Rivalry renewed

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Kael Leahman gets a first down for the Carlton Crusaders during a game against the Bethlehem Stars earlier this year.

It’s a date that the Carlton Crusaders and St. Mary Marauders football teams have been gearing up for since last November.

In their first meeting since last year’s Division III final in the Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate playoffs, the two crosstown rivals will take to Max Clunie Field Thursday at 6:30 p.m. for the seventh edition of the Canadian Tire Classic.

“We’re trying to tell everyone in the school to come out and cheer us on,” Crusaders Grade 12 linebacker Cody Brayshaw said. “It’s my third time playing in this game and it’s always exciting to be a part of it.”

“It’s an awesome experience every time we go against each other,” Marauders Grade 12 wide receiver and safety Grant Alexander added. “With the atmosphere around the field, it’s such a fun game to play in.”

Although the Marauders have won all six meetings in the regular season since the Canadian Tire Cup was introduced in 2012, the Crusaders prevailed in the last matchup between the two sides by a score of 25-22 during a rare post-season game in November.

“It was a great feeling to pick up that win over them, but now we want to do that again in the regular season,” Crusaders Grade 12 wide receiver Kael Leachman said.

“That was a heartbreaking loss for us, especially as that was our last game of the season,” Alexander added. “It has definitely been a big motivator for us as we get ready for this year. We can’t look past Carlton and we have to prepare for them like we always have.”

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
St. Mary Marauders wideout Grant Alexander races past the North Battleford Vikings secondary during a game earlier this month.

After a dominate 47-6 win over the Bedford Road Redhawks last Friday, the Marauders have a 3-1 record heading into this week, with their only loss coming in a 15-10 affair against the defending 3A provincial champion North Battleford Vikings.

“Everyone’s meshing as a team and we’re all doing our job,” Alexander said.

“We’ve spent more time than ever getting ready during the off-season, and the speed and weight training we’ve put in has really paid off,” Marauders Grade 12 linebacker Bradley Robertson said. “That’s what I love about football…you get in what you put out.”

Meanwhile, the Crusaders enter Thursday’s matchup with a 2-2 mark after winning a thrilling 9-8 affair over the Tommy Douglas Tigers in Saskatoon last week.

“We’ve really progressed a lot since the start of the season and we’re starting to play football the way it’s meant to be played,” Brayshaw said.

“Our defence has been playing at a level that we haven’t been at since I started playing for the team. We haven’t allowed a touchdown in our last two games and we’re continuing to make adjustments to keep up our strong performances.”