The St. Mary Marauders were a confident bunch going into their season-opener against the Bethlehem Stars from Saskatoon on Friday at Prime Ministers’ Park, but what became evident early was there is still some work that needs to be done.
“I really thought we were better prepared than we were today,” commented Marauders’ head coach Curt Hundeby moments after his club dropped a 14-0 decision. “We will have to take a look at what will be the best solution.”
Offensively, the Marauders just never got anything going. A large part of their offence revolved around running back Bryant Sackney, but whenever there was a large gain, it was wiped out by a penalty. The passing attack struggled throughout the game as quarterback August Skrudland made several nice throws that were either dropped or carried away by the strong winds.
Defensively, however, the Marauders dug down and on a pair of occasions stopped Bethlehem on third down deep in the St. Mary zone. Hundeby was pleased with the effort from that group.
“I’m very excited about our defence,” said Hundeby. “We still have to work out some schemes on things. Offensively, we wanted to establish the run, but defensively they gave us what we wanted.”
Bethlehem got the only point of the first quarter when a punt sailed through the end zone and the score remained that way until late in the first half when Skrudland fumbled the ball after being hit at the line of scrimmage and it was picked up by Cole Kuchma and ran back 30 yards for the game’s first major. The point after was unsuccessful and the teams went into the break with Bethlehem holding a 7-0 advantage.
The second half was much the same with a lot of penalties on both sides and some real hard hitting. On the last play of the third quarter, St. Mary defender Sheldon Charles tackled Bethlehem quarterback Kade Tuba and for a long time he lay on the field motionless. Emergency medical services were called to the game and Charles was lifted onto a support board and transported to hospital. As he was being loaded into the ambulance, Charles gave a thumbs-up sign, but no further word was available on his condition.
Bethlehem completed the scoring with less than eight minutes left in the game when Tuba connected with Geoff Guimond for a 23-yard touchdown and Dylan Koshman kicked the convert.
St. Mary had one final chance when Cody Sjogren blocked a punt in the final minute, but several attempts could not get the ball across the goal line leaving the final score 14-0.
The game, which is a part of the Saskatoon High School Football League, was St. Mary’s first ever under the new lights put in at Prime Ministers’ Park by the Friday Night Lights campaign. Hundeby said it was bittersweet playing in those conditions when he considered the outcome.
“It was a lot of fun to be here under the lights,” said Hundeby. “(But) we have to have a better offence for the fans to watch.”
St. Mary returns to action next Friday when they travel to North Battleford. Their next home game will be Sept. 21 when they take on the defending champion Holy Cross Crusaders.