BY ZACHARY CORMIER
The Lacombe Bantam Raiders haven’t had any troubles finding the end zone so far this season.
Lacombe’s squad of young, up and coming football players has been unstoppable through the first four games of the Central Football League season, outscoring their opponents 216-24 on their way to a 4-0 start.
“It’s exciting,” said Raiders’ Head Coach Fred Knip of the start, which has seen his team surge into first place in the Central Football League South division.
“I try to remind the boys that somewhere, someone, somehow is working as hard as they are and someday we’re going to meet them. And unless we are preparing or training right now we’re going to fall short.”
Knip said part of the reason the team has been so successful is the fact that a number of the new players who started with the Raiders at the beginning of the year have stepped up in a big way.
“We have some real great rock stars. They’ve done well,” he said, adding his team of coaches has been able to continue to use the same coaching style that has brought them success in the past and that the players have worked hard to form a cohesive and effective football team.
For example, he said, the offensive coordinators have a variety of options when it comes to play calling, so if their speedy outside runner is hurt, they can switch to the inside rush or the pass game and have just as much success.
“We have a multi-pronged attack and we keep it simple. Having said that we have maybe six plays that we use and we try to perfect it so that we can execute it to such a degree that the defense has to stop us and if they’re not going to stop us we’re going to score.”
Running backs Justin Penney and Lubensen Pannenbecker have been stellar for the Raiders on the ground and have been key cogs in the scoring machine.
“We have the two fastest kids in the county on our roster. Just incredible speedsters,” said Knip.
He added fullbacks Josh Harper and Cody Melnychuck have been very good on both sides of the ball for the team, which has helped to open up the run game in a big way.
Another key player on the offensive side of the ball has been quarterback Mitchell Simmons, who in his first season of playing quarterback for any team, has settled into a groove under centre.
On the defensive side of the ball, defensive backs Api Waqatabu, Dylan Heltman and Zachery Scwaab along with corners Lewis Rice and Kyler McQuaig have made life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
“Those guys are just — wow, it just doesn’t stop. We have a much more well-rounded team than last year. You could take out one of these guys or two of these guys but somebody else will step back in,” Knip said, adding every player on the team has put in hours of hard work on the practice field to make sure they’re ready for each and every game.
“What I really like about our team this year — and last year’s too — is that we’re family. They don’t mind running, they don’t mind doing the conditioning.”
That conditioning has been huge in allowing the Raiders to simply outlast their opponents on the field. For proof of this, Knip said you just need to look at last Saturday’s big 62-6 victory over the Lindsay Thurber Junior Raiders at MEGlobal Athletic Park.
“It reduces injuries, it helps them keep going right until the third, the fourth quarter. In the last game we played, we scored I think with two minutes left. It wasn’t that we were trying to score, it’s just this is what you guys were taught to do and that’s what they do. Even after two hours of football they outran Lindsay Thurber.”
Despite all of their success through the first four games, though, Knip said the Bantam Raiders are not looking too far ahead of themselves.
“One play at a time. Let’s be the absolute best that we can – play one play at a time.”
The Lacombe Bantam Raiders are back in action this Saturday morning when they host the Sylvan Lake Lions at MEGlobal Athletic Park. Kickoff on that one is