The Yorkton Regional High School Raiders senior boys’ football team are looking forward to yet another season in the Moose Jaw High School Football League, however this time they’re hoping things turn out a little bit different.
“We’re kind of hoping that we’re like the Riders,” suggested offensive coordinator Jason Boyda, following the team’s second practice of the season Friday night at Century Field. “They lost the Grey Cup two years and then the third time they get there they finally win it.
“We’re hoping that we go on the same journey that the Riders did.”
Boyda’s alluding to the past two Raider seasons of course, where the YRHS Raiders ran roughshod through the MJHSFL regular season only to be unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs in the finals by Moose Jaw’s A.E. Peacock Tornadoes not once, but twice, losing 49-29 to the Tornadoes in 2012 and 40-8 just last year.
But Boyda and the Raiders are well aware that, should they want to hoist the championship trophy this year, they will somehow have to find a way to finally beat the Tornadoes; something that, as evidenced by their past head-to-head meetings with the Moose Jaw powerhouse, is far easier said than done. Especially when the Tornadoes have quarterback Sawyer Buettner, who is just 105 yards away from the MJHSFL all-time passing record, returning for his final season. “He’s (Buettner) a fantastic quarterback and he led Team Saskatchewan Green to a silver medal this year at the Canada Cup,” offered Boyda, adding, “They’re also well coached, they’re always one of the top teams in the league so I believe that the path to the championship will go through Peacock.
“They’ve won two years in a row so right now they’re the kings of the hill.”
But if the Raiders have learnt anything in their high school history classes, it’s that kings, no matter how great, can be dethroned. And with the personnel the Raiders have this season, they have a better chance than ever at doing just that. “Peter (Kozushka) and Nick Payne will probably be our two key guys on offense. Peter is going to anchor the offensive line. He’s a guy that we can run the ball behind,” mentioned the offensive coordinator, continuing, “Nick Payne is going to come in to quarterback and he’s experienced. He’s been playing since the peewee days and he’s got a great arm, a good head on his shoulders.
“We have those two guys on offense to lead the way but we’ve also got a good running back behind them in Zach Kais coming back. If things go well, if he stays healthy, we should be fine.”
Boyda also believes the Raiders will be strong defensively with the return of Kolby Lang, Jesse McDowell and Darius Haberstock.
On top of that there are two new players in the ‘Land of Orange’ that have caught Boyda’s eye during the first two practices: one with football experience, the other without. “We have two new kids, the first one is Greg Dutchak. He’s new to our program but he has some experience playing football. We plan to use him as a backup running back and probably start him at linebacker as he’s pretty strong and fast,” suggested Boyda. “We’ve also picked up Darius Haberstock’s cousin from Chile. He’s going to be in his first year playing football but he’s got some good skills. He just has to learn how to play the game but we’ll use him in some situations as he’s a natural athlete.”
In addition to the aforementioned eight players Boyda, head coach Roby Sharpe and the rest of the YRHS coaching staff expect another 25 players to suit up regularly for the orange Raiders as they move towards their main goal of the season.
But what exactly is that goal?
Quite simply, it’s redemption. “Our goal is to get back there this time and finish it,” mentioned Boyda. “We have some unfinished business from the last two years and, like the Riders, third time’s the charm.”