Raiders 24 Lightning 16
It’s been several years since the Lindsay Thurber Raiders got the upper hand on the Hunting Hills Lightning.
In fact the last time the Lightning lost a regular season game to anyone n the Central Alberta High School Football League was in Oct. of 2009.
But the Raiders changed all that with an hard-fought 24-16 victory over their rivals before close to 800 fans at Great Chief Park Friday.
The win gave the Raiders a 2-0-1 record while the Lightning slipped to 2-1-0.
“It’s been a long time coming, so we told the guys to celebrate tonight, but come back ready to work on Monday,” said Raiders head coach Dave Smith. “We still have to beat Notre Dame if we want to finish first in our division.”
The Raiders trailed the Lightning 13-3 at the half, but second-year back Sam Vesely took the team on his shoulders in the second half. He changed the momentum in their favour just 3:03 into the third quarter, when he picked up a punt at his own 15, darted left and 95 yards later had the Raiders back into the game.
“That was one of the turning points, but without the guys blocking it wouldn’t be there,” said Vesely. “It was all a matter of heart. We battled as a team and in the end it was all good.”
“That punt return certainly changed things,” said Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick. “We had five or six guys around the ball, but we were worried about no yards and he got out to the wide side. That can’t happen.”
Owen Smith, who had a first-quarter 38 yard field goal, kicked the convert to make the score 13-10.
Head coach Dave Smith moved Vesely into the backfield to give Ben Pasiuk a break and the move was just what was needed.
Vesely played a major role in a seven-play 64-yard march that ended with Pasiuk bulling his way in from the one at 8:18 of the third quarter to put the Raiders ahead for good.
Vesely had five carries for 60 yards on the march. He later had 41 yards during a 10 play 68 yard march that was aided by a pair of major penalties. Vesely finished the drive with an eight-yard run. Smith’s convert made it 24-13.
The majority of Vesely’s yards came off tackle, a strategy the Raiders switched to in the second half.
“We found that to be working for us,” Vesely said. “But overall it was a great team effort. The guys were helping each other.”
“We looked at their defence and felt that would work, plus we eliminated some of our errors and started to execute,” said Dave Smith. “Ben (Pasiuk) had a good first half, but we were able to give him a break and Sam was great the second half. He put the team on his back with that punt return, then everyone stepped up. Our defence was solid and the offence was able to sustain drives in the second half which gave the defence a rest.”
The Raiders also did a good job of handling the explosive Hunting Hills running game,
“Once we figured out the angles against their speedy backs we did a good job of controlling them,” said Smith.
Sedgwick was naturally disappointed with the result, but gave the Raiders all the credit.
“We weren’t ready for a street fight. They played inspired and we didn’t. We also didn’t take advantage of the turnovers and in the red zone didn’t capitalize on our chances and settled for field goals.
“They had a right to celebrate at the end. They earned it, but hopefully that inspires our guys. This was one game in the standings and not the league final. We now need to focus on Lacombe next week and look to get home field in first round of the playoffs.”
Skylar Roth kicked field goals of 28, 23 and 17 yards for the Lightning and converted a Tristan Wattenbarger touchdown, which came on a 10-yard pass from quarterback Jarrett Burzuk.
Vesely finished with 97 yards on 14 carries and Pasiuk had 90 on 14 carries. Jin Ahn had 122 yards on 12 carries and Matt Russell 49 on 12 for the Lightning.
Alistair Mahood grabbed five passes for 29 yards for LTCHS while Wattenbarger had five catches for 59 yards. Burzuk hit on 13 of 22 passes for 161 yards while LTCHS quarterback Braydon Moorman was good on six of 12 passes for 45 yards.
In other league action, Camrose defeated the West Central Rebels of Rocky Mountain House 15-12. Results of the Ponoka at Stettler game were unavailable.
Notre Dame visits Wetaskiwin today.