In boxing terms, the Notre Dame Cougars consistently delivered a left lead followed by a right cross Thursday night at Great Chief Park.
In other words . . .
“Our running backs, both of them, played well. They’re great runners, it’s nice to have that one-two punch,” said Cougars head coach Gino Castellan, in reference to Johannes Smith and Justin Fedun following a 37-14 Central Alberta High School Football League drubbing of the Lacombe Rams.
Smith rushed for 160 yards on 17 carries and scored three touchdowns, while Fedun carried the ball on 11 occasions for 135 yards and entered the end zone twice.
The victory evened the Cougars’ record at 1-1, with the Rams falling to 0-2.
The outcome wasn’t settled until late as Smith scored on a 43-yard run with 2:20 remaining and Fedun ran 19 yards to paydirt just under a minute later to seal the deal.
That the Rams were able to close the gap to 23-14 — when quarterback Jon Ericson scored on a one-yard keeper and then hit Lucas Wessner in the corner of the end zone for a two-point convert with 5:07 left — bothered Castellan.
“I thought our offence played well in spurts, but there was still a lot of mistakes which I’m not happy about,” he said. “Defensively, we got pushed around a bit and I wasn’t happy with that.
“We’re going to have to work on things this week because I think we’re going to play a tougher team next (Lindsay Thurber Raiders on Sept. 25). We’re going to have to practise hard, make a few adjustments, change some personnel and see what happens.”
Neither team was able to move the ball with any consistency in a scoreless opening quarter, but Smith scored back-to-back majors in the second quarter and Payton LaGrange added a two-point convert before Ericson replied for the Rams on a one-yard run for a touchdown that wasn’t converted.
Fedun provided the Cougars with a 23-6 half-time lead with an 11-yard touchdown run on the final play of the quarter and then provided the big play of a scoreless third quarter with a 48-yard punt return.
The Rams pulled to within nine points on Ericson’s second major and then recovered an on-side kick at the Cougars 53-yard line. But Notre Dame’s Kaiden Collisson recovered a fumble on the next play to kill that threat and LaGrange snuffed out another Lacombe drive with an interception and ensuing 22-yard return with 2:31 remaining.
The Cougars’ running game netted 309 yards, while quarterback Devin Desormeau completed six of 10 passes for 70 yards.
“We gelled today and when the blocks happen we get yards,” said Smith.
“It takes a full team to get those yards.”
Taylor Vida caught three passes for 52 yards as the Cougars’ top receiver. Ericson was good on five of 21 pass attempts for 60 yards, with Ben Arifin hauling in four balls for 55 yards.
The Rams ran for 157 yards, with Logan Ellis rushing for 79 on 13 carries and Kyle Popp gaining 63 on 17 trips.
Parker Dahl booted four converts for the winners and added a single point on a kickoff.
While the Cougars were far from perfect, they at least got into the win column.
“That’s what I told them pregame — ‘We’re oh and one and let’s get back on the winning side’,” said Castellan. “Overall, I’m satisfied. Everyone got into the game.”
Despite his team’s uneven performance, Smith sees plenty of positive potential in the Cougars.
“We know our positions and I can see us going far and doing very well this season,” he said.
The Hunting Hills Lightning host Lindsay Thurber tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Great Chief Park. Elsewhere, the Camrose Trojans visit the Sylvan Lake H.J. Cody Lakers and the Wetaskiwin Sabres are in Rocky Mountain House to face the Rebels, with both games starting at 4:30 p.m.