With eight minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Estevan Lions Club Steelers trailed by only one point in their home opener against the Regina Sun Devils.
But it quickly became apparent that the bantam team didn't have enough stamina left to hang in the game, and they would lose 49-24 Sunday at Estevan Comprehensive School.
All three Estevan touchdowns came on the ground, with Levi Pick accounting for two and Matt Haux picking up the other.
"Levi played an outstanding game. Ran the ball hard. He literally punished defensive players as they tried to tackle him," said Steelers head coach Phil Zajac.
The Sun Devils got on the board first in the opening quarter, scoring on a 63-yard romp one play after the Steelers fumbled on a hand-off.
They added a short field goal early in the second quarter to take an 11-0 lead.
The Steelers would respond later in the quarter. Pick ran the ball about 30 yards to the Estevan 41 and there was also a 10-yard penalty to Regina on the play. Pick then found room for another outburst to the five-yard line.
Haux rolled right on the next play and squeaked into the end zone. The Steelers trailed 11-8 at the half.
But the Sun Devils took control again with back-to-back touchdowns in the first few minutes of the third quarter, coming on runs of 32 and one yard respectively. The latter major came after the visitors fumbled in the end zone but recovered it. That put the Sun Devils ahead 25-8.
Pick closed out a flag-littered third quarter with a one-yard plunge to get the Steelers within nine.
"We took a lot of penalties and unfortunately they were timely penalties that cost us. That's something we're just going to have to work on," said Zajac.
The Steelers drew within one point with eight minutes left when Kolby Dyck caught a 32-yard pass down to the Regina 27, followed by Pick's second touchdown of the day.
The Sun Devils quickly pulled away after that though, aided by a 25-yard penalty against the Steelers. They would score three touchdowns in the final eight minutes.
"In the fourth quarter we had a couple of bad breaks, a big penalty for 25 yards and an ejection of one of our better players. That really hurt us. It was kind of a turning point where unfortunately we lost momentum," said Zajac.
He added that conditioning is something that needs to be worked on and should get easier once the weather cools off.
"It's a hot day and with the tough-fought game, it's tough to get all the way through without getting tired at the end.
"Once we get this hot weather gone, it'll be easier for us to condition them a little harder in practice, but we can't gas them during the week."
The Steelers are back on the road on Saturday against the Regina Renegades.