BY ZACHARY CORMIER
While a 42-26 loss to the Hunting Hills High School Jr. Lightning wasn’t the way the Lacombe Bantam Raiders wanted to finish the 2016 regular season, there may be a silver lining for the local minor football team.
The Raiders and Lighting both came into the final game of the Central Football League regular season at MEGlobal Athletic Park on Saturday with perfect 5-0 records knowing that only one of them would emerge from the matchup as the first place seed heading into playoffs.
“We played an excellent game today. Yep, we came a little bit short, but the guys played with all their heart and I was excited to see that they came here to play and they did play,” said Raiders Head Coach Fred Knip after the game.
Although the Raiders played a strong game on both sides of the ball, they weren’t able to overcome a Hunting Hills team that until Saturday had not surrendered a single point all season.
Not a touchdown, not a field goal, not even a safety.
In the end it came down to the running game, as the Hunting Hills runningbacks seemed nearly unstoppable throughout the contest.
“They had some slippery guys that could get in and out. They had some good players that were able to shift, to deke, to duke, to manoeuvre and our boys, well, they missed them,” Knip said, adding that the Raiders are going to take the loss and use it as a learning experience.
“We learned a few lessons, which is good. A lesson that we learned here is that we need to learn to contain a little bit more. What I like about this game is it was a teaching position for us. We put up 26 points where in the whole year before they’d never had anyone score on them, so that was a stepping stone.”
He added that, despite the loss, the Raiders are still in a good position to win the league and move on to provincials.
“It would have been nice to be 6-0, it didn’t work out that way. But we’re still 5-1, we’re second place. We’re still positioned to move on into the provincials and I think we’ll be alright.”
The loss would have meant that the Raiders would finish the season in second place in the Central Football League North Division and play the top-seeded team in the Central League’s South Division in the Bantam A semi-final.
However, according to CFL Vice-Commissioner Carl Seafoot that may not be the case.
According to Seafoot, the league has determined that the Lightning were playing with an ineligible player during the final game and throughout the season.
“Exactly what’s going to be the repercussions of that is still just being ironed out this morning,” Seafoot told the Express.
Seafoot said that it is looking like the Lightning may be stripped of all of their wins this year.
“What’s still in question is how it’s going to affect the Hunting Hills team in the league playoffs.”
It may turn out that the Raiders will finish the season undefeated after all, in which case they would enter the playoffs as the first place team in the North division and host the SCFA Badgers at MEGlobal Athletic Park on Saturday afternoon.
If not, they’ll make the trip out to Rocky Mountain House to play the Jr. Rebels. Either way, Knip said, the team will be ready.
“What got us here was one play at a time and that’s what we’re going to do for next week, too. One play at a time. We have a good team and we’re not going to throw the baby out with the bath water because we lost.”