The Lacombe Raiders are on the path to be crowned the division champions this season.
After shutting out the Rocky Mountain House Rebels 39-0 in Lacombe this past Saturday, the Raiders are on their way to the championship match.
Coach Darren Gagnon said he was impressed with how the team had progressed this season, especially considering the high turnover of first year raiders.
However, he said keeping the young team centered on the task at hand may require some effort.
“We’ve had to work very hard to keep them focused,” said Gagnon. He added the veteran players on the team have done a great job of keeping the younger players focused this season.
As for the technical aspects of their game, Gagnon said the Raiders’ offense has some work to do before the championship game this weekend. Speaking to his players after the game, Gagnon said both catching and blocking on the offensive side needed to improve.
In the semi-final game against Rocky Mountain House, Lacombe completely dominated the field the entire time. Once they had established a lead, the Raiders’ defence stopped all the Rebels’ attempts at scoring stone cold.
Lacombe’s superb defensive game on Saturday really took pressure off the offensive line. This allowed the Raiders’ offense to casually score the points as they saw opportunities arise.
The fact that the Rebels were missing several players from their roster didn’t hurt the Raiders’ game either. Using their longer bench, the Raiders were able to tire out their opponents, which led to more scoring chances.
Gagnon did say though that he was a little disappointed with the consistency of how the offensive line played. While they made some outstanding plays, there was a lot of game in between those plays that did not go as smoothly as they should have. Gagnon said receivers were dropping too many passes and that is something that will have to improve before the championship game.
“We had a lot of key players that made errors today,” said Gagnon. “Our O-line played well today but not all of them were doing it on every play.”
Towards the end of the game, the Raiders’ coaching staff took advantage of the insurance offered to them by their strong lead to play some of their more inexperienced players.
“It was great today that we got to play all our kids, we always try to play all our kids.”
This weekend, the Raiders will play the Hunting Hills Lighting in Lacombe for a shot at the championship title. Lacombe defeated Hunting Hills when the teams last met, but Gagnon said that doesn’t mean this weekend’s game will be an easy one by any means.
“Last time it took our kids a quarter to get going,” he said.
For the Raiders, the biggest challenge will be staying focused and disciplined throughout the whole game. Gagnon said this has been the Raiders’ biggest challenge all season, but the team has done a lot of good work as well.
“They work hard, they are respectful of each other.”
Gagnon said that this meshes with the philosophy the Raiders’ coaches try to share with the players.
It isn’t so much about winning on the scoreboard as it is feeling like winners because they have played their best.
Overconfidence is another thing the Raiders will have to stay away from in order for this Saturday’s game to be successful.
“They’re young. It’s hard for them not to get big heads.”