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Raiders pick it up in the playoffs

Kahnawa’kehró:non Kirk Horne holds the MRFL Peewee consolation medal. Courtesy Lisa Fazio

The Chateauguay Raiders have wrapped up another season, with four of their five competitive tackle football teams making it to their league’s top or consolation final. 

This year, the Raiders fielded two Atom teams (Silver and Black), a Mosquito team, and a Peewee team in the Montreal Regional Football League (MRFL), as well as a Bantam team in the Quebec Bantam Football League (QBFL).

Postseason action began with a rough start on the weekend of November 5, with the Atom Silver team losing in the semi-finals.

The Atom Black team, which had finished fourth in the league thanks to strong play from players like Kahnawa’kehró:non lineman Hendrix Leclaire, seemed destined for a similar result in that weekend’s consolation final. But down 19-0 in the first quarter, the team rallied from behind to win 36-27.

“It was just the kids coming together,” said Dale O’Neill, head coach of the Atom Black and Mosquito teams. “They’re a good group of kids. They played hard and they came back.”

The Mosquito team cruised to a 6-2 record and a top final matchup against the St. Laurent Spartans on November 11, which they lost 44-19.

Despite the loss, O’Neill had high praise for the team’s defence – led by stalwarts such as Kahnawa’kehró:non defensive backs Daylen Splicer and Leyton Kane – and their selfless play.

“I’ll tell you what, there was no superstar on that team, which is why we ended up getting to the final. Everyone did their job on both ends,” said O’Neill.

The Peewee team took home the consolation final that same weekend in a win against the LaSalle Warriors, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Kahnawa’kehró:non centre and snapper Kirk Horne. Even more impressive than his work on the field, Horne’s mother Lisa Fazio noted, was his growth over the course of the season – his first since he was seven years old.

“It helped him overall in terms of his confidence, his social skills, his growth as a person.… He learned about discipline and what it means to be part of a team,” Fazio said. 

Fazio also praised the welcoming atmosphere within the Raiders’ organization.

“For Orange Shirt Day, we suggested the team do something, and the team was super happy to put up a banner and a flag to support our community. This is the first sport he’s played off-reserve, so it was great for him to be on a team that was so friendly and inclusive,” Fazio said.

That spirit is also what Horne, 12, credited as a catalyst for the team’s success.

“We grew more as a team. At the start of the year, only a few people knew each other, but at the end, we really felt like a team,” said Horne.

The Bantam team, meanwhile, outperformed expectations in the playoffs. Posting a 2-5-1 record through eight regular season games, the team barely clung to a playoff berth before making an improbable run to the consolation final, where they fell in a 23-6 loss to the Sun Youth Hornets.

Asked what fuelled the Bantam team’s unlikely late season spark, Raiders’ president and Bantam coach Jim Petelle highlighted the team’s offensive growth as well as their linebackers, including Kahnawa’kehró:non standouts Isabel Bressette and Slade Two-Rivers, who played offensive and defensive line, respectively.

“Isabel was a trooper. She never missed practice and she worked very hard,” said Petelle.

“(Two-Rivers) was one of our top guys, making plenty of tackles,” he said. “He was always involved in the game.”

Asked about what this year’s season meant for the Raiders despite the mixed results, Petelle was brimming with positivity for the Raiders’ future.

“We got to all play into November, which was great for us, but more importantly great for the kids, who got to keep playing and keep having fun,” said Petelle.

“We just want to have a positive role in developing our communities and developing the kids in our communities, not just developing better football players.”

This article was originally published in print on Friday, November 17, in issue 32.46 of The Eastern Door.

Paxton Rodriguez
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