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Sturgeon Spirits close out season with North final loss

The good play of the Spirits could only go so far against a Raiders team that piled up two more touchdowns before the game ended for the 42-0 final score. 
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The Sturgeon Spirits defence tackles a Holy Rosary player in the North Final at Emerald Hills Sports Park on Nov. 20, 2021. SHELLEY COWAN/Photo

The Sturgeon Spirits' season came to an end after dropping a 42-0 decision to the Holy Rosary Raiders on Saturday. 

The teams played the ASAA Tier 3 North Final on a snowy day Nov. 20 at Emerald Hill Stadium in Sherwood Park, but the Spirits won’t be using that as an excuse. They were matched up against a very good Raiders team that had only given up one touchdown in their previous eight games. 

Spirits head coach Chad Hill says that despite the lopsided final score, the game was actually very close to start. 

“The score wasn’t flattering but in my opinion it wasn’t indicative of how hard the game was fought,” said Hill. “Going back through the film, it was a three-minute span where we gave up three touchdowns that put us down 28-0 before halftime.” 

Those three minutes were absolutely crucial to how the game turned out. Prior to that, the Raiders were hanging on to an 8-0 lead for most of the first half. It was at the end of the second quarter when things went awry for the Spirits. 

A big third-down stop by the Spirits defence on its own 10-yard line was negated by a roughing the passer flag on the field. With a second chance to punch in a touchdown, the Raiders took advantage and scored to make it 14-0. 

The Spirits were unable to score with their next possession and attempted a punt, but a botched snap sent the ball over the head of the kicker and into the Spirits endzone. The Raiders pounced on the fumble and all of a sudden it was a 21-0 after a few quick plays. 

Although Spirits tried to claw their way back into the game before the end of the half, the Raiders were rolling and punched in another touchdown to take a commanding lead. 

Hill says that the team was able to stop the bleeding in the second half and played a really solid game against the heavily favoured Raiders. 

“The second half was a lot like the first, so really it was like the first 20 minutes of the game in that it was back and forth,” said Hill. “They’re a faster team than we are and a little more experienced than we are. I'm not going to take anything away from their fantastic football team, but we were battling hard with them.” 

The good play of the Spirits could only go so far against a Raiders team that piled up two more touchdowns before the game ended for the 42-0 final score. 

While the Raiders rolled with their starters for the majority of the game, Hill decided to get as many people on his team into the action, seeing as it was likely this was the final game of the year. 

“We were pretty realistic at half-time. Being down 28-0 to a team that’s given up one touchdown in the last eight games was not looking promising,” said Hill. “We said ‘let's have some fun, take some shots and let’s go out the way we want to go out,’ so I give the boys credit because they did just that.” 

The loss marks not only the end of the season for Spirits but also the end of a few players' high school football careers. The Spirits had 11 seniors on the team who will be moving on and Hill says he is proud of how his veterans handled themselves over the year, especially after losing their Grade 11 season due to COVID-19. 

“I was really happy that these boys got to have a high school football season this year and proud of the fact that they went from being the rookies on the team to being leaders and veterans,” said Hill. “They are a fantastic group of boys and I’m glad I got to coach them.” 

Now the sights are set on next season. The coaching staff have all of winter to set things up and plan for the season, one in which Hill is anticipating to be even better. 

“We are really optimistic for 2022; we have our quarterback back with us and our two leading receivers on offence and a number of other receivers all back,” said Hill. “That’s really nice to have back on offence, guys that will know the system, be comfortable with the system. I think we can get a lot deeper into our playbook next year and run a more nuanced offence.” 

The Holy Rosary Raiders will finish off the high-school provincial bracket with a meeting with the Tier 3 south champion Cochrane Cobras.

About the Author: Preston Hodgkinson

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