Prairie Fire expected challenges in first year

The Central Alberta Prairie Fire’s opening season in the Calgary Midget Football League has gone about how they expected.

Cowboys 22 Fire 0

The Central Alberta Prairie Fire’s opening season in the Calgary Midget Football League has gone about how they expected.

The team has a 2-3 record following their 22-0 loss to the Calgary Cowboys Saturday afternoon at Great Chief Park, which is more than respectable.

“This league has been exactly what we wanted,” said Prairie Fire head coach Chris Hall. “We wanted our kids to be challenged and they’ve been challenged. We didn’t expect to waltz through the league. We expected tough competition.”

The Prairie Fire executive looked at both the Edmonton and Calgary leagues, but liked what they saw in the south.

“It’s a tough league with some fantastic players and strong teams that would give us competition. And it’s well run.”

The Fire lost their season opener, then won twice before losing the last two games to two of the league’s stronger teams.

“We’ll take those wins and there’s more to come,” added Hall. “We want to run the table and win the B side. We’ll take what they give us.”

The loss Saturday eliminated the Fire from the A-side playoffs with one regular season game remaining — Thursday in Calgary against the Northern Raiders.

Despite the loss Saturday, Hall likes what he sees from his players.

“The kids are getting better. They have great coaching and it will definitely help football in Central Alberta. It’s our first year and we have a long way to go, but we’re going in the right direction. We’ve been happy with the effort from the kids and the coaches are working hard.”

The executive also worked hard to make Saturday’s home opener a success, only to see it spoiled by the cold and rain.

“That was disappointing,” said Hall. “A lot of people put in a lot of work to make it a good football atmosphere . . . to make it an event as well as a football game. The weather didn’t cooperate, hopefully next year.”

The Prairie Fire turned in a solid defensive effort, allowing only one touchdown, that on a 43-yard pass play to Keanno Bentor at 9:21 of the second quarter. The Cowboys other major was on an 88-yard kickoff return to open the second half by Bentor. David Digianvittorio kicked field goals of 38 and 28 yards and a pair of converts. The other Calgary points came on a safety.

“I thought our defence had another strong game, it’s been the strength of the team all year,” said Hall. “We were facing a big, strong, fast team, and we held them to one touchdown.”

The offence did struggle with Myles Corsiatto carrying the ball nine times for 22 yards and quarterback Scott Pearson connecting on seven of 19 passes for 34 yards. Tyson Maton caught four passes for 37 yards.

“Our offence has struggled at times, it’s just that they’re not used to the pressure that the better teams bring,” said Hall. “Our kids are not used to seeing that in high school football, so they have to adjust to the timing and speed of the games a bit more. There’s a bit more adjusting than we first thought as any one of these teams would win the Central Alberta league. Just look at the team we faced today. They didn’t have any real weakness.”

The Prairie Fire have a 50-man roster of players in Grade 11 and under with 29 players eligible to return next season. Thirteen of which are in Grade 9. Of the 13 eight were on the playing roster and five were red shirts.

“That’s where you build your program,” said Hall. “We have those kids for two more years.”

Hall feels having a strong nucleus back next season will be a benefit.

“It sets us up for success. We can use this year and the experience the kids gain to build momentum for next year.”

Hall hopes to get even more of the top players out next season.

“There’s always a few you don’t get because of one reason or another, but moving forward we’d like to get the best athletes and players out and if we do we’ll be competitive. We feel we have a good brand and program and the kids are having fun.”

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