A rivalry renewed: Marauders, Crusaders to square off in first round of NSFL playoffs

Daily Herald File Photo. The Carlton Crusaders and St. Mary Marauders line up for a snap during the Canadian Tire Classic earlier this season.

For the second time this season, the St. Mary Marauders and Carlton Crusader football teams will square off on Thursday evening at Max Clunie Field.

Instead of the Canadian Tire Cup, the two teams will be competing to keep their season alive as they kick off the first round of the North Saskatchewan Football League (NSFL) playoffs.

Carlton enters the playoffs as the league’s number one seed finishing a perfect 4-0 in league play. The Crusaders also finished with a league high 171 points scored.

Crusader head coach Lindsay Strachan says he felt Carlton had a successful season.

“I felt like we had a solid first regular season in NSFL. We did some good things and were able to finish in first place and earn the right to host the playoff game here on Thursday. I’m excited for that opportunity, excited to get to play at home.”

Carlton defended their Canadian Tire Classic title last month, defeating St. Mary by a score of 51-14 back on Sept. 22.

Despite the result going in their favor previously, Strachan says the Crusaders will be ready for anything at kickoff on Thursday night.

“I think it’s going to be a hard fought, competitive game on Thursday. Football teams are never static, it’s always changing and evolving. That’s three, four weeks ago that we those guys. We are certainly not going to assume that things are the same. Everybody’s gotten better from that point on.”

Back when the Crusaders and Marauders competed in the Saskatchewan Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate (SSSAD), the Prince Albert teams would always play their playoff games in Saskatoon, regardless of if they were the higher or lower seed in the matchup.

Strachan says he is looking forward to Carlton hosting a game in the playoffs.

“It’s exciting. Definitely the benefits of this new league That recognition of true seeding is a big deal. You want to be rewarded for the work that you put in. It’s an exciting thing in this new league that you have opportunities to host these games.”

For St. Mary, it was a bit of a different story during the regular season. The Marauders finished the season with a 1-3 record in league play and only secured a playoff spot last week with a 31-0 victory over the Lloydminster Comprehensive Barons.

St. Mary did finish with the NSFL’s second ranked offense, recording 73 points score in four league games.

Marauder head coach Curt Hundeby says St. Mary is ready for playoff football, but will have to limit mistakes against an opponent of Carlton’s caliber.

“It’s certainly exciting. They’re a very good football team, so it poses a lot of challenges for us. But we’ve got to be able to stop their run. The last time we played them, they chewed up a huge number of yards in the ground against us and we got to fix that. That’s step one, defensively. And offensively, we can’t shoot ourselves in the foot. We can’t take holding penalties. We can’t be offside. Because if we can maintain possession of the football and don’t let their offense have it, that’s probably our best way to keep them from scoring.”

During last week’s win over Lloydminster, the Marauders posted 469 yards of offense on the ground. Throughout the season, St. Mary has been a run first offense, relying heavily on their ground game.

Hundeby says although the Crusaders will gameplan heavily for the Marauder rushing attack, he feels they will still be able to find success.

“Without sounding arrogant about it, teams still have to stop our run. If we can get the right people on the right people, and if we can take good angles on our blocks, our offense still should be difficult to stop. If we can do that, then we’ll be successful. I know Strachan is going to have his guys prep to take that stuff away. We’re going to have a few wrinkles in there that’s going to hopefully give us some advantages, I hope.”

Kick-off for the playoff matchup between Carlton and St. Mary is schedule for 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Max Clunie Field.