The Hunting Hills Lightning offence was in fine form once again Thursday evening, but it was their defence that was front and centre before 333 fans at Great Chief Park.
The Lightning defenders limited the Lacombe Rams to 65 net yards as the defending Central Alberta High School Football League champions pitched a resounding 46-0 shutout.
“Our defence played well, we played aggressive,” said Hunting Hills defensive back/receiver/punter Zech Pilgrim, who finished the night with an interception, a 38-yard reception and four punts that totaled 177 yards.
“We wanted to set the tone right off the bat. We started making our tackles and we shut them down.”
The Lightning, who improved to 3-0 in league play, were coming off an impressive 27-8 exhibition win over host Medicine Hat High last Friday.
“We had a strong game there and it was nice to carry that over into tonight’s game,” said Pilgrim.
The Lightning actually struggled to move the ball without being penalized early in the contest and were up 8-0 — on a pair of safeties, a 23-yard field goal by Eder Arias and a missed 35-yard field goal attempt — before finally busting through for a touchdown late in the first half.
League leading rusher Brandt Burzuk ran 27 yards for a major with 1:46 remaining in the half, and then — following a quick two-and-out by the Rams — scored on a 60-yard punt return. Arias booted a 28-yard field goal with six seconds showing on the clock and the Lightning were up 25-0 at the break.
“We had a slow start. It was a short week for us, we had a tough game last week and the guys were a little tired,” said Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick. “Lacombe came out swinging and we had to get our legs going before we got a couple of big plays.
“Earlier, it seemed like every time we got a big play we took a penalty, but our defence held us in there, which is impressive considering they (Rams) have a good running back and a quarterback with a good arm. Our defence held us in until our offence got going, which hopefully is not going to be an ongoing problem. Tonight it was, but we found a way.”
Kaden Hall scored on a 17-yard run early in the third quarter and quarterback Eric Thomson hooked up with Josh Patterson on a 40-yard pass-and-run play for a touchdown four minutes later.
Alex Sugrue completed the Lightning attack with a two-run touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter and Arias added his fifth convert of the evening.
Burzuk led all rushers with 88 yards on 11 carries, while Thomson completed five of 13 passes for 133 yards. Ryan Neamtu was the Lightning’s top receiver with two catches for 60 yards.
Mustapha Yekini, Brandon Rees and Layton Barisenkoff also operated under the Lightning centre late in the contest and combined to complete five of six passes for minus-three yards.
“Tonight, everyone who dressed got into the game, which is tough to do the way our league is and how competitive it is,” said Sedgwick.
Lacombe quarterback Jonathan Ericson, whose team fell to 0-3, was good on seven of 15 pass attempts for 48 yards, his primary target being Lucas Wessner who gained 34 yards on four receptions. Logan Ellis paced the Rams ground attack with 45 yards on nine carries.
The Lightning are idle until next Friday when they face the Notre Dame Cougars, who take on the Lindsay Thurber Raiders tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Great Chief Park.
l Sedgwick took great pride in his team’s performance last week at Medicine Hat.
“They have a smaller roster, but that’s a program that has produced six current CFLers,” said the Lightning sideline boss.
“It’s a strong program down there and they were in the (Tier 2) provincial final last year against (Grande Prairie) St. Joseph’s.
“Those are the games we want to play. We need to play teams that we’re