The Moose Jaw Vanier Vikings couldn’t get out of Yorkton fast enough on Saturday.
The Vikings were the Yorkton Regional Raider Gridders’ first victim of the season as they lost 59-7 to the boys in orange in Yorkton’s season opener.
Even though Yorkton head coach Roby Sharpe made sure not to come into the game ‘overconfident,’ the game was a clear-cut mismatch from start to finish with the Raider Gridders racking up 592 offensive yards and holding the Vikings offense to only 20 yards.
“Before I was saying to myself ‘don’t be overconfident, I’m not sure how good we really are yet,” said Sharpe. “But we came out here and just showed that we really are a good team and have a lot of things going right for us.”
David Balysky came into the game a tad nervous as a rookie quarterback for the Raider Gridders, but it didn’t take him long to find the poise of a seasoned veteran. He went onto rush for two touchdowns and capture four in the air while going nine for 11 for 160 yards and gaining 55 yards on the ground in four rushes.
“I was nervous coming in, but I got the first few plays right and then we got off to a good start and it’s just a great feeling to get the win,” said the quarterback.
Balysky’s hot start to the season caught the eye of his head coach.
“He had a great game for us,” said Sharpe. “He had good reads and has good feet. He’s like a water beetle out there.”
Kyren Adams was Balysky’s main target, catching five passes for 37 yards.
The Raider Gridders’ defence had a first half for the ages. They forced Vikings quarterback Rylan Blacklaws to go zero for eight in the air and pushed their running game back to -12 yards.
“Defence looked great out there,” said Sharpe on Yorkton’s defence that didn’t allow a Vanier touchdown until the last play of the game. “I liked how they kept after their quarterback and wouldn’t give them room to breathe.”
At half time the Raider Gridders were already up 45-0. Sharpe didn’t want to run up the score anymore, but he couldn’t burn out the fire in his team’s hearts with them eyeing a 3A 12-man championship this season.
“At half time we were thinking we might be able to put 90 points,” said Sharpe. “But we haven’t played any exhibition games and I can’t tell the guys to not try their hardest, so we told them to keep on working. It’s a tricky spot because we want to show sportsmanship, but can’t stop trying. It’s not like hockey where you can dump and chase.”
Because of the big lead, the Raiders Gridders put some younger and second-string players on the field in the second half that normally wouldn’t get the chance to play.
“Some guys who normally won’t start got some reps so that was great,” said Sharpe. “It was especially good since we didn’t play any pre-season games.”
Even though victories don’t get much sweeter than the Raider Gridders’ home opener, Sharpe believes his squad has to have a short memory. They have to quickly move on from the game and focus on their future matchups.
“It feels good, but we can’t think this is how it will be every time,” said Sharpe. “We can’t let off the gas and think this shows where we stand in the league.”
The Raider Gridders are fully aware that the Moose Jaw Peacock, who beat Yorkton in the finals last year, is also off to a great start this season.
“(Moose Jaw) Peacock beat Estevan like 50-0, so they are strong again this year,” said Sharpe. “So that’s a team that we have to look at and remember that we’re not the only good team in this league.”
Yorkton hosts Swift Current next Saturday at 2 p.m.
The Raider Gridders will be without their head coach as he is off to Prince Edward Island for an education trip. But that hasn’t stopped him from breathing confidence into his team.
“I think we’ll beat the tar out of them,” said Sharpe when asked how he thinks his team would do against Swift Current.