Raiders 54 Phoenix 22
All season long the Lindsay Thurber Raiders owned their Central Alberta Bantam Football League opponents.
That trend continued Saturday at Great Chief Park, where the Raiders snuffed the Springbank Phoenix 54-22 in the championship final.
Sam Vesely scored three touchdowns — on runs of 12, 20 and 49 yards — as the Raiders built a comfortable lead and were up 46-0 in the third quarter before the visitors made a late surge that proved to be too little, too late.
The Raiders, undefeated this season, will host either Sherwood Park or Leduc in a provincial tier 2 playoff game next Saturday.
“This is a tremendous group of young men who are absolutely very fond of each other. They’re really respectful of the coaching staff and played through a lot of adversity this year,” said coach Dean Pasiuk, in reference to the death of head coach Blair Murray — by a heart attack — in September.
“They answered the bell every time we asked them to. Every game we played, they played their hearts out.”
Ben Pasiuk scored on a one-yard plunge and added another major on a 38-yard run. Rounding out the Lindsay Thurber scoring were River Jonnason and Cody Hawkes, who added touchdowns on runs of 15 and 13 yards. Hawkes also kicked six two-point converts.
The Raiders coaches mixed, matched and juggled while forming their roster early in the season.
“We did a really good job of putting our kids where they really needed to be in order for us to be successful,” said coach Pasiuk.
“We had to move some kids around and place some egos at the door. We moved them to the spots where we thought they really needed to be and it worked out really well for us this year.”
The success of the bantam Raiders should bode well for the Lindsay Thurber senior team.
“We’ve been on a four- to five-year program, for sure. We (bantam Raiders) have been really benefitting from our atom program and the peewee program and the success of both, and I think all three (Red Deer) high schools will benefit from each of the minor programs.”