Hard to imagine anyone in any sport who wouldn’t be inspired by such a clear-cut circumstance.
And it’s exactly what the Spruce Grove Panthers and Bellerose Bulldogs face as they prepare for their last regular-season game in the Carr Conference, top level of football in the Metro Edmonton school sports system.
When players step onto the field at Riel Park on Friday, Spruce Grove will hold fourth place and the last playoff spot, with Chad Hill’s gritty St. Albert team one point behind.
Victory would propel the Panthers into third place and drop the Harry Ainlay Titans to fourth. Should the Bulldogs come through, they would climb to fourth place, leaving the top three teams – Bev Facey Falcons, Paul Kane Blues and Harry Ainlay — unmoved in playoff planning.
Whoever ultimately winds up fourth, the short-term fate is anything but rosy. The next opponent – Nov. 6 – would be Bev Facey, which went unbeaten in the seven-game season and wrapped up the perfection by hammering the Panthers 40-9 last week.
The third-place Titans stopped the Salisbury Sabres 35-17 while Paul Kane clipped the Jasper Place Rebels 54-14 and Bellerose thumped the winless Ross Sheppard Thunderbirds 52-24.
Only a few years ago, Hill’s team was a perpetual afterthought in almost every depthy discussion of top players or potential winners. Now, some names, including veteran quarterback Morgan Sherban are mentioned on a regular basis. He leads the Bulldogs in rushing and has throws for seven touchdowns while allowing only two interceptions.
Jaedon Carroll, Corbin Stewart, Eric Calkins and Zach Nuttall have also shown well on offence.
Quarterback Colby has shows terrific passing accuracy for Spruce Grove, using Luke Warren, Nick Hykawy and Connor Cote as targets while he threw 13 TD passes and was picked off only once.