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Late defensive heroics wins championship for Raiders

History has a way of repeating itself on the football field.

That proved the case Nov. 2 for the Airdrie Raiders, which, for the second time this season, defeated the Calgary Bulldogs by just a single point. This time, however, the Raiders’ 16-15 win earned Airdrie the Calgary Bantam Football Association (CBFA) Division 2 championship.

“It felt pretty great for all of us,” head coach Douglas Robertshaw said. “Had it gone the other way, obviously, we would have been disappointed. But the kids played great, the coaches did an awesome job and, all in all, it worked out.”

In a dramatic final few seconds, the Raiders’ defence tipped a field goal attempt by the Bulldogs, causing the ball to sail wide of the uprights. Had the kick been good, the Bulldogs would have won.

“It was one of those things where you always say you want a close game, and that’s what you want,” Robertshaw said. “But secretly, you hope you don’t have to lose 10 years off your life at the end of the game, with such an exciting finish. After a game like that, when it comes out in your favour, all the players, fans, parents and coaching staff appreciate a close win.”

It was a low-scoring first half, with the Raiders taking a 2-0 lead into the break. Airdrie then jumped out to a 16-0 lead with two touchdowns in the third quarter.

But Calgary refused to give up, clawing back into the contest with a pair of touchdowns to come within two points.

“The Bulldogs had a lot of fight,” Robertshaw said. “They stayed with it, stuck to their game plan and kept doing the things they planned to do.”

In the final two-and-a-half minutes, following a punt from the Raiders that sent the ball back to the Calgary team, a pair of penalties called on Airdrie resulted in the Bulldogs setting up inside the Raiders’ territory.

Then, a pass interference call on Airdrie moved the chains all the way up to the Raiders 25-yard line. Airdrie’s D-line managed to contain the Bulldogs on the next two plays, which meant it came down to a field goal.

“It was pretty wild – the referee called it [wide] left, and our guy picked it up at the back of the end zone,” Robertshaw said. “We got the one-point victory.”

The Bulldogs’ kick might have been good, according to Robertshaw, had Raiders player Kale Fehr not gotten a finger to the ball.

“It wasn’t a full block, but he managed to tip the field goal,” he said. “He plays corner for us, and he’s a Grade-8 player, so he’ll be back to play for the Raiders next year. He’s one of those players who we’re excited to have back.”

The win extends Airdrie’s season, as the team will travel north Nov. 9 to take on the Edmonton Chargers for the provincial Division 2 championship. According to Robertshaw, the Raiders will train hard this week to prepare for the provincial showdown at Larry Olexiuk Field.

“We have some film on them and we’re having a look at what they do,” he said. “They do things a little differently than some of the teams we play against in the CBFA.”


Scott Strasser

About the Author: Scott Strasser

Scott Strasser, sports/RCMP reporter
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