Crusaders, Marauders ready to square off in Canadian Tire Classic

The St. Mary Marauders (black uniforms) line up for an offensive snap against the Carlton Crusaders (red uniforms) during the Canadian Tire Classic last season at Max Clunie Field. Herald File Photo.

It’s the most highly anticipated date on the high school football calendar.

The St. Mary Marauders and Carlton Crusaders will clash in the annual Canadian Tire Classic this Friday at Max Clunie Field.

The Carlton Crusaders currently hold the Canadian Tire cup after defeating the Marauders 51-14 on Sep. 15, 2022. Crusader head coach Lindsay Strachan says Carlton is treating the week of practice ahead of the game as business as usual.

“I think we just need to execute and be physical and just do the things that we talk about any other week. I think there’s always a little added emotion this week. We’re working our butts off to get prepared any given week, so I wouldn’t say that there’s any change in what we’re doing or how we’re doing it this week.”

Heading into the game as defending champions, Strachan says the Crusaders aren’t putting too much pressure on themselves.

“It’s no secret that both teams want to win on Friday, they’re working hard to get ready. We’re working hard to get ready. I don’t think there’s any added pressure on us at all.”

Grade 11 quarterback Sullivan Smith-Windsor says Carlton will look to start out strong and take control of the game early.

“(If we) bring the physicality then we’re going to have a good first half, set the tone and then just keep going for the second half and hopefully good things happen.”

Across town, the St. Mary Marauders are looking to reclaim the Canadian Tire cup. Marauder head coach Curt Hundeby says St. Mary is ready for the game.

“The excitement level is high. Kids are working super hard, and … to be honest, we got to make sure that we’re not too hyped on a Tuesday because we play on a Friday.  We’re trying to focus on energy and make sure that we get good quality reps.”

Last week in a 21-14 exhibition loss to Walter Murray, St. Mary posted 325 yards on the ground.  Hundeby says the Marauders will need to utilize their ground game against Carlton.

“Our offence is based on the ground game. There’s no pretending about that. We’re running the ball 80 per cent of the time (and) if we do a good job, we should be in around that 400 yards on the ground. That’s what we’re shooting for.”

Hundeby adds the Marauders will look to keep possession of the ball to prevent Carlton’s high-flying offense from being able to strike quickly.

“Carlton does a really good job, they have some big athletes that can strike quick (and) we are about ball control, so we want to get the ball and we want to grind. I’m fine if a drive takes 15 plays and a whole quarter because I know for us, if we can keep the ball out of their offence’s hands, that’s probably gives us the best chance to win.”

Kick off for the Canadian Tire Classic is at 5:30 p.m.