June 23rd, 2024

Rams and Comets ready to battle for the South

By Dale Woodard on November 20, 2021.

A question for southern Alberta high school football historians/enthusiasts.

When was the last time the LCI Rams and Raymond Comets faced each other three times in one season?

If it has indeed happened, Rams head coach Patrick Leahy and Comets skipper Connor Ralph can’t pinpoint an exact year.

As of Saturday afternoon, the most recent answer to that question will be “2021” as the Rams and Comets square off in the Football Alberta Tier I South championship at 4 p.m. at the University of Lethbridge Stadium, marking the third time this year the two storied rivals have locked horns.

“I’m not an historian,” said Leahy. “I don’t know how many times, if ever, that it happened that we had three LCI/Raymond games in the same year and the last one being in the provincial semifinal. To me, that’s something special.”

Now in his late-20s and having seen plenty of the Raymond/LCI rivalry, Ralph couldn’t pinpoint a three-game-in-one-year date, either.

“In my history? I can’t remember and I’ve been around it for quite a few years,” he said. “I’m 28 now, so I can probably remember the last 15 years or so and I don’t remember this happening. So he (Leahy) is probably right.”

If it didn’t happen before – or at least recently – it will now with the winner of this afternoon’s game advancing to the Football Alberta Tier I championship next Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton to face the winner of the North final game between the Red Deer Lindsay Thurber Raiders and the Edmonton Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds.

Fittingly, heading into today’s’ game, the Rams and Comets have split their season series.

On Sept. 25 at Comets Stadium, the Rams posted a 28-7 win.

The Comets returned the favour two weekends ago in the Tier I South Zone Championship with a 31-14 win at the University of Lethbridge Stadium.

Last weekend, the Rams defeated the Calgary Ernest Manning Griffins 27-10 in Calgary in the Tier I South Zone semifinals.

In Okotoks, the Comets got past the Foothills Falcons 44-7.

That sets up the rematch as the Rams head in looking for a different result.

“When you have a letdown like we had against Raymond, we thought we were finished, to be honest,” said Leahy. “Sitting in the locker room, we were pretty sure we were done and obviously that’s an emotional situation for ourselves as a coaching staff, but even more so for the kids. The Grade 12s thought they were done playing football and football is one of those things where it’s not like hockey where you can play in a rec league. There’s only so many chances to put the pads on and go out there and play.

“I think the kids really took that to heart and came out (last Saturday against the Griffins) and their attitude was great, their effort was great and it came together.”

No matter what the date on the calendar, a game against the Rams is always one to get up for, said Ralph.

“They’re a great team with a great program and great coaches. I think our kids are very excited no matter the time of year or what it’s for. I think our kids will come ready to play.”

In their win over Ernest Manning, Carson Procee counted for two touchdowns, including one off an interception, while Crew Hirsche passed for over 190 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think the big part of it is just getting the ball into your best player’s hands,” said Leahy. “It helps for us that we have Crew playing quarterback. He was a league MVP this year and an all-star at defensive back, quarterback and punter. He was just our do-it-all guy. He’s been dealing with an injury since the Cardston game that has kind of taken away a bit of the mobility aspect of his game. He’s feeling better, but you always feel like you have a chance with a kid like that because he just has so much moxy. He just finds a way to make things happen and you can kind of see when he’s in there that the kids believe. They feel more confident seeing Crew back there taking the snaps.”

Leahy also pointed to getting the ball to the likes of Zane Letourneau and Blake Van Bruggen as well.

“For us, it’s going to be getting our playmakers out in the open space, spreading the ball around and letting our kids do what they do best and stopping them on offence,” he said. “A hallmark of Raymond on offence is how they execute. They’ve always got complicated motions and trick plays and they’ll be ready for us. We’ll do our best to neutralize it as well as we can, but we need to come out with more physicality than we did last time and I think that’s going to be the big one.”

Ralph is also fully aware of what his team will face this afternoon.

“I think they have some tremendous players,” he said. “Their quarterback is a really good player. They have Procee, a Grade 12 kind of a fullback/linebacker who is a tremendous player and a slotback who is tremendous. So I think we have to have a good game plan for those guys and make someone else beat us. Obviously, we respect their players, but I think in high school football you have to take away their best players. That’s easier said than done, but that’s our plan.”

No matter what, Leahy looked to what will be an entertaining afternoon of football.

“The kids are excited,” he said. “They’ve got a bad taste in their mouths with the way things went last time. Again, full credit to Raymond, but we don’t feel we represented ourselves the way we’re capable of doing. The kids are fired up and excited and looking forward to the opportunity. It should be a great game.”

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