Rams 27 Raiders 21
The Lacombe Rams are headed to the Central Alberta Football League final.
In a wild back-and-forth contest against the top-seeded Lindsay Thurber Raiders, it was the Rams who came out on top in remarkable fashion.
Lacombe jumped out to a 14-0 lead and their defence held strong in the final minutes to close out the 27-21 victory.
It was the first win of the season for the Rams and it was born out of the performances from three key offensive players– three touchdowns from Cody Melnychuk, a strong air attack from quarterback Mitch Simmons and clutch catches from wideout Zach Schwab, who also had an interception early in the game.
“I guess we’re kind of peaking at the right time,” joked Rams coach Brian Ross.
“Lindsay Thurber put up a heck of a fight. They were the real deal and we had a couple of breaks that went our way. That game could have gone either way. Will Moir is just crazy good and we struggled to stop him.”
For the Raiders, who got three touchdowns and a lights-out performance from wideout Will Moir, the loss was a tough way to finish the year. The took penalty after penalty all night long, fell behind two scores early and failed to convert twice from inside the Rams five.
“e always say, you want to start fast and finish strong. We didn’t start fast enough and in playoffs, that rings true 100 per cent. If you don’t start fast enough, the other guys get the upper hand and it makes it real hard to come back,” Raiders coach Devon Hand said.
Lacombe opened the game with a bang, as Melnychuk rumbled for 72-yards for the first touchdown of the night.
After they fell behind on the Rams opening possession, penalty trouble and turnovers were costly for the Raiders again early in the contest.
Joel Collings had an interception and on the following Raiders’ possession fumbled which led to the second Rams score of the game. Melnychuk punched in his second touchdown of the night from the one-yard line late in the first quarter.
“He’s just a tank. He doesn’t come off the field. He’s gutsy and just loves the game, which is cool,” Ross said of his running back.
Moir rumbled deep into the Rams territory midway through the half and then converted from the five-yard line to get the Raiders within a touchdown.
With no time left in the half from the one-yard line, Collings was stopped on a quarterback sneak.
The Raiders’ inability to finish in the opening half was costly, as twice they had the ball inside the Rams five-yard line but failed to convert.
On the opening kickoff of the second half, Moir made his presence felt again, taking the kick into the endzone and pulling the Raiders even.
The tie didn’t last long, as Schwab hauled in 53-yard pass and Simmons punched in quarterback sneak to regain the lead for Lacombe.
Moir then found paydirt again with 5:55 left in the quarter, streaking into the endzone from the 28-yard line to tie the game.
Melnychuk answered for Lacombe, converting a 16-yard TD score for his third major of the night.
In the fourth quarter with less than a minute to play, with the Raiders driving deep in Lacombe territory, a key knockdown for the Rams clinched the victory with a turnover on downs.
“We were listening to Phil Collins, In the Air and it’s a song that when I played junior ball that we came out to. For some reason, I felt it today and the stunningly, they did too, it was cool,” Ross added.
Lacombe is set to play the Hunting Hills Lightning at 5 p.m. at Great Chief Park on Nov. 2 for the city league final.