day. Century Field’s first home playoff game in 18 years was all YRHS as after a blowout win over Estevan on Tuesday set up a rematch between the two teams in the 2/7 quarterfinal matchup of the playoffs, the Raiders ran all over the Elecs 69-6.
David Balysky started off the game with a interception for a touchdown and set up two more punch in scores for quarterback Dalton Fichtner with big plays in the first half. The Raiders scored over twenty points in the final two minutes of the second quarter to close the door on the game before the halfway point. Ryan Krochak joined the scoring party in a big way with three receiving touchdowns on the day in a game that saw ten Raider touchdowns.
Despite the big win, after the game focus was immediately on the Raiders next opponent, Moose Jaw Central, the team that handed the Raiders their only loss of the season on Friday Night Lights night and winners of their quarterfinal matchup over Moose Jaw Vanier. Coach Sharpe echoed the focus on the semifinal matchup in his post game speech as well as instantly in his post game comments saying, “Despite this huge win, we aren’t going to let the bad habits you can pick up running over an opponent come into play next week, because we won’t get away with it.”
Central has had a rough stretch of play in their last three games. The Cyclones needed a last second rouge attempt to beat Moose Jaw Vanier in the second last week of the season before falling victim to rivals Moose Jaw Peacock 28-14 in the final game of the regular season to lose their number one seed and their bye and home field advantage in the playoffs. Vanier once again gave Central a good run in the quarterfinal game, losing by just six points and with both the Raiders and Central having identical 5-1 regular season records this tilt will be featuring two teams who both are looking at this game as a stepping stone to a provincial championship appearance.
Coach Sharpe points out that although the Raiders lost to Central at home already this season, that the loss was one of poor discipline, with the Raiders committing five turnovers and having penalty issues that allowed Central to have easy field position on a majority of their scoring drives. The Raider offense had 391 yards in that Friday night matchup during the regular season to Central’s 215 which has the Raiders feeling confident that if they can erase the mistakes they made in their loss that they will be able to avenge their only regular season and home defeat of the year.
A big part of the Raiders chances of advancing are hinging on the ankle of Zack Kais, the Raiders running back was on pace to be the league’s leading rusher before an ankle injury in the second half of the Raiders game against Swift Current put him out of the last two games against Estevan and his status was once again doubtful on Saturday according to Coach Sharpe.
One more week of rest and healing gives Kais great odds of being able to return on Saturday, but the Raiders still possess a new offensive threat in Tyson Haas who has added another element of power running to the Raider attack, and speed back David Balysky who has had a 200 yard performance this season and was featuring in a two back shotgun set alongside quarterback Ficthner and Haas on Saturday. Sharpe mentioned that the use of the shotgun set was due to strategy from being up so big, but did mention that Balysky and Haas will be crucial contributors against Central if Kais can’t play. Sharpe would like to see Kais return to ease the workload on Haas who played close to every down of both Estevan games as a two way player and is one of the team’s valuable defenders.
Another key matchup will be between Central quarterback Brenden Forbes and Dalton Fichtner. Both played great games in the regular season with multiple rushing touchdowns both way and the grade twelve players both will be looking to send the other home with the sour taste of a loss in their final high school game. Fichtner keeps the Raiders alive with his legs and has the knack for taking long 2nd and 10 plays into first downs as well as possessing an arm that can find big play receivers in Hull and Krochak for big touchdowns. Forbes was the villain in the Friday night game and has similar attributes in what is a great quarterback matchup.
This weekend’s game will feature a Raider team that was number one in both offense and defense in the Moose Jaw league and has drawn comparisons to some of the great Raider teams. “We have had some pretty good teams in the past, making the city championship in Regina one year, and playing 5A in the Regina league and beating some of the province’s biggest and best schools, but this team has some guys that are right up there with some of the special players we have had in the past and has the potential to match the successes of those teams,” said Sharpe.
Moose Jaw Peacock will likely be awaiting the winner of the Central-Raider game as they host Weyburn in the other semifinal, but you can expect the Raiders staff pulling for their former Regina league members in Weyburn as an upset from them would move the city championship from Moose Jaw to Century Field.
In a Saturday that is going to be filled with uncertain finishes and countless scenarios and possibilities, one thing is clear. At two p.m. on Saturday afternoon two 5-1 football teams with provincial championship aspirations are going to be leaving everything on the field in what might be their last high school game. For the Raiders a chance at payback on their home turf. For Central, a chance at redemption over their in-city rivals in the championship with a win. The script writes itself, but on Saturday afternoon another moment in Raider football history will be etched out on the grass of Century Field.