A 31-12 defeat to the Calgary Hilltoppers May 3 makes it two losses in a row for the Airdrie Raiders midget football team.
Despite the Raiders having plenty of rest leading up to the contest, thanks to a bye week, head coach Steve Kemp said it was a flat performance against the second-place Hilltoppers.
“We came out a little on our heels, and we were looking for someone to make a play on our team, instead of going out and making plays,” he said. “We let them dictate the pace and we need to do a better job."
The loss against last year’s Calgary Spring Football Association Division 1 champion gives the Raiders a .500 win percentage. Airdrie’s 2-2 record puts it in fourth place of the Boulton Division behind the unbeaten Calgary Cowboys (5-0), the Hilltoppers (4-1) and the Calgary Mavericks (4-1).
The Raiders’ May 3 match-up was an uphill battle from the start, as the Calgarians took a 14-0 lead into the second quarter. The Raiders finally got on the board near the end of the first half, through Grade-10 wide receiver Tristan Remus-Arevalo. The 2003-born, Bert Church Charger caught a pass from quarterback Danny Skelton and high tailed it into the Hilltoppers’ end zone, bringing the score to 14-6.
Airdrie pushed for the equalizer, but a blow was dealt to the Raiders’ offence when Skelton suffered a heavy hit to the head just before the end of the second quarter.
To add insult to injury, Skelton threw an interception on the play in which he was injured, and the Hilltoppers defensive back managed to run the ball all the way into the Raiders’ end zone to extend the lead to 21-6.
The Grade-10 pivot was replaced by Remus-Arevalo at quarterback for the second half.
“[Losing Skelton] definitely stung a bit, but that’s what football is about – injuries and making adjustments,” said Raiders centre Ethan Tran. “If someone goes down, we adjust. [Remus-Arevalo] stepped up and played big.”
The third quarter saw neither team tack further points onto the board, meaning the Hilltoppers took its 15-point lead into the final 12 minutes.
The Raiders made things a little more interesting in the fourth frame, when Remus-Arevalo led a drive that resulted in Airdrie’s Kaelan Jones scoring the team’s second touchdown of the game, making it 21-12.
The Hilltoppers managed an insurance touchdown and followed it up with a field goal near the end of the game to seal the 19-point win.
The Raiders will face its toughest test of the season yet in its next match-up – Airdrie is scheduled to play the unbeaten Cowboys May 9.
“They’re a very well-coached team and very disciplined,” Kemp said. “They’ve won a few championships over the years and have a winning mentality.
“We’ll have to go back to the drawing board and work hard to compete with them. We have the talent to do it – we just have to make sure we’re in the right mindset."
Tran said the Raiders will have to focus on preparation in the lead up to the fixture against the Cowboys.
“It all starts in practice,” he said. “If we practise flat during the week, we’re not going to play that well during the game.
“We’ll come off in practice and try our best. But in the long run, we’re all family and we’re all in it together.”
The game against the Cowboys will kick off at 8:30 p.m., on Hellard Field at Shouldice Athletic Park in Calgary.