The St. Mary Marauders couldn’t quite finish their Cinderella playoff run, falling 35-21 to the North Battleford Comprehensive Vikings in the North Saskatchewan Football League final on Saturday.
Marauder head coach Curt Hundeby says the weather provided a stiff challenge for both teams.
“It was one of those games it was really hard for anything to get momentum. The weather played a big factor. Not so much in visibility, it wasn’t the wind is too bad, but just the fact that the snow was on the ground, that created a lot of footing issues. I think for both teams, both teams’ skill guys had trouble changing directions and planting and cutting.”
St. Mary would take the early lead after the first quarter, as the lone score from either team would come from Griffin Johns from four yards out to give St. Mary a 7-0 lead after one quarter.
North Battleford would string together a couple successful offensive drives in the second quarter. Isaac Neufeld would score with a two-yard rush. Towards the end of the quarter, Levi Koenig would catch a 35-yard pass to give the Vikings a 14-7 lead at the half.
The teams would trade touchdowns in the third quarter as Lukas Robin would score with an 11-yard rush for St. Mary, while Neufeld would run from six yards out for North Battleford.
St. Mary would knot the score at 21 at the start of the fourth quarter with a five-yard run from Cam Neudorf.
Levi Koenig would restore the lead for North Battleford with a five-yard rushing touchdown with just 2:45 to go in the fourth quarter.
Quaid Watson would provide insurance for North Battleford with a four yard rushing score with 1:14 left in the game.
North Battleford recorded 232 yards of rushing offence in the game. Hundeby says the Marauders had a difficult time defending North Battleford’s rushing attack.
“Their run game was just about unstoppable. We had a couple of stops, but for the most part we really struggled to stop their run. That was kind of the biggest tail of the tape. We didn’t run the ball as well as we needed to, and they ran the ball well enough to win.”
2023 marked the first season that St. Mary, along with the Carlton Crusaders, competed in the newly founded North Saskatchewan Football League. Saturday was the league’s first ever championship game.
Hundeby says the league was very balanced and seemed successful.
“There’s a lot of a lot of real positive feelings towards it. Obviously, there’s some growing pains with some of the details. In general, I think it’s a really good league because in any given week, you knew that you had to prep well to play against a good team. Any time you have that sort of consistency in a league where there’s no one bottom team that everyone just mops the floor with. We really appreciate the opportunity to be in this league.”