The Lacombe Rams are now in the Central Alberta football playoff picture and will square up against the up-and-coming Lindsay Thurber Raiders.
The game, which is at 4:30 p.m. on Friday at Great Chief Park, features two teams that could be described as two sides of the same coin. Both teams are rebuilding, are well coached, have strong defences and emergent offences that will figure prominently into who will go on to the finals the following week.
Rams Coach Brian Ross said the Rams will have to be “dominant offensively” for their season to carry on.
“I think we have to come out very quickly and very strong,” he said. “We haven’t done that much this year. I have been around this program close to 18 years and we have never been a strong starting team.
“In order to be effective, we have to put them on their heels by being strong off the bat.”
Luckily for the Rams, their Quarterback Mitch Simmons has shown considerable growth in his first season at the helm and has a plethora of veteran receivers at his disposal.
“We are going to be so reliant on our strong players,” Ross said. “We have really good skilled position guys like Richard (Jans) and Simon (Gray), Zach Schwab, Mitch (Simmons), Turner Douglas on offence.
“Those guys will have to take the game into their own hands and be difference makers.”
Ross had a chance to have a look at the Raiders, albeit their rookies, last week in a game that the Rams lost 20-14.
“Coach (Aaron Sheppard) and I from Lindsay Thurber value this opportunity to get kids in that perhaps don’t get as much playing time as some of the others,” Ross said. “It is an opportunity for them to apply their trade and show us what they can do in game situations as opposed to in practice.”
The game, which meant nothing in the standings, allowed Ross to know what he has in case one of his starters goes down with an injury.
“We are now more comfortable taking a kid and inserting him when we have a need,” he said, adding both coaches simplified their playbooks to not give any advantage in the playoffs.
“We went with very basic set plays to not give a whole lot out,” he said.
This week, Ross and his coaching staff are going through game film and the playbook in order to be ready for Friday.
“I spent three to four hours yesterday redoing game film and rethinking what we may need to get rid of in our playbook and what we may need to add,” he said, adding his players are focusing on repetition in order to zero in on each play.
Ultimately, Ross said they will rely on defence that has been solid from start to finish.
“We have to rely on our defence and special teams to be a game-changer for us,” he said. “We match up well defensively with them and we have improved over the course of the year in terms of our line play and offence in particular.
“The best we can do is take the horses and set them free against a good Lindsay Thurber team. They are as good as it gets and offensively they are very gifted. Our defence will be put to the test.”
Ross added he enjoys playing against Thurber and expects a fun game for both squads.
“It is usually a clean game and I like the way they coach their kids. They show respect to their kids and opponents and I like to think we do the same thing. For us, it is a good matchup,” he said.