Crusaders look to continue rolling ahead of their first playoff game

Lucas Punkari/Daily Herald Carlton Crusaders RB Tazmin Smith-Windsor races down the sideline on his way to scoring a touchdown during the first quarter of play against the Bethlehem Stars in September 2021 at Max Clunie Field.

It hasn’t been an ideal season for the Carlton Crusaders senior football team, but the players have made the most of it.

The Crusaders finished with a 4-2 record, but games against St. Mary and E.D. Feehan were cancelled due to COVID cases. That means the Crusaders were only able to play four regular season games, instead of the previously scheduled six.

Carlton ended their regular season on Friday, improving to 4-2 after taking down Evan Hardy, blanking the Souls 28-0. Now, the Crusaders sit in the same bracket as Evan Hardy in the playoffs in the second tier, however, they won’t play each other in the first round, as it will be the St. Mary Marauders turn to battle with the Souls.

The next task for the Crusaders is to take down Bethlehem, another school out of Saskatoon. Bethlehem rounds out the tier 2 bracket, cementing themselves in the third seed out of four. They finished their regular season with a 3-3 record, after suffering a 49-14 setback to Saskatoon rival Holy Cross.

Carlton and Bethlehem have squared off once this regular season already, and it was the Crusaders coming out victorious, with a 34-24 triumph in Prince Albert on September 24th.

The biggest point of success for Carlton to this point this season has been the play of their defense, surrendering just 76 points this season, the sixth best out of all 16 teams in the 6A and 5A divisions. They’ve won two games in shutout fashion, first, in the opening game of the season, when they downed the Tommy Douglas Tigers 37-0, and then of course on Friday, winning 28-0 over Evan Hardy.

Looking ahead to next week, if both the Crusaders and St. Mary Marauders win their opening playoff games on Wednesday, the two Prince Albert teams would meet up in the second playoff game of the season, and the tier 2 final, with the winner moving on, hopeful for a provincial title. What is more significant if both teams manage to win on Wednesday, is that it could set up a possible Canadian Tire Classic, a game this year that did not happen, due to a COVID case on one of the football teams.

There is no question the most exciting match of the year would be one between to cross town foes, as there has not been a fall classic between these two teams since they tied in 2019. It would be a game of bragging rights, a game where everything would be thrown on the line, as it wouldn’t be a normal regular season game. It would be a game with advancing to the next round of the playoffs would be on the line. A game where former teammates would go head to head in a winner take all, and a shot at provincial glory.

But, the anticipation will have to wait a little while longer, as both teams have their sights set on the first round of the playoffs. First, the Marauders will take to the field against Evan Hardy in Saskatoon on Wednesday. Kickoff for that game is slated for 5:15pm. After that, the Crusaders will look to advance against Bethlehem. Carlton will kickoff their game in Sasaktoon, also on Wednesday night. Kickoff for that game is set for 7:30.