The Paul Kane Blues are looking past Monday’s playoff in division two Miles conference football with Friday’s semifinal showdown looming large.
The Blues, first in pool A at 5-1 (211 PF/69 PA), and the Leduc Tigers, fourth in pool B at 2-4 (94 PF/202 PA), kick-off the opening playoff round at 5 p.m. at Emerald Hills Regional Park. Admission is $5.
The winner lines up against the pool A St. Albert High Skyhawks (4-2) or pool B McNally Tigers (4-2) in the final-four pairings at 6 p.m. at Johnny Bright Park.
The final is Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. at Commonwealth Stadium.
“We’re going to do well against Leduc. We’re ready,” said Shoya Lavoie, a dependable Grade 12 slotback and safety. “We can’t really look past them but of course we are. All the players are.
“We’re happy to play any team, honestly.”
“We’re hoping we’re playing SACHS. We’re looking forward to playing them again,” said Alex Gamble, a valuable Grade 12 slotback and linebacker on the prospects of battling the rival Skyhawks after the Blues beat the St. Albert Catholic High School team 43-30 in league play.
The Blues and McNally are also competing for the second Tier II (750 to 1,249 students) berth as the metro Edmonton reps for provincials.
In the latest Football Alberta rankings, the Blues cracked the top 10 for the first time this season at No. 7 and McNally was 10th last week.
The second Tier II metro team will huddle up against the No. 1-ranked St. Joseph’s Celtics, last year’s Alberta Bowl finalists, in the Nov. 11 north semifinal at Grande Prairie.
The Blues bolt into the playoffs as winners of four in a row by a combined score of 171-39.
“We’re so ready. We’ve been waiting for this for so long. Battling these teams these last couple of games it’s been kind of preparing us for this next step,” Lavoie said of the 71-6 massacre of the Eastglen Blue Devils (0-6) and 45-0 drubbing of the Ardrossan Bisons (2-4) and both are pool A teams.
The Blues have found their niche in the Miles after winning only one game last year in the very tough division one Carr conference.
“We’ve been very happy with our season for sure. We went 5-1 which is really good. We would like to have that one loss as a win but after that we kind of stepped it up. We were like OK we’re in this for the long run,” Lavoie said of the 23-16 setback to the pool B Strathcona Lords (6-0, 240 PF/54 PA). “It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve had some good competition with Scona and SACHS and mostly likely we’ll play those two teams again so we’re looking forward to that.”
The Blues basically ran out of time against Strathcona, the defending champion, after trailing 23-8 with about one minute remaining.
“All talk is Scona is the best team. Everyone around the league is saying that so that’s what we’re after. We just want to beat them so bad,” Lavoie said.
The Blues are no slouches either in what has been billed as a rebuilding season for the Paul Kane football program after last year’s 1-7-1 overall performance was the worst for the senior team since the inaugural 2011 metro campaign.
The team’s last game in 2016 was the 22-15 mistake-filled loss to the Lloydminster Barons in the Tier II north semifinals.
“I would say our offence is really good. We have a great quarterback (Connor Guy) and our receiving crew have moved the ball pretty good,” Gamble said. “Our defence has had a few bad games but towards the end of the season have kind of pulled things together.
“(In Wednesday’s) performance our defence really showed up so we’re looking good for our first game in the playoffs against Leduc.”
Lavoie, 17, agreed: “Our offence is probably our biggest asset for our team so for us to do well in playoffs our defence has to step up for sure,” said the second-year senior team player. “On offence we set our foot on the gas right off the start and we’re rolling.”
The Blues led 26-0 at halftime against the Bisons at Larry Olexiuk Field as Guy connected for TDs of eight yards to Gamble in the first quarter, two yards to Lavoie, which was set up by a long run by Guy and an unnecessary roughness flag on the play by the Bisons, and a brilliant pass play with Jake Strakowicz as the target in the far corner of the endzone. On the play before, Guy teamed up with Strakowicz on the same pattern but the official ruled the sleek Strakowicz didn’t have both feet in bounds even though he did.
Gamble also scored twice on two-point conversions and Strakowicz once.
The Bisons conceded a safety in punt formation in the endzone with 2:01 left in the first half as the Blues led by 26.
The second half in what was really a meaningless game with no playoff implications for both teams included a defensive TD by Gamble of about 30 yards on a snafu in the Bisons’ backfield.
Gamble, 17, has been lights out for the Blues offensively with a tremendous skill set that’s on par with Strakowicz, a dangerous pass catcher with high-octane quickness.
“I’m just pretty confident in games with my team behind me. Coaching has been really good and I feel I’ve improved a lot since last year,” said Gamble, who played for the junior Blues in 2016.