It wasn’t quite the outcome his team wanted.
But despite dropping a 15-10 decision to the North Battleford Vikings Thursday at Max Clunie Field, St. Mary Marauders head coach Curt Hundeby was pleased with how his squad faired against the reigning provincial 3A football champions.
“It sucks to be on the losing end of games like this, but being in a close contest is something that’s always fun as a coach,” Hundeby said. “I know the result stings for our guys, but we’re going to be a better team from this as we’ll learn a lot from what happened out there.
“What I’m most pleased about though is our discipline tonight. All of the penalties for objectional conduct went the other way and the character that we showed out on the field is everything that a St. Mary football player is all about. I’m really proud of them for showing that.”
After a bit of a slow start on offence, the Marauders struck midway through the second quarter as quarterback Kyle Witkowski connected with wide receiver Grant Alexander on a 61-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at seven.
Witkowski would later kick a short field goal before halftime, but that would be all of the points that the hosts would put up.
“We just missed on so many connections offensively,” Hundeby said. “We were just an inch short or an inch long on so many things.
“I thought on defence we did a great job of stopping their run game, especially in the fourth quarter. North Battleford is a very physical team and they gave our guys all that they could handle.”
Witkowski completed 14 of 27 pass attempts for 147 yards and a touchdown in the loss, which dropped the Marauders record to 2-1.
Meanwhile, the Vikings got their two touchdowns in the second quarter from a four-yard quarterback sneak by Connor Neave and a five-yard run from Zane Florence.
They rounded out their scoring with a punt single in the third quarter from JT Lamb.
“This year’s team models itself on running the football, but we threw the ball a lot better today,” Vikings head coach Mike Humenny said. “We rushed for 300 yards last week against Carlton at home, but our backs took quite a beating, so it was key for us to have Connor make some timely passes for us to move the ball up the field.
“We’re always happy to play against the Prince Albert schools. Both teams battled us hard the last two weeks and I know we’re going to be pretty sore on the bus ride back to North Battleford tonight. However, it’s always a good feeling when you can go home with a win.”
Although he didn’t score a touchdown, Lamb was a dominant force for the Vikings as the physical running back rushed for 108 yards on 24 carries.
“After the amount of yards that I was able to put up last year, the other defences have really been keying on me a lot, and that’s something our coaches have noticed,” Lamb said. “As a result of them covering me, that’s just opening up some room for other talented guys, so it’s a win-win for us.
“We lost quite a few starters from last year’s provincial champions, but we have a lot of potential here and we’re getting better each time out.”
Florence, who is more a of speedster than Lamb, carried the ball 14 times for 77 yards and a touchdown to help the Vikings improve to 2-1 on the season.
The Marauders will now look to return to the win column next Friday night at 6:30 p.m. when they will play host to the Bedford Road Redhawks.
“I know in the past that they haven’t been an overly strong team, but we’re not going to take them lightly,” Hundeby said.
“We’re going to focus this week on having the best game plan possible for Friday. We’re going to sand down the rough edges and polish everything up the best that we can.”
The Redhawks improved to 1-1 Thursday with a 34-16 win over the E.D. Feehan Trojans in Saskatoon.
Meanwhile, the 0-2 Carlton Crusaders will look to pick up their first win of the season on the road Friday as they’ll take on the 1-0 Mount Royal Mustangs.