Raiders make playoffs despite loss
A flat first half doomed the Northern Raiders as the team dropped its last game of the regular season 63-14 to the Calgary Prairie Fire, May 10, at Shouldice Park in Calgary.
“We did everything we could to give them the game,” said Raiders Head Coach Steve Kemp.
The Prairie Fire opened the scoring early, running a punt return in for the game’s first touchdown only two minutes into the first quarter. Despite a failed two-point conversion, it would add two more touchdowns before the quarter expired.
The Prairie Fire increased its lead to 42, scoring three quick touchdowns early in the second quarter, but the Raiders began to push back. The team closed out the half with a quarterback sack and a fumble recovery.
“Zach Wilde really sparked us with three big runs and it gave us a bit more confidence,” said Kemp.
“It started to wake people up, and they carried through. We just went back to basics with running the ball hard and simple, short throws. We went with high percentage plays and it was working for us.”
Despite surrendering another touchdown to the Prairie Fire 20 seconds into the third quarter and dropping a 23-yard pass in the end zone, the Raiders finally got on the board to bring the score to 49-6. The Raiders’ two-point conversion was unsuccessful, but a fumble recovery off the kickoff return ended the third quarter and kept momentum on the Raiders’ side.
The Raiders continued to dominate in the first half of the fourth quarter with a run by Josh Duazo. He brought the Raiders to the five-yard line and ran in for the team’s second touchdown on the ensuing play. Another successful two-point conversion brought the score to 49-14.
However, the Prairie Fire stymied any further offensive push from the Raiders, adding late game touchdowns for a final score of 63-14.
Duazo was proud of how his team responded and played.
“I don’t think any of us were expecting us to turn it around in the second half like we did,” he said.
“The boys realized there was nothing to lose, so we might as well go out and play everything we have. I’m glad the boys didn’t just give up and that we pulled together as a team.”
After the team played a lacklustre first half, Duazo was inspired by his teammates to pick up his own game, which helped spark the team in the latter minutes of the game.
“I was looking at my other running back,” he said.
“He’s giving it his all, my receiver caught a 50-yard bomb, so I said ‘okay, I’m not doing anything. I’ve got to show them that I’m not trying to dog it.’”
Despite going 0W-6L in the regular season, the Raiders qualified for playoffs. The team’s first post-season game will be played May 17, but its opponent is yet to be determined.
“We’re definitely hoping (the momentum from the second half) will carry us into the playoffs,” said Kemp.
“Scoring some points tonight helped, too, and on long drives, not just lucky plays. They’re something we can build off and it’s definitely giving us a lot more confidence offensively.”
The Raiders played their first playoff game May 17 against the Calgary Wildcats at Shouldice Park’s Stampeder Field.
Results were not available after press time.