Unlike a lot of teams in the Central Alberta High School Football League the Lindsay Thurber Raiders have an abundance of experienced talent at the skilled positions.
What they don’t have is a lot of returnees on the line.
“We have a lot of our skilled position players back, but very few linemen,” explained Raiders head coach Dave Smith. “We have Aaron Curry at centre and he will anchor the line, but overall it will be a large learning curve for the linemen as we have a lot of Grade 10s and 11s.
“It will take us a little longer to jell because of that lack of experience, but we have some talent there and it’s a matter of growing.”
The Raiders also lack size, but that will come, according to Smith.
“We have some decent size among the Grade 10s and they’ll only get bigger.”
What the Raiders do have is talent in the offensive backfield with quarterback Wilson Lougheed and the team’s top two running backs Greg Fowler and Elliot Mahood returning. Lougheed placed third in the league with a respectable 48.5 per cent completion average last season while Fowler had 462 yards rushing and a 6.6 average. Mahood had 338 yards and a 4.6 average.
Both will see two-way duty, especially Fowler, who will also play corner.
“He’s very flexible and will move around a lot,” said Smith, who’ll also use Austin Johanson in the offensive backfield and at linebacker.
Ryan Fowler is back at linebacker and is one of the team leaders as is Brody Slagman, who’ll work at defensive end and outside linebacker as well as place kicker.
Slagman, who is an outstanding soccer goalie, is one of the premier kickers in the province as shown when he connected on a 50-yard plus field goal last season in Camrose. He finished the season with 11 field goals and 11 converts.
“He gives us an offensive threat from almost anywhere over half,” said Smith. “When you have a guy who can get you on the board from that far out it gives the team a lot of confidence.”
Vuyani Ndhlovu will back up Slagman.
“He’s also a soccer goalie and has a great leg. He was a bright spot on our junior team and will also play the slot and on defence.”
The Raiders opened the season with a 9-8 loss to Sylvan Lake and had last week off, but played Olds in an exhibition game and dropped a 24-23 decision.
“It was a chance for the younger guys to get more experience and we used everyone we had available,” said Smith.
The Raiders face the Hunting Hills Lightning Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Great Chief Park.
“It will be a tough test, but overall the league is tough,” added Smith. “Every game counts, especially with the new playoff format, which has no semifinals and only the top two teams advancing to the final.”
l Grade 11 safety Riley Collins will back up Lougheed . . . defensive coordinator Devon Hand, offensive coordinator Jay Hetherington, receiver coach Devin Bennett, linebacker coach Aaron Sheppard and line coach Scott Nielsen will assist Smith.