GOTW AB: CFC50 No. 21 Harry Ainlay Titans looking to 3-peat against CFC50 No. 12 Salisbury Sabres in battle of northern Alberta

Ainlay. Sal. Here we go again….

The CFC50 GOTW in Alberta is a highly anticipated one in Edmonton. CFC50 No. 12 the Salisbury Sabres is up against CFC50 No. 21 the Harry Ainlay Titans. We previewed this game last year and the stage was set the same. Both teams were undefeated in regular season play, both teams boasted a bevy of talent all over the field, and both teams were well coached, and have well established programs that see themselves pulling away from their competitors each year more and more. That one ended in Ainlay taking the win, 25-7.

This year’s match will no doubt be full of ‘hold your breath moments’ and if the weather stays true, they will even be playing in similar winter, blizzard conditions that is so much fun to play in…tongue in cheek. Salisbury has been chomping at the bit to get down to business and redeem themselves from last year’s loss.

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Head Coach of the Sabres, Cam Fraser, said their goals have changed this year from last.

Last year we were just happy to get to the City Championship against Harry Ainlay, this year our goals have changed. We learned to play with discipline and protect the ball. Turnovers and bad penalties killed us last year and we have to better job managing those to win.”

Both teams recognize that this rivalry has only just recently started – say within the last 5 years. They are the top two teams in the Metro Edmonton High School Athletic Association. Bev Facey was also in the mix, but has since dropped off in recent years.

Harry Ainlay head coach, Brock Ralph, doesn’t look at this as a rivalry though, and said, “Last year means nothing. We look forward to this challenge against Salisbury. The regular season is getting closer to a finish so now is a good time to see where we are at and expect playoff football form”.

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Ainlay is going into this one 5-0 and 1-1 in non-conference play. As mentioned above, their competitors really don’t have much to say in the matter with scores of 63-0, 51-0, 61-0, 41-8, and 49-9. This will be their only real competition they see in the regular season and one where all of their starters will play more than just one half of football.

The Sabres are in a similar boat. They have beat their opponents, 49-15, 63-0, 65-6, 65-0, and 42-7 – also with a 5-0 regular season record. They are also 1-0 in non-conference play. You can see why then, how important this game truly is and what it means to all the players from both teams.

CFC100 quarterback Caleb Taylor for the Sabres says there is a bond between many of the players on both teams.

The matchup is special because so many of us either have trained together, played together or went to camps together. All of us players know each other well and want to beat each other,” he explained. 

Sounds like a healthy rivalry to us. However, we all know when the pads go on and the whistle blows, it’s friends OFF.

6’1, 170lbs CFC100 receiver Kolby Hurford also recognizes that this is the biggest rivalry in Alberta in the past 3 years. “The Sal-Ainlay rival has been the biggest battle in Alberta for past 3 years lots of scraping and great competition with in the game and we have fallen short past two years but hope to change that this year,” he said. 

Ainlay quarterback, CFC100 Jackson Harnett will be at the helm in this epic matchup. Harnett participated in the CFC Fox 40 Prospect Challenge last year and earned the MVP for the Future Stars team. He isn’t looking to come out on the losing end of this one.

“Ainlay and Sal has been the biggest game of the season for some years now, we both are very strong teams with a lot of top prospects. This game is the game to see who takes their first lost of the season,” he said. Harnett goes on to say that he has been working hard all season – “grinding”. He has been playing both quarterback and receiver this year. He’s hoping his production on the field this year will help him to climb the rankings and continue to work towards being the best he can be. And a 6’1 and 185lbs, Harnett is working hard to get there. So far in 2 1/2 games at the QB position, he is 24/38 for 440 yards passing, 5 passing touchdowns, with no interceptions. He also has 5 carries for 28 yards and 3 rushing touchdowns.

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In order to prepare for this type of game – and really, for all games – focus, discipline, and attention to detail will be key for all who step on the field and occupy the sideline. Taylor believes that the Sabres need to execute their deep pass game, spreading out his offensive weapons and getting to the end zone.

“No penalties, clean pocket, and getting guys open in the passing game,” is what Caleb will be focusing on this week. He added, “Most games we are up by 50 at halftime so attempts are low but need to be effective with the opportunities we have in [the] pass game”.

Leading the league in efficiency and touchdowns, at 6’3 and 165lbs, Taylor, in 5 games played, is 49/74, 1016 yards, 14 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions. He also has 16 carries for 74 yards – and this is with only playing half a game of each of those as Sal have sat many of their starters at the half for all their games.

You can see that Sal relies on their pass game – one that results in a lot of big plays. Hurford is a part of this balanced offense and we have seen just how dynamic he can be. Hurford is leading the league in receiving and punt return yards with 12 receptions for 392 yards and 8 touchdown receptions, 9 carries for 114 yards rushing with 1 rushing touchdown, and 17 punt returns for 229 yards. He was also a participant in the inaugural CFC Prospect Game in Ottawa in June that was broadcast on TSN and has recently committed to the University of Alberta Golden Bears.

Harnett won’t be thinking about anything or anyone else, but playing his game. “Going into this game my main focuses are keeping my head clear of any talking and just play my game, fast release with a quick ball and finally driving the ball downfield and putting points on the board,” he said. And he’ll have lots of time to do that with 6’7 290lbs offensive tackle CFC100 Albert Reese on the line of scrimmage. 

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“Salisbury and Harry Ainlay are some of the best programs in northern Alberta, and there are some very good positional matchups as well.” Reese mentioned, People can expect to see our players constantly looking for work on offence and always rushing to the ball carrier on defence”.

He continued to say that he is personally going to come out as aggressive as possible and work to finish his blocks as best he can. His team will also have to limit the penalties to avoid giving Salisbury any extra ground. “It will be a good opportunity to see how we match up to a strong team,” he added. 

Reese, who has offers from Illinois State and Grambling State, was also a participant in the CFC Prospect Game. He won the team MVP as well in that game. Along with Hurford, he recently committed to the University of Alberta.

This game will be won with the devil in the details and the team who performs with the least amount of mistakes and penalties will come out on top.

“Execution is our key. That accompanied by playing aggressive and smart,” said Coach Ralph in what he believes will be the determining factors for winning this game. 

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The Titans won’t be alone as their school spirit is high and there will be bound to be fans from both teams there to cheer on their school.

When you see Ainlay run out on to that field you should be ready for high energy and high intensity, our school spirit represents how we play on the field #IATE,” said Harnett. 

Sal will need to be ready for the 13th player, but they will need to be more grounded in controlling the line of scrimmage.

Coach Fraser concluded, “Winning the battle in the trenches with the O and D lines. Last year they dominated us up front and will be the key to victory for both teams on Friday night”.

Friday Night Lights won’t get any better than this. If you’re in the area, head to Foote Field in Edmonton. Kickoff is at 5:00pm!

 

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