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Airdrie Raiders battle their way to City championship

The Airdrie Raiders, a spring football team made up of some of the best youth football players in the Airdrie area, finished their 2024 season as undefeated champions.

The Airdrie Raiders, a spring football team made up of some of the best youth football players in the Airdrie area, finished their 2024 season as undefeated champions.

The Raiders swept through their seven-game regular season schedule without incurring a loss and beat two Calgary teams on their way to the Division 1 City championship on June 1 at Calgary’s Hellard Field.  

"It was a good test for all our guys and we had a pretty tough schedule this year,” said Raiders head coach Steve Kemp. “We played all the playoff teams [and won] and it set us up pretty good for playoffs.” 

Kemp has coached the Raiders since 2010 and said the team's second-round playoff win against the Calgary Cowboys was the franchise’s first against that Calgary opponent. 

“They're kind of like the gold standard of spring football,” Kemp said. “ It was nice getting [the win] off our backs. I think they've eliminated us from the playoffs three of the four years.”

The Raiders played a close one in their championship matchup against the Calgary Wildcats, another big-city team that has had the Raiders number. 

“We’ve had a back-and-forth relationship with the Wildcats in a sense,” Kemp said. “Two years ago we beat them twice and last year they beat us and went on to the championship and so this time we beat them in the regular season and beat them in the championship.”

“It was more about cleaning up our mistakes and playing mistake-free football,” he continued. “We felt like we had good athletes and a good game plan, we just had to make sure we were executing it at a high level.”

The Raiders added a late score to go up 28-23 with 22 seconds left in the game. Kemp commended the Wildcats as a well-coached and prepared team–a strategy that forced the Raiders to adapt and play a little more aggressivly. 

Kemp’s Raider team is filled with kids aged 15 to 17. Many play on the three different Airdrie high school teams during the fall football season. The roster also features players from Crossfield, Olds, and as far away as Drumheller. 

“I've seen a lot of kids come through and it does make me feel old,” admitted Kemp. “I was pretty young when I started [in 2006]. We've had some good teams but it took us a while to put together…it took us a while to learn how to be a consistently good team and it's taken us a little longer to push over the top and win a championship.”

Kemp remarked that he has been in a good position to see the growth of Airdrie football over the last two decades.

“When I started we were fielding teams of 26-30 kids and barely scraping by…now the whole football community is doing well.” 

The Raider's success is part and parcel to the growing popularity of football in Airdrie. According to Kemp, the Raiders are looking to add more teams at just about every age level that it administers. 

“It's a credit to everyone who has been involved since day one,” he said. “We've always had this goal and vision. It just maybe took a little longer for all of us to get there but we're finally starting to see it.” 

 

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