Spartans defend against Crusaders

Fifteen-year-old Braiden Dull made off like a thief with the ball against the Crusaders on Friday. The unprotected pigskin was snatched like a loaf of bread from a player stalled by a Spartans defender and rushed down field for several yards. The young defensive back could be a strong piece of the Spartans future going forward.

By Ben Ingram

The Meadow Lake Spartans defeated the John Paul II Crusaders on Friday 56-7, helping to put memories of their 53-0 loss to Delisle behind them.

While an inexperienced team like the Crusaders will be the least of the Spartans’ worries this year on the road to their goal of a provincial championship, the Sept. 23 win helped to put the team in a better mood.

“The one adjustment we did is we went to shotgun to give our offence a little bit more time,” coach Craig Paylor said after the game.

The gun running offence clicked for five touchdowns in the first half and three in the second, while the defence held the Crusaders scoreless until the last 30 seconds of the game.

As the Spartans are currently nursing a host of injuries, the game was also a chance to give the rookies a healthy dose of field time.

But half-way through the season and sitting on a 3-1 record, the team isn’t ready to celebrate yet.

Their focus now will turn to Friday’s home game against Martensville.

“Last year they beat us and they graduated a lot of kids, so it’s a lot of unknown with those guys,” the coach said. “We’ve got some film on them and we’ll study what they’re doing in terms of their alignment and we’ll prepare our kids.”

For 17-year-old Luke Heaver, the mentality is to approach each game with no assumptions, even against a rookie team like the Crusaders.

“You can’t just take them for granted. You still have to go in there thinking the score is zero-zero. It’s a game you gotta play with all your heart all the way through,” he said.

The linebacker impressed the crowd when he jumped to intercept a rogue pass to one of the Crusader runners.

“It always feels good to win but…we still need to improve,” he said.

Followers of high school football will have to keep an eye out for the Crusaders in the coming years. While Friday’s result paints a picture of a struggling team, it hides the quality of talent on the young squad.

“We have no illusions. If we’re somehow to win one game this year, that would be sky high for us. We’re just trying to go series by series, quarter by quarter,” Crusaders coach Bruce Yockey said.

He added that a newly minted minor football program in the area is expected to keep the team fed with experienced athletes in coming years. For Yockey, the Spartans are something of a model franchise that outlines where he’d like to see his team head in the coming years.

“We know it’s not an overnight thing, we’re kind of using Meadow as a blueprint in a way and I’ve had conversations with the coaches here,” he said.

Kick-off for Friday’s game will be at 4 p.m. in Lions Park.

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