Crusaders and Marauders pick up most important wins of season in Saskatoon

The last time the Marauders and Crusaders clashed was in the 2019 edition of the Canadian Tire Classic. This year, the annual game kicks off again on Thursday. --Herald file photo

On Wednesday afternoon, both the St. Mary Marauders and Carlton Crusaders travelled to Saskatoon to play their first playoff football games of the season.

More importantly, both teams came out with wins.

St. Mary took to the field first against an Evan Hardy squad that had dropped their last four regular season games, including a loss at the hands of Carlton. The Marauders, meanwhile, came in to the game with all the momentum, riding a four game winning streak.

St. Mary got off to a hot start, and never looked back, winning 39-0, and picking up their sixth win overall this season, as well as their second shutout victory.

The Crusaders took down the Bethlehem Stars in Saskatoon 28-12, propelling themselves to the tier 2 final. Carlton picked up their third straight win, and the second of the season against Bethlehem, who the beat 34-24 on Sept. 24.

With both Prince Albert teams winning on Wednesday, that means the tier 2 final will be between the Crusaders and the Marauders in Prince Albert.

Even more exciting news was released after the game, when the two clubs announced the Canadian Tire Classic would also be up for grabs. The Classic was supposed to take place in early October but was postponed due to COVID.”

Marauders head coach Curtis Hundeby was excited to share the news that the Canadian Tire Classic would be held this season after all.

“I can’t remember the last time we played a high school football game in November,” Hundeby said. “It’s awesome. This is a huge game, in terms of town bragging rights, and with the tier 2 title on the line, and now the Canadian Tire Classic. It’s like a title fight.

“We’re super excited, I know our players are excited, and we’re chomping at the bit to get back on the practice field and get going. Hopefully we can pack the stands, because it’ll be a good game.”

Hundeby also described the rivalry his football team has with the Crusaders.

“We just finished having the city finals in volleyball for the girls and boys. The gyms were packed and people were excited,” he said. “The rivalry goes way beyond football, but the best way to grow football is to have a healthy rivalry between the two schools. Ultimately we’re trying to grow the game of football in this city. You’ve got players from both teams that were teammates in minor football, and they’re on opposite sides of the ball now. There’s a lot of dynamics that make it a lot of fun.”

This season has been unique for the players, since they were held off the field last year. Now that they’ve returned, the grade 12’s, who will be playing their last game of the season next week, will be getting their own special spotlight.

Most of these players won’t get an opportunity to play past high school football, so for Hundeby, it’s important to try and get a win for their last game.

“You want to play really well for those grade 12’s,” he said. “Most of them won’t play ever again. These guys didn’t have a grade 11 season, so it’s been a long time since they’ve been able to play football. We’re rallying around those old guys, and we’re relying on their leadership.”

On the other side of the field, the Carlton Crusaders come into next week’s game feeling confident in their play this season. It’s been nearly a month since this rivalry game with their cross town foes was cancelled, and for a while there was doubt this game would even happen.

Carlton coach Lindsay Strachan says it was fortunate the playoff brackets and seeding played out the way they did, ensuring that these two teams ended up getting to play.

“We were pretty disappointed earlier in the season when the game got cancelled,” Strachan said. “But to have the opportunity now is very exciting for everybody.”

Strachan said he also recognizes that his grade 12’s are playing their last high school football game next week. He wants it to be a game that they will remember.

“I think this whole year has been about perspective,” he said. “That opportunity wasn’t in front of us last year to be able to play. I think everyone this year has been in a mindset to just enjoy the opportunity. It’s a chance to be together for another week, so everyone is excited.”

The biggest and last game of the season for the St. Mary Marauders and Carlton Crusaders is set to kickoff on Thursday, Nov. 4 at Max Clunie Field in Prince Albert. With the tier 2 championship on the line, and the Canadian Tire Classic on the line, these two teams will be showing why they deserve to be playing in November, and give everything they’ve got on the field.

Kickoff is at 6:30.

@kyle_kosowan •