BY ZACHARY CORMIER
An undefeated season came to a satisfying conclusion for the Lacombe Bantam Raiders this past weekend.
The Raiders finished off the unbeaten streak in decisive fashion last Saturday night at MEGlobal Athletic Park as they romped to a 36-8 victory over the Sylvan Lake Lions to become the Central Football League champions and clinch a birth in provincials.
“The boys were focused and they were excited. That gives us three championships, so that was exciting,” said Raiders’ Head Coach Fred Knip after the game, adding that being able to win the Division A championship is also the cherry on top for a Raiders team which has seen its fair share of success this season.
“That was the cream of the crop there.”
A three touchdown performance from Justin Penney led the way for a Raiders squad that has proved it has a knack for putting points up on the board.
“They worked hard, they gelled together. There was a synergy together between all of the boys. It just clicked,” Knip said.
But that’s not to say the win came easy for the Lacombe side. Right off the bat the Lions came out swinging. Less than two minutes after the first kick, a 50-yard touchdown pass to Reuben Braitenbeck made it 8-0 for the visiting squad.
“We knew we were up against a good team. Nobody gets to the league final by being a lousy, soft team. There were reasons they got to the final. I told the boys that they are going to score. They’ll go in to score, they did score. Now it’s our turn,” Knip said.
And the Raiders made that very clear. Less than a minute later, Lubensen Pannenbecker punched the ball into the end zone from 28 yards out to tie it up at eight.
“I remember saying that when Pannenbecker ran the ball into the end zone. I said okay guys, you’ve done your thing. Now we’re going to show you our thing and we scored within a couple of plays and we were back up and never looked back after that.”
Fast forward to 10:42 into the second quarter and the Raiders were at it again as Josh Harper punched in a five-yard touchdown to give his team a 16-8 advantage.
But the third and fourth quarters belonged to Penney, who punched in three straight 28-yard running touchdowns to seal the victory for his team.
“We had a perseverance and an endurance that helped us right until the final whistle. We were in shape. The boys had gas in the tank right until the end, they did not give up. I think Sylvan Lake just wore down, we ground them down. It’s not that we were trying to be nasty or anything. The boys just had more gas in the tank and we just kept on going.”
Now, Lacombe’s attention turns to their first provincial opponent in the Edmonton Mustangs, who will come down to Lacombe this Saturday morning to do battle with the Central League champs.
Knip said that after scouting the Mustangs, he’s confident his team can win as long as they play their game.
“I have to think that we prepare better, I have to think that we’re in better shape. So I think if we play like we played on Saturday then we should come out on top. We’ll just play one play at a time; one down at a time.
“When we have the ball, they don’t have the ball. When they don’t have the ball, they can’t score. When they can’t score we stay on top.”
The Lacombe Bantam Raiders will host the Edmonton Mustangs this Saturday morning at MEGlobal Athletic Park beginning at 11 a.m.