The Lacombe Rams came into their first exhibition tilt against the Sylvan Lake Lakers hoping to make a statement.
To do so, the Rams would have to rely heavily on returning pivot Mitch Simmons, alongside veteran receiver Zach Schwab — both of whom will need to be anchors for a young Rams offence.
Coach Brian Ross is looking forward to seeing what he can get out the dynamic duo of Simmons and Schwab
“They are maturing as football players. Zach Schwab is as good as a receiver as I have come across. He is intelligent and Mitch has picked up the game to a point where I have no worries with him. He is thinking on the field and we have a nice supporting cast around those guys,” he said.
The Rams would strike first midway through the first quarter with a score by Takoda Dennis that made the game 7-0, but a 30-yard catch and 25 yard run by Laker receiver Cody Peever would see Sylvan Lake up 14-7 heading into the second quarter.
“We have him on the field all the time and he is very football knowledgeable,” Ross said about Dennis. “If we can figure out how to get the ball in his hands a little bit more it would be great and teams will end up not throwing anywhere near him pretty soon.”
The second quarter would see Sylvan unable to capitalize on two 50 plus yard touchdowns due to penalties. The Rams capitalized after their defence pounced on a backfield fumble, leading to the score by Cody Melnychuk which tied up the game 14-14 heading into the half.
The Rams would wait until 15 seconds of the third quarter to take the lead on a 45-yard toss to Alex Williams, leading to a 21-14 lead heading into the final frame.
The Lakers would continue to keep things close though, after Reuben Braitenback ran it 7-yards for the score — tying the game up with just over five minutes to play at 21-21.
Despite a late push by the Rams, the game would end tied at 21-21 — with no overtime being played due to the game being exhibition.
Ross was pleased with his team’s fight and chose to keep his starters in late in the game.
“(Sylvan) Coach (Jeremy) Braitenback and I both had the idea that we would play everyone today. For the most part, quarter one and three were starters and starters two and four were backups. To keep the game close, we shortened that a bit in the fourth quarter,” he said.
Ross said his team will need to clean up parts of their game heading into their game next week against J.C. Schubert out of Calgary.
“We are struggling a little bit with our line play. That is going to take time for some of those guys to mature into the high school, a little bit more aggressive mentality,” Ross said.
Ross expects a similar game against Calgary, which will be at MEGLobal Field on Friday, Sept. 6 at 7:30 p.m.
“I think it will be a little bit less of the backups and a little be more go-go-go. I don’t know what to expect out of them. They are a young program and won’t know what to expect out of us. By halftime, we will see what we want to do,” he said.
Ross also commented on how the schedule is different this year — with Lacombe only playing Red Deer teams once, along with several out of division exhibition games. Ross believes it has pros and cons.
“The cons would be trying to find games against schools that are relatively our size. That becomes difficult when you have to travel more. The opposite is playing the same Red Deer teams two to three times in a season. That doesn’t benefit anyone,” he said.
He added he sometimes wishes the league would go back to a central Alberta league like it was several years ago, but he understands why that isnt’t necessarily feasible.