Crusaders and Marauders preparing for new season

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Mason Harris avoids a tackle attempt during a practice for the Carlton Crusaders football team Wednesday.

Although classes don’t start until after Labour Day, local high school football players are already getting back into the swing of things.

The Carlton Crusaders and the St. Mary Marauders both opened up their 2018 training camps this week, as they get ready to start off their Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate regular season schedules next weekend.

“It’s always a brand new experience regardless of how many guys you bring back each season” Crusaders head coach Lindsay Strachan said. “Everyone’s working hard and getting better each day in practice, so we like how things are coming along at the moment.”

“The biggest thing for us right now is to make sure that we aren’t skipping any steps in our first few practices,” Marauders head coach Curtis Hundeby added. “You never want to make assumptions on where each player is at, so we’re taking things at a slow pace if we need to get things right so we can avoid them from getting into bad habits.”

Last season saw the crosstown rivals square off in the SSSAD Division III championship game, which saw the Crusaders come away with a 25-22 win at Max Clunie Field.

It marked that the first time that two sides had played in 4A playoff game and it was also the first win for the Crusaders over the Marauders in a number of years

“As an athlete, you want to finish off the year by winning your last game,” Strachan said. “It’s something we’ve been able to do for the last three years now, and that’s always a huge positive for us.

“We have a pretty good mix across all of the grades so far, and I think it’s a pretty good balance at the moment with our offence and defence. We have a lot of guys in different positions this year, along with a different look to the offence, so there’s a bit of a learning curve that we are helping the guys through at the moment.”

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald
Quarterback Kyle Witkowski prepares to launch the ball down the field Wednesday during a St. Mary Marauders practice session.

Meanwhile, the Marauders were left to wonder what if after their loss to the Crusaders in November, as it brought a sour end to a season with high expectations.

“It was a pretty disappointing year,” Hundeby said. “We had a veteran team with a lot of talent, but we certainly underperformed down the stretch.

“We knew that this year’s team was going to be a younger one, so we’ve spent a lot of time already working on developing the leadership and building up our team chemistry. I think that’s something you’ll see pay off later in the season when we have to deal with adversity.”

After a controlled scrimmage between the two sides at Max Clunie Field Friday at 4 p.m., the Marauders will open up their regular season schedule on Thursday, Sept. 6 in Saskatoon against the Walter Murray Marauders.

Meanwhile, the Crusaders will kick off their campaign the following night at Max Clunie Field against the Bethlehem Stars at 6:30 p.m.

When it comes to the 4A SSSAD league this season, both coaches expect the usual suspects to be leading the way.

“Holy Cross and Centennial are always strong, plus Aden Bowman and St. Joseph usually have good teams,” Hundeby said. “Those are the programs we all strive to be like.”

“The top of the pack doesn’t really change a lot in 4A, but there’s always a lot of movement behind them,” Strachan added. “With that said, you never really know what’s going to happen until the year begins.”

The Centennial Chargers ended the Holy Cross Crusaders’ seven-year reign at the top of the 4A league last season with a 34-28 overtime triumph in the championship game.

The Chargers would then fall in the provincial title contest to the Campbell Tartans of Regina.