Despite rocky start, Red Deer’s Hunting Hills Lightning rebound for semifinal win

Open with fumbles on first three possessions, rebound for 28-25 win

Lightning 28 Comets 25

LACOMBE — The way the Hunting Hills Lightning started their provincial high school South Regional Tier II semifinal football game against the Robert Thirsk Comets of Calgary, it looked as if it would be a long day.

The Lightning fell behind 17-0 as they fumbled the ball on all three of their first three possessions, losing it twice.

However, the Lightning showed what they were made of, scoring the next 28 points on their way to a 28-25 victory at MEGlobal Athletic Park Saturday afternoon and a berth in the South Regional final next Saturday against the Foothills Falcons.

“This certainly looked similar to last Saturday (a 39-15 loss to Notre Dame in the league final),” said Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick. “I don’t know why we were so asleep at the beginning. We had a good week of practice and were motivated.

“I know it’s tough coming back after a loss because of the tradition of the league final, but give our guys credit they showed a lot of character against a team that has 20-some Grade 12s on their team. I’m proud of the guys, we’ve now reached the final four in the province for the second straight year, that’s a great accomplishment.”

The Lightning got themselves in trouble right off the opening kickoff, fumbling on their own 21 yard line. The defence held the Comets to a 25-yard field goal by Sean Alexander. On their second possession the Lightning recovered their own fumble, but were forced to punt. They got a 12-yard punt and no yards giving the Comets the ball on the Lightning 46. Five plays later Zachary Newman bulled in from the two.

On their third possession the Lightning fumbled the handoff giving the Comets the ball on the 48. On the third play quarterback Zack Irvine hit Chris Charpentier on a 16-yard pass for the major. Alexander added his second convert and by the 9:07 mark it was 17-0.

Lightning veteran Jordan Lenius felt the team was a bit nervous.

“I thought early on we were, but once we got our legs under us we were fine. I thought our O-line did a great job, especially in the second half opening holes for our backs and providing protection.”

The Lightning received a safety at 1:44 of the second quarter, Eric Thomson scored from the one at 5:31 and Ader Arias, who converted Thomson’s major, kicked a 42-yard field goal at 11:43 and it was 17-12 at the half.

After a scoreless third quarter, the Lightning took the lead at 1:34 of the fourth quarter on a 59-yard pass and run play between quarterback Brandon Rees and Lenius.

“We were trying to set that play up all game,” said Lenius. “We used the dive play hoping their safety would move up and he finally did.”

Thompson scored again on a one-yard plunge at 7:51 converted by Arias. The play came after a brilliant catch by Lenius on the one, literally taking the ball out of the defenders hands.

“He had it, but I was able to see it and reach in and take it away,” explained Lenius, who finished with six catches for 116 yards. He also was solid on defence.

“He ripped it away and it turned out to set up the winning touchdown … it couldn’t have been a bigger play,” said Sedgwick. “Jordan is in Grade 11 and was outstanding on both sides of the ball. He plays over 120 plays a game and it always in the game.”

The Comets conceded another safety at 9:07.

The Calgary crew was handed a touchdown late when it appeared as if the Comets turned the ball over after a missed third down pass. The officials blew the play dead after the ball hit the ground. It was then ruled a backward pass and because of the blown whistle the Comets were awarded another play despite the fact they never did regain control of the ball.

On the next play Irvine hit Charpentier for the 15-yard major. He then connected with Newman for the two-point convert, leaving 10.6 seconds on the clock.

They attempted a short kickoff, which they recovered, but it was well short of the 10 yards, giving the ball and the game to the Lightning.

Sympho Nkuela led the Lightning with 109 yards rushing on 13 carries while Thomson had 47 on 14 tries. Rees connected on 10 of 14 passes for 139 yards.

The Lightning defence limited the Comets to 48 yards rushing with Irvine connecting on 13 of 17 passes for 177 yards.

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