Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff-LTCHS football 4 ---Lindsay Thurber Raider offensive lineman River Jonasson runs through a drill at practice on Wednesday. The Raiders will open up their season on the field with a game against the Hunting Hills Lightning Friday

Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff-LTCHS football 4 ---Lindsay Thurber Raider offensive lineman River Jonasson runs through a drill at practice on Wednesday. The Raiders will open up their season on the field with a game against the Hunting Hills Lightning Friday

Raiders poised to handle expectations this season

The Lindsay Thurber Raiders learned a little something about expectations during the 2013 Central Alberta High School Football season. They went into the campaign hoping to push the Hunting Hills Lightning for top spot, but struggled against rivals Notre Dame and Rocky Mountain House, ultimately losing in the first round of provincials to the Salisbury Sabres.

The Lindsay Thurber Raiders learned a little something about expectations during the 2013 Central Alberta High School Football season.

They went into the campaign hoping to push the Hunting Hills Lightning for top spot, but struggled against rivals Notre Dame and Rocky Mountain House, ultimately losing in the first round of provincials to the Salisbury Sabres.

Their expectations this season may be even higher with a veteran team returning, but they have a much better idea of how to handle that self imposed pressure.

“We have to manage expectations and play every down,” said head coach Dave Smith.

They have all of the elements of a successful team — a dominant offensive line, a deep corps of receivers, an exciting prospect at quarterback, and a tough physical defence with one of the best secondaries in Central Alberta.

With a little more than a week to go before their season opens up on Sept. 5 against Hunting Hills, the trick is getting it all on the same page.

“If we keep the work ethic we have right now and keep the team speed up, there’s definitely a chance that we can go and win it all,” said Grade 12 free safety Owen Smith. “We all believe and the coaches all believe it, so that’s the goal.”

The secondary will be led by Smith, coming off a summer playing with Team Alberta’s U-18 team at the Red River Cup in Winnipeg.

The five-foot-11, 165-pound defensive back says that experience will be integral to his and the team’s success this year.

Smith says after playing with the best players in his age group, play has slowed down on the field for him, from a recognition stand point. He also hopes he picked up a few new traits of his own.

“Everybody there is big and physical and they want to let you know it, so I just want to bring that back and have a real physical game this fall,” he said.

The bulk of the defensive backs unit — also including Dawson McCrea, Sam Vesely — has been together since peewee football and are a cohesive unit.

“We didn’t graduate anybody in the secondary last year, so we’re all returning, we all know the system and we’re all really close,” said Smith, who is also the team’s kicker and returns punts.

But the head coach says there will be no passivity on defence. They are going to hit hard and force their opponents to make mistakes with a linebacking corps led by Bryce Maki and a defensive line led by Marty Maksymetz and Riley Ackerman.

Offensively, the team is loaded with potential.

There is heated battle for playing time during camp at the receiver position with a strong returning group — Gordie Walls, T.K. Kunaka and Colbi Street — being pushed by a number of young wideouts including Jonathan Goulet and David Dunbar.

But Walls says the group is not just about depth.

“We’ve got some that are a little younger with lots of potential, but we have a lot of older guys that have lots of experience and really high quality receivers for high school,” he said.

The biggest wildcard is a former receiver. Grade 10 standout Ben Pasiuk has been moved to quarterback to replace the graduated Braydon Moorman.

Pasiuk has played the position for much of his football life until last year, but he was regarded as one of the best young receivers in the province, also making the U-18 provincial team.

Walls says he has looked strong through the first week of training camp.

“Everything I’ve seen so far has been thrown good and he has a lot of potential to do some running from the quarterback position,” he said. “We’ve been passing a lot at practice, making sure all of plays are crisp and making sure the quarterback knows all of the reads on all of the plays.”

But Smith says the team will not live and die through the air.

Balance is going to be key this year with a running game led by Brad Pope and Vesely.

The foundation of that balanced offence will be their veteran line, anchored by Jared Ferguson, Matt Atchison and Tony Morelli.

“If everyone shows up and plays well, we have the ability to hurt you through the air and hurt teams on the ground,” said Smith.

The league also moved to a new format this year with the top two tiers playing each other and the bottom two tiers playing each other. This means Lindsay Thurber, Hunting Hills, Notre Dame and Lacombe will play each other twice each, setting up a potentially higher level of competition among the four schools.

The high point of 2013 for the Raiders last season was beating the Thunder in the third week, but they were not able to capitalize on that momentum.

Playing Hunting Hills in the first week will let them know right away just where they stand.

“We’re certainly shooting for a league championship and a strong showing at provincials,” said Smith. “(Hunting Hills) is a very good team but that was a big game for us last year … we know they’re beatable as well. We have to learn how to play as well after a game like that as we did before it we were pretty happy with ourselves and we have to learn how to keep going.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

File photo
Gov’t of Alberta identifies estimated 300 new COVID-19 cases Sunday

Online COVID-19 dashboard unavailable as upgrades being completed

The Central Alberta Freestyle Ski Club is hoping to win $50,000 through the Mackenzie Investments Top Peak contest. (Contributed photo)
Central Alberta ski club trying to win $50K in online contest

A central Alberta ski club has entered a contest where it can… Continue reading

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Red Deer dips below 300 active COVID-19 cases

The number of active COVID-19 cases in Red Deer continued to drop… Continue reading

Ben King scores for the Red Deer Rebels during the third period of a Western Hockey League game against the Calgary Hitmen at the Westerner Park Centrium Saturday. (Photo by Rob Wallator/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels complete comeback to pick up first win of season

Rebels 3 Hitmen 2 (OT) The Red Deer Rebels were able to… Continue reading

Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan takes part in a year-end interview with The Canadian Press at National Defence Headquarters in Ottawa on December 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives to call top Sajjan, Trudeau aides to testify on Vance allegations

OTTAWA — The federal Conservatives plan to summon two senior Liberal aides… Continue reading

Elvira D'Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Several provinces were preparing to loosen COVID-19 restrictions on Sunday, as Canada’s… Continue reading

Mount Pearl Senior High in Mount Pearl, N.L., remains closed on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. The provincial health authority says there were 185 cases at 22 schools, including 145 infections among staff and students of one high school in Mount Pearl that was an early epicentre of the outbreak. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Daly
In Newfoundland and Labrador, three ingredients made for explosive COVID-19 outbreak

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — With her classes, three part-time jobs and a… Continue reading

A passenger places a tag on luggage at the departure terminal at Toronto Pearson Airport, in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, May 24, 2019. The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted many recent immigrants to leave Canada and return to their countries of origin, where they have more social and familial connections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
COVID-19 pandemic prompts recent newcomers to leave Canada for their home countries

OTTAWA — The economic and life disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic… Continue reading

Rail cars wait for pickup in Winnipeg, Sunday, March 23, 2014. The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian oil and gas on trains destined for the United States — a country experts fear is ill-equipped for the potential consequences. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
As debate rages over cross-border pipelines, U.S. analysts brace for more oil by rail

WASHINGTON — The fierce debate over cross-border pipelines is putting more Canadian… Continue reading

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

VICTORIA — Legal experts and a mother whose ex-partner was convicted of… Continue reading

Radio and television personality Dick Smyth is shown in an undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO
Dick Smyth, Canadian maestro of news radio commentary, dies at 86

TORONTO — Radio and television personality Dick Smyth, whose booming commentary filled… Continue reading

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, January 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Funeral for Walter Gretzky to be held Saturday in home town of Brantford, Ont.

The funeral for hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s father Walter will take place… Continue reading

Most Read