Lightning 31 Rams 21
What looked to be an easy victory turned out to be anything but for the Hunting Hills Lightning.
The Lightning jumped into a 24-0 lead, but were forced to hang on to pull out a 31-21 victory over the Lacombe Rams in Central Alberta High School Football League A-side semifinal playoff action before 332 fans at Great Chief Park Friday.
“No doubt we relaxed when we got up,” said Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick. “One of the toughest things is to play a team twice in a two to three week period, especially after a lopsided win the first time. When we got ahead we relaxed. Then we let up on a kick return and they take it to the three, score just before the half and get the momentum.
“They have too many Grade 12s and too much pride in their program for us to let down before the half is even over.”
The Lightning grabbed a 24-0 lead at 11:31 of the second quarter on a five-yard pass from quarterback Jarrett Burzuk to receiver Tristan Wattenbarger and a Skylar Roth convert. However, the Rams Ashton Jones brought the following kickoff back to the Lightning three with 12 seconds remaining. Despite an offside penalty the Rams scored with 1.4 seconds remaining on an eight-yard pass from Judah Knip to Josh Prevost.
The second half belonged to the Rams with Durwin Blabey picking up a fumble and scoring at 9:22 of the third quarter and Knip hitting SaDair Nobel on a 12-yard touchdown strike at 3:11 of the fourth quarter. Lachlan Jacobs converted all three majors making the score 24-21.
The Lightning still couldn’t generate any offence, but an outstanding interception by Evan Petriew late in the final quarter was the play of the game for the Lightning.
Three plays, and two penalties, later Jin Ahn went in from the six to give the Lightning the breathing room they needed. Petriew also converted the final touchdown, as he replaced Roth, who was injured on the Rams long kick return late in the first half.
“This game was much like last year’s semifinal,” said Sedgwick. “We handled Sylvan Lake fairly handily in the regular season, then it was 14-10 in the semifinals. But this will build character and as long as we get some of the injured guys back it will only help us going forward.”
Jin, on a 11-yard pass, and on a one-yard run scored twice in the first quarter for the Lightning with Roth kicking two converts and adding a 20-yard field goal.
Matt Russell had 63 yards rushing on 12 carries and Ahn added 56 on 13 carries. Prevost had 73 yards on 20 carries for the Rams. Burzuk hit on 18 of 27 passes for 245 yards while Knip connected on 13 of 27 passes for 229 yards.
Ashton Hall had seven catches for 101 yards for Hunting Hills and Nobel grabbed nine for 191 yards for the Rams.
The Lightning face Sylvan Lake in the final, tentatively scheduled for next Saturday at Great Chief Park.
• The Lakers survived a late scare and downed the host Rocky Mountain House Rebels 25-21 in the other A-side semifinal, earning a championship final date with the Lightning.
Shon Zenert scored two touchdowns for the winners, who clinched the victory when the Rebels lost a fumble at the Lakers’ 11-yard line on the last play of the game. Landon Rosene accounted for the other Sylvan Lake major, while Rosene added a two-point convert and Aden Smaill booted a field goal and two converts.
Zach Hazen had two touchdowns and a single for the Rebels. Darcy Gusek scored the other Rocky major and Kevin Shin had two converts.
Gusek led all rushers with 127 yards on 14 carries, while teammate Cooper Wood ran for 104 yards on nine trips. Rosene had a team-best 98 yards rushing for the visitors.