The Lindsay Thurber Raiders kicked off their 2018 campaign with an exhibition showdown against the Calgary Centennial Coyotes.
The Raiders were looking to improve after a season where they didn’t manage to crack the top of the standings in Red Deer high school football league.
To get better, the Raiders would have to get by one of the best teams in the province.
“They are Number 8 in in the province, I didn’t tell our team that because we don’t care who the other team is,” Raiders Coach Aaron Sheppard said.
The first half would be a defensive showdown, with only the Coyotes managing to crack the endzone when lineman Sage Nicholls picked off a short pass by Raiders Quarterback Josh Campbell to take it back five yards.
The Raiders, however, would keep it close with two field goals — a 20-yarder and a 37-yarder — by Kicker Martin Leroy, to put the score 7-6 Coyotes heading into the second half at the new Setters Place Field in Red Deer.
“Our place kicker is pretty good. He is an exchange student from out of town and is a really good guy,” Sheppard said.
It would take the majority of the third quarter before the Coyotes would open up the second-half scoring with a field goal, putting Calgary up 10-6 heading into the fourth and deciding quarter.
The Raiders would have the answer in a big way when Campbell hooked up with Cody Anglo for a 20-yard score, putting Thurber up 13-10 with just under seven minute in the game.
Sheppard was pleased with his quarterback’s poise on the play.
“That young man is one of our hardest working players,” Sheppard said. “He struggles with his confidence a bit, but he came right back. I saved that play knowing we had that.
A late pick by Connor McCrea would seal the deal for the Raiders, leading to a 13-10 win.
Sheppard credited his new, rebuilding defence to the work of Central Alberta Buccaneer Devin Hand.
“They (Raider defence) played extremely well. They held us in there the whole game. They were also real tough last year,” Sheppard said.
The Raiders will take on Grande Prairie next week, before beginning the regular season the following week in Red Deer.
“That will be another Tier 1 team,” Sheppard said. “That is why I took that game. We are the only Tier 1 team around, so we have to play at a higher level.”
Sheppard expects his team to be more competitive this year in Red Deer
“I think it will be a battle of who can run the ball and who can pass efficiently,” Sheppard said.