It wasn’t perfect by any means, but the Hunting Hills Lightning looked like a team that wasn’t about to give the Central Alberta High School Football League title away without a fight.
The Lightning scored the first four times they touched the ball and rolled over the Stettler Wildcats 49-7 in non-conference play before over 300 fans at Great Chief Park Thursday.
Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick liked what he saw from his offence, but felt there were a lot of things to work on before the team opens conference play Thursday against the Lakers in Sylvan Lake.
“Defensively we need to do a lot of work,” he said. “They had two drives over six minutes in the first half alone and ran the ball against us. We are undersized and we were gassed at times because we didn’t get off the field. We told the line that they can’t be waiting for someone else to be doing the job. They’re the ones in there now and have to make the plays. Our linebackers did a good job, but they’re a bit undersized as well and the line can’t be letting the offensive line get to them.”
Still the defence improved as the game wore on. In fact late in the first half Riley Gasser made an outstanding play to stop the Wildcats on a third and one. Four plays later Jin Ahn darted in from the five to make the score 28-7 at the half.
“It seemed that the flow the game turned a bit on that play by Riley,” said Sedgwick. “But still teams watching this game must know they can run on us. It’s also great we score on 50-yard runs, but if the defence is on the field for six minute drives and the offence scores right away it means a tired defensive group will be back on right away.
“We need to control the play on defence as well and that means coming out ready to play from the outset.”
But while the defence needs experience, which will come, the offence led by running backs Matt Russell and Ahn was impossible to stop.
Both Russell and Ahn scored three touchdowns each with Ahn carrying the ball eight times for 194 yards and Russell six times for 102.
Tanner Whitelaw scored the other touchdown on a 13 yard run in the fourth quarter. Skylar Roth kicked five converts and quarterback Jarrett Burzuk hit Ashton Hall on a two-point convert.
Burzuk was three-of-six passes for 37 yards while Brett Barrett hit two-of-three for three yards.
“Because of our quick-strike running game we didn’t get a chance to work on some things we planned on working on,” said Sedgwick. “But our backs just made the plays. They’d turn a 10-yard run into a 50-yard touchdown and so we didn’t get a chance to see a lot from our quarterbacks in terms of throwing the ball. But then when they did have to make a play they did a good job.”
Wildcats head coach Norbert Baharally could only shake his head when talking about the Lightning ground game.
“Defensively I thought we could handle them a bit, but they have some very good backs with a lot of speed and once they got into space we couldn’t catch them. They are big time players.”
The Wildcats came into the game a bit shorthanded and had to use a number of players both ways.
“We’ve lacked bodies since the fall camp. We’re lucky to have 24 guys out at a practice,” said Baharally. “I was actually impressed considering we haven’t had a lot of reps so far. We also had two guys on the offensive line who have never played football before and they did OK.”
Thomas Cassidy led the ‘Cats with 50 yards rushing on 16 carries while quarterback Stephen Zuk hit on six-of-16 passes for 53 yards. Zuk scored the lone touchdown on a seven-yard run while Frank Van Ommeren kicked the convert, which made the score 13-7 midway through the second quarter.
The Wildcats return to action Friday when they visit Camrose.
In other non-conference play Thursday, the Wetaskiwin Sabres edged the Lakers 28-27 in Wetaskiwin.
Tonight the Notre Dame Cougars host the Ponoka Broncs at 7:30 p.m. at Great Chief Park while the Rocky Mountain House Rebels visit the Lacombe Rams at 7 p.m.