Sabres celebrate under the lights

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With head coach Chris Harvey shouting “it’s do or die”, his Simcoe Sabres seized the moment.
Behind three points in the final moments, the Sabres not only blocked a punt deep in Delhi territory but scored in the last minute to top Delhi 28-24 in the 2018 Friday Night Lights football contest at DDSS Oct. 5.
With a few hundred fans looking on, the two teams engaged in a slugfest with drama that rivaled the game’s TV show of the same name.
“It was our first time winning Friday Night Lights so it was a big game,” said Sabre Nolan Rankin, the game’s MVP. “There’s a lot of Delhi fans out here and something (Harvey) wanted us to do was at the end of the game, he just wanted Sabres and crickets out here and we made that happen.”
Rankin was spectacular on the night, scoring three times including a three-yard plunge on third and goal with less than a minute to go to give Simcoe the lead for good.
The play was set up by the SCS special teams unit as Matt Lightheart blocked a DDSS punt with 1:48 to play, giving the Sabres great field position and a chance to improve to 2-1 on the year. It also meant the Sabres retained the Mud Jug – a vintage trophy that goes to the winner of the Delhi vs. Simcoe rivalry.
“It happened so quick,” said Lightheart. “I was running, I saw (an opportunity) and I just thought I would get myself in front of it, then I saw my buddy Al (Forde) run in front of me, he got on the ball and that was the happiest moment I’ve had in the past year since we won (the Mud Jug).”
Lightheart said he had no doubt the Sabres would convert, even when they were facing a third and goal for all the Tostitos.
“No, we’ve been practising the whole time, I had nothing but faith,” he said. “We earned this, we really did and it was a good job by every Sabre.”
The result was yet another tough-luck loss for the Raiders, who are now 0-3. The contest actually looked like a blowout when the visitors went ahead 14-0 in the first quarter, but two scores by speedster Jacob Schooley and a Raiders field goal got Delhi right back in the game. DDSS regained the lead when Daunte Henriques took a handoff and scampered 57-yards to the house in the fourth quarter.
With the crowd in a frenzy sensing their team’s first win, the Sabres managed to turn things around.

Simcoe ball carrier Ryan Kelly tries to shed the tackle of Delhi defender Jared Boodram during the Friday Night Lights game at Delhi District Secondary School on Friday, Oct.5, 2018. Jacob Robinson/Simcoe Reformer DN

“It was a good effort, we really pulled together in the first half and the second half we were battling every play,” said Jaxson Zurby, Delhi’s quarterback and kicker. “It’s just unfortunate, the blocked punt – with unfortunate events you can’t do anything about them. We’ve just got to be positive and come back next week and hopefully get a W.”
As the game wore on, Simcoe’s size and senior experience seemed to give them a slight edge over their younger competitors.
“They’re a senior team and have some bigger guys, we’re obviously a young team so that was a big difference,” Zurby said.
Now past the halfway point of the year, the Raiders will visit Valley Heights in Week 4 in a virtual must-win.
“We’ve just got to get our plays to perfection so we can be ready for the playoffs,” said Zurby. “Just get them down and hopefully go to Valley and get a W. We just need to continue practising repetition and by then we should be good.”
Ryan Kelly also found the end zone for Simcoe, catching a ten-yard pass from quarterback Staige Harvey. Simcoe will play its second premier game in a row in Week 4 as they visit Waterford in the Pumpkin Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
Jamal Barrow, one of three Simcoe backs, was injured after a big run to set up Rankin’s game-winning score. He was all smiles afterward though.
“The arm is a little sore,” he admitted. “But we’ve got Nolan Rankin so it’s all good.”
In other Haldimand-Norfolk Football League action, Waterford improved to 3-0 with a 35-13 victory over Holy Trinity (0-3) while McKinnon Park (3-0) erased a 20-9 second-quarter deficit to defeat Valley Heights 38-20. The Bears fall to 1-2 with the loss.