The Yorkton Regional High School Raider Gridders senior football team extended their undefeated record to 4-0 in their Friday night lights game against the Weyburn Eagles.
The 28-7 affair at Century Field was the Raider Gridders’ first close game on the season. Unlike their first three games, the Raider Gridders never put in their second-string players and were on their toes for the most part of the contest.
“You have to give credit to Weyburn – they are a great team,” said Raider Gridders head coach Roby Sharpe. “We knew going into this game that it would be a big test for us and it definitely was.”
At half time the Raider Gridders were up 14-0 because of a couple explosive plays.
“The 14-0 halftime score made it seem like we were in control more than we actually were,” said Sharpe. “We had a couple big plays that worked out that gave us those two touchdowns. If one or both of those plays don’t work out, we probably wouldn’t have been up by two scores.”
Up by three touchdowns near the end of the third quarter, the Raiders Gridders made their biggest play of the game by stopping the Eagles offense inside their 5-yard line to turn the ball over on downs.
“That play was huge,” said Sharpe. “If they score that it would have really opened up the game, but our defence came up with a huge play. We needed them to make a play and they did exactly that. It was an exciting moment on the sidelines.”
The victory was especially special to the Raider Gridders with a larger crowd than usual out to watch the game underneath the lights.
“It’s definitely a game you want to win,” said linebacker Grey McKen. “There’s always a lot of people out for them and it’s a cool atmosphere. And with it being Weyburn, it brings more meaning to it because they are one of the better teams in the league.”
The fan support also caught the eye of Sharpe.
“It was good to see a lot of people come out,” he said. “The lights bring a lot of excitement to the game. We hope they saw how good we are and how entertaining of football we play so that they come to our future games.”
Despite going up against a strong Eagles defence, the Raider Gridders didn’t have trouble racking up 477 yards, including 256 on the ground.
Running back Zak Kais shinned the brightest on the offense, scoring two touchdowns and accumulating 156 yards on the ground in 17 carries.
“Zak had a great game for us,” said Sharpe. “He really came up big for us by taking off on their defence and finding the holes. His stats say it all.”
Even though David Balysky only connected six of his 13 passes, he finished the game with 221 yards in the air; not to mention, he rushed for 62 yards on the ground.
Alex Popoff yet again led Yorkton’s wide receivers in yards with 153 on just three catches.
“When he gets the ball - he’s gone,” said Sharpe. “He’s got great legs and it’s very hard to contain him. It’s great to have a threat like him in our offense.”
Yorkton’s defence kept the Eagles to only 87 yards in the air, but they did allow 188 yards on the ground.
“We wanted to keep them to less rushing yards,” said Sharpe. “We weren’t very happy with how many yards we allowed in that category. But whenever you allow less than 100 yards passing, there are definitely some positives.”
Following heading to Estevan on Oct. 10 to play the Elecs, who have yet to win a game, the Raider Gridders wrap up their regular-season play on Oct. 15 on the road against the league’s other undefeated team - Moose Jaw Peacock.
“The Moose Jaw game is going to be huge,” said Sharpe. “If we win, we get a bye in the first round of the playoffs. But if we lose, we have to play our first playoff game right away. And we know Moose Jaw will be a tough game because they are undefeated and they beat Weyburn.”