The Yorkton Raiders might have one of the best passing games in the Moose Jaw High School Football League, but it turns out they also can get the job done on the field.
The Raiders put together 40 carries for 227 yards — with quarterback Jordin Rusnack carrying 21 times for 104 — as they took a 23-12 victory over the Central Cyclones (2-3) on Saturday at Gutheridge Field.
The game marked the first time the undefeated Raiders (4-0) had faced a Moose Jaw-based team this season, and while they felt they weren’t at their best, the result was still plenty positive.
“Definitely not our best game, we have a lot to work on this week,” said Rusnack, who was also six-of-17 passing for 117 yard. “Weyburn and Estevan, obviously we were expecting competition there but we got past those pretty easy. Swift, it was good to get revenge on the team that kicked us out (of the playoffs) last year and then these guys, you have to give them credit, they have a lot of good athletes and are a pretty good team.”
Rusnack connected with Matthew Mandziuk for a 36-yard touchdown with 54 seconds left in the first quarter and after forcing a Central safety extended their lead to 16-0 on a one-yard plunge by Luke Reid with 6:21 remaining in the second quarter.
Central got one back when C.J. Vincent hauled in a three-yard pass from Ethan Johnson with 2:21 remaining until the half, sending the teams into the break with a 16-6 Raiders lead.
The Cyclones made things interesting midway through the third when Vincent picked up his second major on a 31-yard pass-and-run to close the score to 16-12, but Yorkton broke out a wrinkle in their game that quickly restored their two-score lead.
Using a no-huddle string of off-tackles, sweeps and quarterback dives mixed in with a single passing play, the Raiders quickly marched down the field and capped their drive when Reid broke through the line for the 23-12 lead.
Conversely, the Cyclones were unable to get anything going on the ground, with 20 carries resulting in negative-one yards of offence. That forced Johnson to go to the air, where he finished 17-for-30 for 182 yards of passing.
Vincent was his top target with five catches for 56 yards while Josh Reidy had three catches for 58 yards.
That they were still in the game and had a chance to win despite their ground woes was a positive for Central coach Colin Belsher.
“I said to the kids ‘we’re two, three plays from coming out on the other end of this game. Yorkton is a really good football team but I thought we played them really hard. You look at the stats and they’re putting up 50-plus on all these teams and we come out and hold them to 23 points,” Belsher said. “I’m really proud of how these guys played hard and dug in. They had a good week of practice and did a lot of prep getting ready for this game. A couple more plays and we’re on the other side of this.”