Raiders crowned league champions over Strathmore

The Lacombe Raiders have done it. On Nov. 2, the Lacombe Raiders added another win to their undefeated season

EYES ON THE PRIZE - Raiders quarterback David Mueller focuses on the end zone as he attempts to fend off a Strathmore opponent.

EYES ON THE PRIZE - Raiders quarterback David Mueller focuses on the end zone as he attempts to fend off a Strathmore opponent.

The Lacombe Raiders have done it.

On Nov. 2, the Lacombe Raiders added another win to their undefeated season and captured the league championship when they bowled over Strathmore 30-0.

Coach Mike Wood said it took the team a little to get started.

“It started off a little scary,” said Wood. He added that Lacombe had difficulty moving up the field and that the majority of the first quarter was spent in Strathmore’s end.

Around the second quarter though, quarterback David Mueller Made a long 45-yard run to put his team in scoring position, leading to the first touchdown of the game.

“The anxiety fell off them,” said Wood.

When the fourth quarter ended and the Raiders had won the game and thereby the league, the simplest word to use to express the team’s emotions was “happiness,” the players said.

Middle linebacker James Wood said he especially was pleased with the win being he had been with the team last year when they had lost the championship and this was his final year with the Raiders.

“I was just happy because my second year, my last year of Raiders (we won),” said James. “I can move on to high school on a good note.”

Weather played a big factor in Saturday’s game, as there were heavy snowfalls that the players had to work around. Wide receiver Lucas Wessner said he had difficulty catching the ball as the snow made his gloves wet and slippery.

He added that the wet snow weighed on him and slowed him down.

“I found it hard because the snow kept clumping on my cleats,” said Wessner. “You couldn’t get any traction out there.”

Visibility was also affected by the snow and made it difficult for receivers to see where the ball was coming from. Mueller said he didn’t even like throwing the ball for the first quarter.

“I was facing the wind and all I could really see was snow,” said Mueller.

Even though playing in the snow was difficult, the team said it added a new element of fun to the game.

Each year at the end of league play, teams are allowed to choose a number of all-stars to attend a banquet and be recognized for their achievements during the season. How many all-stars a team can choose is based on how well the team finished.

As Lacombe won the league, they were able to choose eight all-stars and also got the privilege of choosing this year’s MVP.

The Lacombe Raiders All-Stars include #80 Lucas Wessner, #55 Anson Prins, #32 Kyle Popp, #31 James Wood, #23 Eric Halbert, #10 Luke Dutchek, #6 David Mueller and #5 Ben Arifin, with Mueller also being named MVP.

Mike said these eight were chosen because the coaching staff felt like they stood up as leaders on the field.

Most of the players however, like Halbert, were a bit taken aback to hear their names called as all-stars.

“I was pretty surprised,” said Halbert.

Arifin, who said he enjoys being a role model for other players, said he is happy to have another achievement his teammates can aspire to. “I felt really proud,” said Arifin. “That’s another thing this team can look up to me for.”

A big factor in the Raiders’ overwhelming success this year has been the chemistry that exists between the players.

Both Mike and the players have said the team gels well together and gets along great in the dressing room.

Pre-game dressing room rituals are common for teams in any sport and the Raiders said theirs has lately become listening and singing to particular songs before games.

One player in particular, Raymond Harder, was credited with being able to pump up the team before games with his singing and dancing. Harder’s teammates said his incredible charisma is a great benefit to the team.

Now, the Raiders are looking forward toward provincials. As it is Central Alberta’s year to host, the Edmonton Black Raiders will be visiting Lacombe this weekend for the provincial semi-final.

Game time is 1:30 p.m. at ME Global Field.


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