By Garrett Simmons
Westwind Weekly News
The University of Lethbridge Stadium will be rocking on Friday night.
Raymond will head to the city looking to upset the Lethbridge Collegiate Institute Rams, as the two southern Alberta Tier 1 powerhouse programs will battle for the second time this season in a 7 p.m. game.
Back in late September, LCI took a 28-7 win over the Comets and now, in early November, the Comets coaching staff hopes they’ve found the formula for keeping the game a lot closer.
“I think overall we need to be better in every area, especially in the turnover department,” said Raymond assistant coach Matt Baines. “Defensively, we need to work hard to contain their quarterback. He’s a good athlete who can make plays by himself.”
The Rams team speed will be something the Comets will look to counteract, as Baines added his Raymond team is certainly no slouch in that area either.
“We have some speed ourselves that we can use to counter their speed on defence. Good blocking and aggressive play makes the biggest difference. We need to focus on getting 5-8 yards on first down. If we can do that consistently, we will be OK.”
Raymond versus LCI is always the marquee match-up on the local football calendar, each and every year. This time around is no different, as Baines added the Comets coaching staff had a simple message to the players this week.
“The message will be, ‘How long do you want your season to last?’” said Baines. “It’s lose and go home. This team has really turned a corner the last few weeks and they aren’t done yet. They have a lot more to show people and to prove to themselves.”
Football Alberta’s new playoff format, where the top four Tier 1 teams enter the Brian Fryer Division, with one-versus-four and three-versus-one games set for Nov. 20, leaves Raymond in a precarious position, should the team lose on Friday.
Regional based Tier 1 playoff games are set for Nov. 13, as only one game is set in stone so far, as Grande Prairie will face Lindsay Thurber.
“That’s out of our control,” said Baines of how the remaining playoff games could play out. “With the new playoff format, it’s based on people’s opinions. We feel we had some early-season struggles while at the same time playing four of the top five teams in the province. All we will focus on is beating LCI. After that, our fate is up to someone’s opinion. If we beat LCI we feel we are currently clearly the top team out of the south and should be in the final four. We will see what the committee thinks.”
Raymond heads into Friday with a 4-4 record, after a previous 26-21 win over Holy Trinity.
The Comets went up 7-0 early before Holy Trinity answered to make it 7-7. Raymond went up 14-7 and made it 20-7 by halftime.
Holy Trinity closed the gap to 20-14 in the fourth before Raymond struck again to make it 26-14. Holy Trinity added a late score to make the final 26-21.
“Brock Barnett had a huge 68-yard TD run that was a great individual effort,” said Baines, who pointed out a few other major highlights. “Also, QB Houston Ralph had some key passes and big plays to Pyken Easthope and Everson Harker.”
Baines added tight games such as the Holy Trinity game are key learning experiences for the team.
“It teaches us to be mentally strong for all four quarters. If we can play a complete game, we can play with anybody in the province.”
With a few wins in a row under their belts, Baines added the team is gaining confidence week by week.
“Absolutely. It took us a bit – we are very young. We are right where we want to be headed into playoffs.”