Arch-rivals meet in high school football final
If you ask the head coaches there’s little to choose between the Hunting Hills Lightning and Notre Dame Cougars when the arch-rivals meet in the Central Alberta High School Football League final, Saturday at 6 p.m. at Great Chief Park.
“I believe the two teams are split down the middle,” said Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick. “It doesn’t matter where we play it will be a battle. Whichever team is better on that given day, and makes less mistakes, will be the team to beat.”
Cougars head coach Gino Castellan agrees.
“We’re two undefeated teams with similar offences. I know we’re ready and I know Kyle will have his team ready.”
All one has to do is look back to Sept. 21 to see just how close the two are when they battled to a 35-35 tie. It was the only blemish on either team’s record as they both posted a 3-0-1 mark in league play, won both of their non-conference exhibition games and both playoff games.
The Cougars are coming off an impressive 42-14 victory over the previously undefeated Stettler Wildcats while the Lightning survived a 14-10 battle with the Sylvan Lake Lakers.
“That was our best game of the year,” said Castellan. “It was a boost for the kids confidence as we were clicking on all cylinders.”
Castellan believes his team is playing better than the first time they faced then Lightning.
“Over the course of the year the kids’ confidence has grown. Our defence has come along. We faced a tough Stettler team that has one of the best running attacks in the league and we did a good job shutting them down.”
The Lightning’s defence has also continued to improve.
“We had a young defence and it’s grown up with every rep and every game this season. We did a good job against Sylvan Lake as they have one of the top offences in the league,” said Sedgwick.
Both defences will be tested Saturday as both teams use a diversified attack.
The Cougars ground game is led the league rushing and scoring champion Myles Corsiatto, who had 698 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. Quarterback Kieran Pruden threw for 918 yards and has a number of solid receivers in Jordan Briault (15 receptions), Luis Moreno (nine), Ryan Davis (six) Dustin Schaber (six) and Brady Podlosky (six).
Sedgwick knows he has to handle Corsiatto, but can’t set his defence to stop the run.
“Myles is a great runner, but we can’t only concentrate on him or Kieran and their receivers will beat us,” he said. “The key is to keep them off the field and I feel we have a balanced attack as well.”
The Lightning hope to be healthy with the return of running back Matt Russell from a “lower body injury.”
Russell was second in the league rushing with 372 yards, despite missing a game. Quarterback Scott Pearson was fifth in league rushing with 283 yards and a league-leading 8.3 average. Pearson also connected on 53.7 per cent of his passes for 584 yards and, like the Cougars, has a number of outstanding receivers in Ashton Hall (13 receptions), Tristan Wattenbarger (10), Russell (seven) and Branden Peterson (seven).
“They do have a balanced attack and it’s up to us to make the adjustments,” said Castellan.
It’s the third year in a row the Lightning made the final and the first time since 2002 it’s been an all-Red Deer final. They posted an undefeated season in 2010 and lost to the Lakers last year.
Both teams are also heading into the provincials on Nov. 10.
The Cougars are in Tier I and face the winner of the Lethbridge Collegiate Institute and Raymond contest at the home of the Southern Alberta champion. Hunting Hills is in Tier II and clashes with the South Central Alberta winner on the road.
Meanwhile the winner of the Stettler and Sylvan Lake third place game, which goes Saturday at 2 p.m. in Stettler, will represent the zone in Tier III and hosts the St. Paul Lions.
The West Central Rocky Mountain House Rebels are in Tier IV and visit Cold Lake.
l The Central Alberta bantam playoffs go Saturday with the Lacombe hosting Lindsay Thurber at 3:30 p.m.
The winner advances to the Tier II provincials and will face the Capital District B champion on the road Nov. 10. The Rocky Rebels visit Olds Saturday to determine the Tier III zone winner, who will visit the Calgary C team. In Tier IV the Drumheller Titans hosts Southern Alberta C.
l In peewee provincial semifinal play the Central Alberta champion visits the Calgary C team in Tier III action, Nov. 10, while in Tier IV the Central Alberta B team is at Lloydminster.