The game might have ended in darkness, but it was nothing but bright lights in Prince Albert on Thursday.
For the first time ever a football game was played at night in Prince Albert as the field at Prime Ministers’ Park was lit up brilliantly by the new lights installed by the Friday Night Lights committee this summer.
Even when the timer went off at 9 p.m. and ended the game with 15 seconds left on the clock, as the field was enveloped in total darkness, the mood of the night could not be dampened.
“It was an awesome feeling,” said Carlton Crusader head coach Rylan Michalchuk of the game despite his club coming out on the short end of a 33-14 score to the St. Joseph Guardians from Saskatoon. “It gives you chills and makes you proud to be from Prince Albert tonight.”
The game was the season opener for both clubs and for most of the contest it was a battle in the trenches.
The Guardians grabbed an early 6-0 lead on a 66-yard scamper by running back Josh Morris, but Carlton battled back and trailed just 9-7 at halftime thanks to a pair of field goals and a single by place kicker Devereaux Gatin.
The Crusaders got their first and only lead of the game on their first drive of the second half when Kyle Diebert took the ball in the end zone and after a Gatin convert, Carlton was ahead 14-9.
From then on, however, it was all St. Joseph as turnovers hurt the Crusaders and some big plays allowed the Guardians to pull away. Running back Damon Muggli had a pair of touchdowns, including one for 31 yards, and quarterback Paul Weiss called his own number for another major with placekicker Jesse Gordon completing the scoring with a field goal and three converts.
“I was very happy with the effort,” said Michalchuk. “We need to keep the intensity high. We have to protect the ball and we had too many penalties.”
Michalchuk also noted that the fitness level of his club wasn’t where it should be and that will be one area the team focuses on when practises resume on Monday.
The Crusaders will next see action on Thursday when they travel to Saskatoon to take on Mount Royal, but before that happens Prince Albert’s other high school team, the St. Mary Marauders, will have their turn at the Friday Night Lights magic when they host Bethlehem Collegiate from Saskatoon tonight at 6:30 p.m. at Prime Ministers’ Park.
The official dedication of the Friday Night Lights project will not take place until Oct. 19 when Carlton and St. Mary will square off against each other in the regular-season finale for both teams. That game has also been dubbed the Canadian Tire Classic as Canadian Tire store owner Malcolm Jenkins has donated a trophy to be competed for on an annual basis between Prince Albert’s two high schools.