It was everything a clash of two unbeaten teams should be.
The Central Cyclones and Yorkton Raiders battled to the final play Saturday night in Yorkton. The game was up for grabs all night, until Cyclones defensive back Royce Hanna batted down a pass in his end zone on the last play of the game to give Central a 24-20 win.
“It was the most intense game I’ve been a part of since I started coaching,” said Central head coach Colin Belsher.
“These guys played with a ton of heart. It was great for us, as coaches, to see them come out and play four quarters of football. That’s something we’ve been looking for since the beginning of the season. These boys played hard from the opening kickoff until the final whistle. You could see it on their faces — there was a lot of emotion running through these boys through the entire game.”
The game was the second annual ‘Friday Night Lights’ game at Century Field. That made it the biggest home game of the season for the Raiders. When it turned out to be a first-place showdown, that only added to the atmosphere in Yorkton.
“It was really unique. They had the light standards up and the stands were packed. We were on the fan side, so we had the fans to our backs — much like a professional game,” said Belsher.
The Cyclones took a 7-0 lead when quarterback Bren Forbes scored a touchdown to cap a drive. Yorkton tied the score later in the half and that’s how it stood at half time.
“We came out flying in the second half,” said Belsher.
Forbes ran in for another touchdown and threw a 40-yard pass to Jonathan Phillips for another touchdown to give the Cyclones a 22-7 lead.
“They had a couple of big plays and scored. Then they recovered the ensuing on-side kick. There were a couple of other big plays and they scored again,” said Belsher.
Those touchdowns moved the Raiders to within 22-20. The Cyclones earned a safety and then had to hang on for the final play after taking a pair of pass interference calls on the final drive.
The win gives the Cyclones a 4-0 record, while the Raiders fall into a tie for second with Peacock at 3-1, though Yorkton owns the tiebreak after beating Peacock head-to-head.
If the Cyclones can finish first in the standings they would earn a bye into a semifinal.