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Home Sports Marauders and Crusaders ready to clash at Canadian Tire Classic

Marauders and Crusaders ready to clash at Canadian Tire Classic

Marauders and Crusaders ready to clash at Canadian Tire Classic
A Carlton Crusader ball carrier tries to elude a tackler during preperations for Thursday's Canadian Tire Classic with St. Mary. -- Nathan Reiter/Daily Herald

It’s not how either Prince Albert school typically begins the high school football season, but the Carlton Crusaders and the St. Mary Marauders are destined for an opening week edition of the Canadian Tire Classic coming up on Thursday night from Max Clunie Field.

St. Mary took home the Canadian Tire Cup in 2021 with a 35-14 victory in the game that also decided the tier two high school football championship.

St. Mary head coach Curtis Hundeby says the Marauders will have to limit mistakes against Carlton.

“They’re pretty talented. This is one of the best Carlton squads I’ve seen. We’ll definitely have our work cut out for us. We’re going to focus on making sure we do the little things right and force them to earn every inch and not give anything to them for free.”

After dealing with COVID-19 restrictions the last two school years, Hundeby says he is excited to get back to a normal football season.

“It’s so nice to get back out and play. After the last few years, I don’t take anything for granted. We’re going to play the best that we can and put on a show for the town.”

For some players on both sides, this year’s Canadian Tire Classic marks the beginning of their final year of high school football. Corban Taylor is a defensive end for the St. Mary Marauders in his Grade 12 season. He says it means a lot more to him as a graduating player then it has previously.

“It’s a game we look forward to all year. It’s what we prepare for. They’re our crosstown rival. It’s that community edge, we want to be better than them.”

Last season, St. Mary was led by a large group of Grade 12 players. This year, the Marauders will be relying on a younger core to step up and take the roles of graduated players from a year ago. Taylor is one of the returning starters from last year’s Marauders team and he says he has been trying to fire up his younger teammates.

“Throughout the whole week, I’ve been stressing intensity. They’re a physical team, they’re a good team this year. We don’t have as much older players as we did last year, so this year is going to be a lot about hard work and effort.”

For the crosstown Carlton Crusaders, the rivalry game is more motivation for hard work on the practice field, but a reminder to enjoy the experience.

“It’s always fun. There is always a little bit of extra energy around town and in the building.” says Crusader head coach Lindsay Strachan. “We’re going to enjoy it. We don’t feel like there is any extra pressure. We’re going to come out and work hard this week and play our best football game and have some fun in the process.”

Unlike St. Mary, Carlton is returning a lot of players from their football team last year. Strachan says the Crusaders will be mentally ready for the big game on Thursday night.

“Lots of our guys that are going to see time on Thursday, lots of them were a part of this game last year. We don’t feel like we’re going into something that we haven’t seen before. We’re happy with where we are at in terms of the mental side of things.”

Carlton running back/line backer Taz Smith Windsor says the Crusaders will have to locked in mentally during the game on Thursday night.

“Usually there’s a ton more spectators than in a regular game. We’re going to have to stay focused and stay in the game. Cancel out the distractions and play football.”

Smith-Windsor says the key for him staying calm under pressure is to hyperfocus on the task at hand.

“Just drown everything else out except what matters. Listen to your coaches, listen to what’s happening on the field. Just stay invested in the game and you won’t have to deal with anything else that’s going on.”

Kickoff for the Canadian Tire Classic is scheduled for 6:30pm on Thursday night at Max Clunie Field.