Raiders out of playoffs
The Airdrie Northern Raiders’ season came to end in the first round of the playoffs, as they lost to the Calgary Wildcats 55-27, May 17 at Shouldice Park in Calgary.
“It is disappointing,” said Raiders Head Coach Steve Kemp. “It’s a little bittersweet. We played a heck of a ball game. The guys played their butts off and worked really hard.
Unfortunately, a couple of mistakes were the story of the game, but I’m really proud of the guys and they have nothing to be ashamed of.”
It looked as if the game would follow a similar script as the past six. The Wildcats scored on a 60-yard run off of the opening kickoff to take a 7-0 lead. However, the Raiders responded a few plays later and Josh Duazo scored on a 19-yard run. The Wilcats maintained a one-point lead after an unsuccessful two-point convert attempt from the Raiders.
The Raiders’ momentum was short lived, as the Wildcats scored on the subsequent kickoff return to take a 14-6 lead. They completed a 50-yard pass with less than two minutes left in the first quarter to increase their lead to 15.
The Raiders dominated the second quarter. Brayden Massey caught a 45-yard throw from quarterback Duncan Little to cut the Wildcats’ lead to eight. The Wildcats missed a 47-yard field goal attempt and on their next possession, Little found Damon Johnson in the end zone with a minute left in the first half to bring the score up to 21-18.
The momentum shifted in favour of the Wildcats in the second half of the game, as they took a 10-point lead halfway through the third quarter and went ahead 35-18 with a minute left. The Wildcats’ drive continued and they scored 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, but the Raiders’ pushed back with a touchdown by Phil Hallet. A successful two-point convert brought the score to 41-26, but the Wildcats added two late-game touchdowns for a final score of 55-26.
It was the Raiders’ seventh loss of the season, but a source of pride for the team was the improved offensive presence over the past four games. After being shut out in their first three games, the Raiders put up 63 points in three of their last four.
“It was a good game,” said Little.
“We actually scored more touchdowns than anyone thought we would. Offensively, we had a good game. That was the best part. We wanted to show everyone we could still win, even if (they thought) we couldn’t, but we started getting cocky in our own end. It’s tough, but I’m very proud (of us).”
Kemp echoed Little’s praise of the team’s increased offence in the game and the latter half of the season.
“We’ve been having some success the past three weeks on offense,” he said.
“We had some momentum and we were building on that. We knew after last game we could score points. It only took us six games to figure it out. That’s why we were able to keep it close (in the first half). In the second half, we had a few mistakes. We turned the ball over at costly times after a couple of big plays and they took advantage of it.
“(The season) didn’t go exactly how we wanted, but there’s a lot to be proud of. There are a lot of positives and building blocks (to work with). This program has a bright future with what the vets have passed on to the first-year players and sophomores.”