Two Red Deer High School senior football teams will play this week in the Central Alberta Football League playoffs for a chance to book their ticket to the league finals.
On Friday the third-place Hunting Hills Lightning, who finished 3-2 this season, will play the second-place Sylvan Lake Lakers, who also finished 3-2 in Sylvan Lake at 4 p.m.
Meanwhile, the undefeated Stettler Wildcats who wrapped up a dominant season in the top spot will take on the fourth-place Notre Dame Cougars who won their last game of the regular season to make the postseason with a record of 2-3. They will play in Stettler on Saturday at 2 p.m.
There’s no doubt defeating the Wildcats will be a tall task for the Cougars but head coach Ian Rattan said his troops are ready for the challenge.
“I just hope we come out and play a complete game… Win or lose I just hope our guys come out and play from opening kickoff to the last whistle,” Rattan said.
The Wildcats who only allowed a league-low 46 points in five games were also elite on the offensive side of the ball and put up a whopping 208 points on their opponents. On the other hand, the Cougars scored 63 points on offence and allowed a total of 114 points on defence.
The Cougars’ leading scorer Carson Mazurkewich scored three touchdowns this season and in the backfield, Etienne Gallant led Notre Dame with 208 yards rushing. The Wildcats were led by Kyle Dennis who led the team with both eight touchdowns and 520 yards rushing.
Rattan has encouraged his team to play together and trust the process
“Guys have to trust each other that everybody’s going to do their assignments and guys can’t do too much,” he said.
“Stettler’s a great team. They’re very well coached and they’ve kind of ran all over everybody so far this year. I just hope the guys play a complete game and leave it all out on the field.”
The Wildcats and Cougars played each other in the first game of the season and Stettler came away with the win 52-0. Despite the large margin of victory, Rattan said they’ve grown as a team since that game.
“We’ve got to play mistake-free football and I just hope our guys compete for 48 minutes. Do everything they can and we’ll let the chips fall where they fall,” Rattan added.
In the second league semi-final matchup between the Lakers and Lightning, both teams are similar statistically speaking.
During the five-game season, Sylvan Lake scored 163 points but allowed 115 points against their opponents. The Lightning knocked in 137 points and their defence group was solid and gave up only 58 points.
Head coach of Hunting Hills Kyle Sedgwick said he likes his team’s chances but added they’ve had some great battles with them over the years. It will also be a rematch from the first-week matchup that saw the Lakers steal a thriller 26-21 at Setters Place.
“I think it’s going to be a really good game and I think it’s going to be a close game. It’s going to be a game where it might be one of those scenarios where it comes down to the last possession or two. It’s two well-coached teams that have programs that get better as the season goes on and once you get to playoffs you’re trying to play your best football,” he said.
For the lightning, Ryen MacLeod led the way with eight touchdowns and Ethan Bilo had 350 years of total rushing. Darien Currie for the Lakers had 11 touchdowns and 628 yards rushing.
Sedgwick explained his team has become more well-rounded in the second half of the season compared to the first half. In three of their last four games, he thought his team played well, in particular their defence.
“Defensively we did a really good job. What we have to try and do against Sylvan that we didn’t do in the first game is tackle their running back. [He’s] a very good player and we weren’t playing solid enough team defence,” he said adding they won’t completely stop him but hope to slow him down.
“The cliche of defence wins championships is there for a reason and I think that’s very important this time of the year… Defence isn’t just about keeping them off the scoreboard, defence is limiting the big plays so you don’t lose momentum and gaining field position with your defence. That’s really what we’re going to try and do.”