Fourth-quarter collapse leads to second Raiders loss
Thursday, Apr 13, 2017 06:00 am
The Airdrie Raiders couldn’t hold its lead over the Calgary Mustangs April 6, failing to score a single point in the second half en route to a 25-17 defeat.
Although his team held a 17-7 lead for most of the game and really dominated the Mavericks through the first half, head coach Steve Kemp said the players need to work on learning how to win a game and keep the pressure on throughout.
“We just ran out of gas. The boys in the first two-and-a-half quarters were playing their hearts out,” he said. “I was really proud of their effort and execution. We ran out of gas and weren’t executing in the fourth quarter. We’ve got to learn how to finish games. When we have a team on the ropes, we have to knock them out.”
A swarming defence and much more dominant running game from the Raiders helped give it the early advantage, with the defence capitalizing on an errant snap and turning the ball over just seven yards away from the end zone in the opening minutes of the game.
The Raiders weren’t able to punch the ball in from seven-yards out, but Keagan Henderson found running back Josh Seaman trailing out of the back field and connected for the early score to put the Raiders up 7-0 just minutes into the game.
After getting out to the early lead, Seaman and the Raiders’ running game took over, rushing for 96 yards in the first half alone, while tacking on a field goal midway through the first quarter and an 11-yard rushing touchdown to take a 17-7 lead into halftime.
“Our running game was an area of focus for us this past week,” Kemp said. “As a coaching staff we thought we had to get it going. We needed the run game to help Keagan. The offensive line was challenged and they stepped up and did really well. They’re a big group, they just have to have some confidence.”
In the third quarter, the Raiders’ defence was tested by a rejuvenated Mavericks’ offence that marched down field and scored on a 25-yard catch and run touchdown midway through to cut the Raiders’ lead down to three.
The game got away from the Raiders in the fourth when the Mavericks kicked a field goal with four minutes left in the game to knot the score. The Mavericks capitalized on a fumbled punt return to score the go ahead touchdown with 1:39 left in the game.
“We let them hang around in the third. We had chances to finish them,” Kemp said. “Every time we gave them a little bit of life they fed off that and made us pay.”
The Mavericks added a single point on the ensuing kickoff to go on to win 25-17 over the Raiders and improved its record to 2-0 on the season while the Raiders fell to 0-2.
“There were a lot of good things to build off of. There is obviously some negatives, but there is a lot more positives,” Kemp said. “From where we were last week to where we are this week, we are night and day. I want the focus to be on the 36 minutes of dominating the other team, not on the fourth quarter loss.”
The Raiders were dealt a blow prior to its game in terms of experience when starting quarterback Max Longchamps was held out of the game due to an illness, leaving the Raiders to turn to the rookie, Henderson.
Although the game plan was changed to a much more run-oriented game, Henderson played well in his first start in the CAMFA, completing five of 15 pass attempts, throwing for 23 yards and connecting for one touchdown and giving up one interception.
“He did a really good job. We just need to work on getting the ball out quicker,” Kemp said. “To come unexpectedly off the bench and start a game, I thought he did a great job.”
With two losses in the season already, the Raiders will be looking to turn its fortunes around against the 1-1 Calgary Broncos when the teams meet April 13 at McMahon Stadium. Kickoff is 6:30 p.m.