The Central Cyclones and Peacock Tornadoes will look to secure a spot in the Moose Jaw High School Football League final on Saturday afternoon when the two teams hit the field at Gutheridge Field.
The first place Tornadoes will be going against the fifth place Swift Current Colts in one semifinal and the second place Cyclones host the third place Yorkton Raiders in the other.
Central goes into Saturday’s semifinal aiming for a return to the league final for the first time since 2011.
“We’re fully aware that since Yorkton’s been in the league, they’ve been in the city final and we know that over the past three years either Yorkton or Peacock has finished our season and that’s a lot of motivation for these kids,” said Central head coach Colin Belsher.
“We know what we can do and we know what they can bring, so it’s going to come down who’s a little tougher on the field that day and who executes a little bit better.”
The Cyclones won their regular season meeting with the Raiders, 43-36, in Week 4 here in Moose Jaw. Yorkton brings a balanced attack with a strong passing game and in recent weeks, a solid running game.
Central’s defence, which led the league in turnovers, will be forced to come up big this weekend.
“We’ve been a bend, but don’t break defence,” said Belsher. “Our focus will be to stop their pass, but they were missing their two running backs last time we played them, so we know that they’re going to have a different running attack when we play them this time.
“We’ve made some adjustments and we’ll be more competitive on the defensive side of the ball.”
The Raiders always bring a physical brand of football to the field when they play and Belsher is expecting nothing to change when they meet again this week.
“The focus all week has been being mentally strong and being physically tough,” he said. “You’re living game-by-game and if you don’t come out on the right side of the ball here, you’re season is over.”
Peacock is coming off a bye through the quarterfinals last week, while Swift Current is playing in their first semifinal game since 2009. The Colts topped Vanier 33-20 last week for their third straight win.
The late season resurgence for Swift Current has been led by running back Tristan Lockman and the Tornadoes know that slowing him down will be the key for them making a fourth straight trip into the league final.
“We approach different opponents by looking at their strengths and so you want to make sure you have guys in the right spots and they have a lot of momentum going,” said head coach Blake Buettner.
“Lockman is a player that we didn’t play against in the first game, so it’s going to be a challenge. They’re big up front, they’ve got some good linemen and they do some good things, so we’re going to have to be ready for them.”
The three-time defending champion Tornadoes have won those titles with an outstanding offence and while they led the league in points scored this season, they’ve been built around their defence this year.
The Peacock defence has allowed a league-low 64 points this season, including two shutouts. 34 of those points were scored in their regular season finale against Estevan.
That unit will be put to the test against the Colts, but Buettner feels like they’re up for the challenge.
“We expected our defence be fairly sound this year and they were,” he said.
“They’ve been able to have a look at what other teams do well against other teams and the coaches have been good about getting a game plan together and the players have been good at following that game plan.”
The semifinals kick-off on Saturday afternoon with Peacock taking on Swift Current at 1:00pm, followed by the Cyclones and Raiders at 3:15pm.
The league final is next Saturday at 1:00pm at Gutheridge Field.