Crusaders advance to Division II final; Marauders season ends in OT

It was a mix of emotions for the two Prince Albert high school football teams competing in the Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate Division II playoffs Thursday night.

For the Carlton Crusaders, it was a feeling of jubilation for the program; as they picked up their sixth straight win with a 21-14 semifinal triumph over the Bethlehem Stars to advance to next Friday’s final.

Meanwhile, the St. Mary Marauders were the opposite end of the spectrum as they suffered a heartbreaking 27-21 overtime loss in their semifinal affair with the Tommy Douglas Tigers.

Crusaders 21 Stars 14

It was a solid team effort for the Crusaders as they got contributions from all over the lineup to get revenge on a Stars squad that beat them in the season opener at Max Clunie Field.

“We controlled the time of position on offence, especially in the first half, as we had some long drives to really set that the tempo of the game,” Crusaders coach Lindsay Strachan said.

“On defence, the guys made some really good plays to turn the ball over and they tackled well. The special teams were solid as well throughout the whole night.”

Running back Elijah McPherson led the charge for the Crusaders with a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Awaiting the Crusaders in next Friday’s final, which gets underway at 5 p.m. in Saskatoon, is a Tommy Douglas team that they beat earlier this year in a 9-8 thriller.

“It was kind of a defensive battle all the way through that game until the last couple of minutes,” Strachan said. “At this time of the year, you expect everyone to be pretty evenly matched, so it should be another close encounter next weekend.”

Tigers 27 Marauders 21 (OT)

After trailing 21-7 at halftime, the Marauders clawed their way back to tie the game with 38 seconds left, but their momentum came to a halt once the overtime period got underway.

“We debated about going for the two-point convert and trying to win the game, but we chose to ride things into overtime and keep the momentum going,” Marauders head coach Curt Hundeby said. “It didn’t quite work out for us though as we got stopped on our possession and they were able to score.

“With that said, I thought it was one of our best performances over the last few weeks, especially in the second half. Our defence did a much better job of stopping their rushing attack and our offensive line was able to give (quarterback) Kyle Witkowski a lot of time to make his passes.”

Although the Marauders season ended on a four-game losing streak, Hundeby believes the squad can take positives from the season as they get ready for the 2019 campaign.

“We’ll definitely have a bit of a new look to our lineup,” Hundeby said. “We graduate eight or nine guys who played significant time this season, but we have a lot of younger guys who were in key roles for us down the stretch that are coming back.

“It was up and down campaign and we really struggled at times to get some of the fundamentals down. However, the guys battled hard to claw their way back against Tommy Douglas to keep the season going, and I’m proud of them for that.”