After a four game winning streak saw the YRHS Jr. Raiders lock up a middle seed in the Regina Minor Football Bantam Playoffs, the Raiders continued their hot streak to the tune of a 32-24 victory on Monday night in Regina. With all RMF and RIFL playoff games having mandatory location dates in the city, the Raiders knew they would have to deal with the road disadvantage and silenced a raucous Renegades crowd in what was a entertaining contest.
Going into the quarterfinal the Raiders knew they were going to be in for a tough matchup as the Renegades were the final team to beat the Raiders in their 0-4 start to the season in a game that saw the Raiders come out flat at Century Field before falling short on a game winning drive in the final minutes of the fourth quarter. The trap of the slow start was not a problem for the Raiders as they struck first and led for the majority of the ballgame despite the Renegades threatening to take the lead for most of the second half.
The game’s turning point came when Alex Popoff of the Raiders fumbled the football at midfield with the Renegades being down by just four early in the third quarter. After the defense backed him up and got the ball back, Popoff answered right back with a receiving touchdown on the first play of the drive on a long catch and run effort. Popoff credited coach Jason Payne for helping him calm his nerves, saying, “I was rattled because I thought I made a play that could of cost my team the game and Coach (Payne) tried to calm down my nerves and I wanted to go out there and make up for my mistake and I just got the ball and made the play.” Popoff was praised by head coach Mike Jarvis for his hard running and receiving skills in the win.
Popoff moved the chains in ever variety throughout the game, with screen play catch and runs, handoffs on the outside corner, and big catches down the field in what was a clutch performance on offense. Popoff credited his offensive line for giving him the opportunities to make the plays as the much bigger and physical Raider offensive line gave the Raider running tandem of Brayden Jarvis and Popoff the chance to pound the ball on both the inside and the edges of the tackles throughout the game.
Coach Jarvis was happy with what was the team’s first ever RMF playoff victory, but knows the team will have to be better to work towards a championship, pointing out that some procedure and holding penalties as well as some turnovers allowed the Renegades to get back into the game. Jarvis says, “I am extremely proud of our guys, and it is a big moment for our program to win our first playoff game since joining the 12 man RMF, but after tonight it is time to focus on the Mounties for Sunday’s semifinal.”
The Mounties, like the Renegades have also earned a early season victory over the Raiders, winning by a single point punt through the endzone in what was a low scoring 7-6 affair.
The Raiders offensive attack is much more potent than in that Week Three loss and given the momentum the Raiders are riding with their five game win streak a win and a berth to the championship game is definitely in the cards. Defense will once again be a key for the Raiders as the Raider defense that held the Renegade offense from taking the lead on numerous occasions will once again need to dig deep and give the Raider offense the opportunity to score while in good field position. Lukas Muir had an interception on the final play of the game, while playing out of position at safety as the Raiders went to a Cover Two formation during the fourth quarter to add an extra player in pass coverage. The Raider linebackers and defensive line did an outstanding job of controlling the line of scrimmage coming up with several sacks and forcing the Renegades into the air, where they saw success after having their ground game stymied.
The Raiders quarterback tandem led by starter Nick Payne did a much better job of avoiding interceptions than in the loss to the Renegades, connecting on several long plays.
A loud and intense Renegades crowd often drowned out the group of parents and students that came up on the weekday night to cheer on their Raiders, something that Coach Jarvis thinks will be different on Sunday afternoon. “Given that our next game is on a Sunday afternoon I expect that we will see more parents and fans come up and make the trip to give us some added support and noise in the semifinal,” says Jarvis. Jarvis also wanted to give his hats off to the younger Raider players who didn’t get into the game for being good teammates and cheering and supporting their players from the bench despite the obvious disappointment of not getting much game action.
Lumsden helped out the Raiders last night by coming up with a win in the first game of the late night doubleheader over third seed Balgonie, allowing the Gridders to avoid the undefeated powerhouse in the Regina Raiders in the semifinal. The Raider Gridders now have a great opportunity to advance in the playoffs against a team that they came close to beating earlier in the season and carry on the momentum they have been riding ever since their turnaround at the midway point of the year.
History was made on Monday night in Regina as the growth of a program that planned to face tougher competition at the junior level was finally realized with the first taste of postseason success as a 12 man program. Work will need to be done over the week as they head into yet another quest for a Yorkton football first. A championship game berth.