A memorable season for the Airdrie Raiders bantam football team came to a close Nov. 9, with a 7-4 defeat to the Edmonton Chargers in the Tier 3 provincial championship game, at Larry Olexiuk Field in St. Albert.
“Obviously, I think the players were disappointed, as were the coaching staff,” head coach Douglas Robertshaw said. “We all wanted this for them, and felt they deserved it.”
Airdrie led 3-0 for much of the game after an early field goal, according to Robertshaw. The team tacked on another point with a missed field goal attempt that went through the end zone in the fourth quarter. But the Chargers scored on a 65-yard play in the final two and a half minutes to clinch the victory.
Wintery conditions – the game was played on a frozen field in the midst of a heavy snowfall in Edmonton – impacted the low-scoring nature of the game, according to Robertshaw.
“It was one of those tough things where the conditions were one of those great equalizers,” he said. “Both teams were skilled and talented, but [the weather] helped keep points off the scoreboard for both sides.”
Knowing the forecast ahead of time, Robertshaw said, the Raiders coaching staff tried to tailor the team’s offence around it.
“We tried a few things out, but couldn’t really get the traction we needed,” he said. “We did manage to keep the ball in their end for pretty much the whole game. We just came up a little short.”
The loss means Airdrie concludes 2019 with a 7-5 overall record.
Despite the Raiders losing in the final game, Robertshaw said there were many positives to take away from the Raiders’ performances in 2019. The team ended the Calgary Bantam Football Association regular season in third place of the Brock Jacobs division with a 5-3 record, before going 2-1 in the playoffs, ultimately winning the Division 2 title Nov. 2 with a 16-15 victory over the Calgary Bulldogs.
The win against the Bulldogs – earned due to some last-minute defensive heroics – booked the Raiders’ spot in the provincial clash against the Chargers.
“When we took over [as coaches] in 2018, getting to a provincial championship in our second year, we felt that was a pretty big success,” Robertshaw said. “But when you get to the game, you want to win the game, and you want to win it for the kids.
“They were hurt, and a little sad, but I think they recognize the significance of what they did – this was the first time an Airdrie bantam team has ever played for a provincial championship, at any level.”
With several first-year bantam players on the roster this season, Robertshaw added many of the Raiders’ stalwarts this season should be back in 2020. Key returners will include quarterback Ben Klassen, running back Matthias Young, defensive back Kale Fehr and linebackers Wes Bromley and Michael Sepulveda.
“We have some really important players coming back on both offence and defence,” Robertshaw said. “We have an excellent core for next year and I think we’re going to be a really competitive team again.”