Coming into this season, the expectations for the Fox River Raiders in 2017 were to win the Northern Lights Football League Championship. The coaches and players have put in the work and Saturday they’ll strap it up for the final time this season, looking to bring home a the trophy.
“It’s kind of surreal at the moment because we’ve been so close and I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” Raiders co-owner Mike Jerrick told Developmental Football USA. “Winning would prove what we’ve been saying from our first practice in December, ‘Trust the process.’ It would prove hard work, dedication and determination pays off.”
Each of Fox River’s past two seasons ended in the semifinals and last weekend, they found themselves trailing in the semifinals again, down 6-0 to the Jefferson County Chargers in the third quarter.
The Raiders got on the board with a Devin Binner field goal and finally took the lead on a 35-yard touchdown catch by Derrick Griffin.
The defense, which has been the nails of the team all season, cemented the win in the fourth quarter as Cullen Schaefer stripped the ball away from the Chargers, which James Miller ran in for the touchdown and a 17-6 win.
“The defense as a whole stepped up big,” Jerrick said. “The one stand out, or game MVP, would be Cullen Schaefer.”
Now, everything is on the line Saturday as the Raiders face the Brown County Blackjacks for all the marbles, in a re-match. Midway through this season, these two were the final unbeaten teams in the NLFL, until the Raiders pulled out a 25-17 win against them.
“We played them earlier this year and we are familiar with what they can do,” Jerrick said. “We expect this to be a battle. They have a fast, tough defense. Under the lights on July 29, guys just get amped up for that type of game.
“We are going to take the same approach we do every week. We knew we had a good squad going into this season and we knew there was a chance we’d be here, but we always focused on one game at a time.”
Bringing home a championship impacts much more than just the team and like any team that is fortunate enough to win one, it would do big things for the Raiders organization.
“As for the community, we are still establishing ourselves there, but we are gaining popularity and I believe if you do the right things and get involved in helping and giving back, people will support your efforts,” Raiders co-owner Mike Webb said.