About the only thing that might stop the Delhi Raiders football club this season is a string of unfortunate injuries.
The Raiders were dominant again Friday as they cruised to a 42-7 win over the Simcoe Sabres during the teams’ annual Mud Jug showdown. With the victory, Delhi improves to two wins against zero losses so far this season.
Friday’s game took place at Simcoe Composite School but the location was anything but home-field advantage for the hosts.
With the wind at their back, the Raiders took advantage of a powerful kicking game to lock Simcoe up against its goal line through the first quarter. This produced great field position on several possessions and a 14-0 first-quarter lead that Delhi would not surrender.
“As coaches, we’re really happy with how the guys played,” the Raiders’ David Leatherland said. “They looked like a really good football team today.”
Leatherland was hard-pressed to find anything to criticize after the game.
“The Raider defence would have an answer for everything that the Sabres offence attempted,” Leatherland said in a post-game report.
“The Raider defence and special teams would set the offence up in great field position throughout the first half.
“The Raider defence continued to play strong as they were tough against the run and equally effective in limiting the Sabres passing game.”
Friday’s mauling demonstrates what a difference a week can make in the world of football. Two weeks ago, the Sabres coaching staff was pleased with the effort in a 13-7 loss against the Waterford Wolves.
“It’s frustrating,” said head coach Chris Harvey. “But well done for our guys. We’ll take it from here. It was a far superior effort to what we had (Sept. 20, a 20-6 win over Holy Trinity). A win today would barely have made me happier, so good for us.”
Then came the bombshell announcement Sept. 30 that Harvey had been arrested and charged with two counts of shoplifting. The charges stem from alleged incidents at the Real Canadian Superstore on the Queensway East in Simcoe Sept. 20 and Sept. 22.
In response, the Grand Erie District School Board said the veteran physical education instructor would work from home until the charges were resolved.
That takes Harvey out of the picture until further notice. By mid-week, the Sabres’ offensive co-ordinator Frank Rankin had the top job and faced his first test Friday against the Raiders.
Suffice it to say the optimism of September has given way to the understanding that the Sabres have a lot of work to do before they are truly competitive.
The Raiders relied on a strong running and kicking game en route to a 35-0 lead at the half. A quick second half later and Delhi was heading west with the Mud Jug in tow.
“It was a tough loss,” Rankin said. “Delhi is a good team and we didn’t execute the way we can execute. When you don’t play the way you know you can play it can get away on you quickly.”
Rankin was asked how the Sabres dealt with the news that their head coach was indisposed.
“We just focused on the game – focused on football,” he said.
For his part, Raiders coach Leatherland is coping with an embarrassment of riches.
The Sabres blocking game was missing in action as the Raiders repeatedly and relentlessly swarmed receivers on punts and kick-offs. On more than a few occasions the speedy Jacob Schooley ran handoffs for massive yards against over-matched Simcoe defenders.
Schooley scored three of Delhi’s touchdowns. Also taking it into the house were Jaxson Zurby, Adam Leatherland and Ty DeJonghe. Zurby was good for five conversions.
Nolan Rankin accounted for all of Simcoe’s scoring with a rouge and an unconverted touchdown.
The Mud Jug was started in 1970 in recognition of the intense sports rivalry between SCS and DDSS. The teams play for a stoneware jug that was decorated 50 years ago by local teacher and artist Ross Bateman.
The jug is a relic of a different time. The inscription references “The Annual Senior Football Game.” This acknowledges that – back in the day – the county’s five high schools had enough students to outfit both a senior football team and a junior team.
Enrolment has shrunk considerably since then. Today, Norfolk football teams feature a mix of students from grades 9 to 12.