Lightning 52 Sabres 6
Two weeks ago the Hunting Hills Lightning received a major shock to their system when they lost to the Lindsay Thurber Raiders, their first loss in regular season play in four year.
It was a shock that they may well have needed.
Ever since the Lightning have been on a mission and they stormed into the Central Alberta High School Football League semifinals with a 52-6 victory over the Wetaskiwin Sabres at Great Chief Park Friday.
“Two weeks ago was a wake up call,” said Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick. “Ever since it’s been a different feel at practice. The hunger is there again plus this is the playoffs and we can take nothing for granted. Look at the game just before ours (the Rocky Rebels win over Lindsay Thurber), it makes you realize you have to be prepared . . . one loss and it’s over.”
The Lightning started a bit slow, but a 51-yard interception return by Connor Dunphy-Brace to the Sabres 21 kick-started their offence. A 16-yard pass play between quarterback Jarrett Burzuk and Tristan Wattenbarger and a roughing call against Wetaskiwin put the ball on the one, from where Matt Russell took it in.
The next five times the Lightning took possession they scored.
Jin Ahn scored on runs of 29 and 30 yards, Russell on a two-yard plunge and Ashton Hall on a 55-yard punt return. As well Skylar Roth, who had six converts, added a 23-yard field goal to make the score 38-0 at the half.
Hall continued his outstanding special teams play in the second half, taking the opening kickoff back 85 yards for a touchdown which was converted by Roth.
“Ashton is playing like a Grade 12 veteran and a starter for the last three years, is expected to play,” said Sedgwick. “Overall our skill position players are making the plays. We don’t need to be throwing the ball 50 yards, but just get the ball in their hands and they’ll make the plays.”
The Sabres lone score came at 2:42 of the fourth quarter on a two-yard plunge by impressive Grade 11 quarterback Aaron Abrahamson.
The Lightning put the final touches on the scoring at 10:47 when Brett Barrett connected with Garrett Griffin on a 86-yard pass and run play, which Roth converted.
Both Barrett and Griffin were among the many younger players who saw action in the second half.
“It was definitely good for them to see action and we told them this could be the last time they get to play a lot,” said Sedgwick. “But even if they don’t play they’re still important in practice.”
The Sabers were also missing several of their top players, resulting in head coach Kevin Gibson starting a number of Grade 10s.
“We had about five Grade 10s on defence and about the same on offence,” he said. “It’s good we got that experience and it will only help us down the road. And I’m proud of the guys. They never gave up and played hard to the end.
“But Hunting Hills had the depth on us and full credit to them as well. They’re an excellent team and I hope they go along way this year.”
Ahn led the Lightning with 76 yards rushing on four carries while Russell had 42 on six carries and Brandt Burzuk 31 on four. Abrahamson had 82 yards on 15 carries for the Sabres.
Abrahamson also hit on six of 22 passes for 51 yards.
Jarrett Burzuk connected on four of eight passes for 43 yards and Barrett hit four of six for 124 yards. Wattenbarger grabbed four passes for 48 yards.
The Lightning will host the winner of today’s Camrose-Lacombe game in the semifinals while the Sabres meet the loser.