Lightning 31 Cougars 14
The Lightning didn’t strike until the second quarter Friday, but their running game was electric the rest of the way on a damp evening at Great Chief Park.
The defending Central Alberta High School Football League champions started slow but gradually took over en route to a 31-14 win over the Notre Dame Cougars in the regular-season opener for both teams played in front of 556 fans.
In an earlier contest, the Lindsay Thurber Raiders downed the visiting Lacombe Rams 19-14.
“We definitely had the first-game jitters and we have a long way to go,” said Hunting Hills head coach Kyle Sedgwick. “Turnovers and penalties really hurt us early on.”
The Cougars scored first when Johannes Smith ran 10 yards for a touchdown five minutes into the contest, the major set up by an interception by Franz Credo.
The Lightning answered early in the second quarter. Following a pick by Edward Kim and an ensuing 70-yard return down to the Notre Dame two-yard line, quarterback Eric Thomson barged over from one yard out on a third-and-goal call.
From there, Hunting Hills running back Brandt Burzuk scampered 45 yards to the Cougars one-yard stripe and crashed into the end zone on the next play, and Eder Arias booted a 25-yard field goal for a 17-7 first-half lead.
“Teams know we have to rely on our run game and they (Cougars) stacked the box on us,” said Sedgwick. “Brandt’s vision got us out of some jams and our best play of the first half was the interception by Edward Kim. That’s what we need from those veteran guys early on in the season.”
Kaden Hall added third- and fourth-quarter touchdowns on runs of 14 and 20 yards to round out the Hunting Hills scoring that also included four converts by Arias.
The Cougars replied with a late major courtesy of a 14-yard run by Parker Dahl following a shovel pass from quarterback Devin Desormeau. Dahl converted both Notre Dame touchdowns.
Burzuk rushed for a game-high 190 yards on 22 carries, while Smith ran for 117 yards on 24 carries in a losing cause.
The Cougars gained 135 yards through the air as Desormeau completed eight of 18 pass attempts, with Payton LaGrange grabbing two balls for 98 yards. Thomson, as the winning quarterback, was good on one of four attempts for a single yard.
Despite a non-existent passing attack, Sedgwick gave his rookie starter a passing grade.
“Eric did well, that was his first start at quarterback,” said the Hunting Hills sideline boss. “He’s an outstanding athlete, but it’s a new position for him and he’s only in Grade 11.
“We have to rely on our run game but we have to be able to keep getting better. We have to be able to do some different things than line up and say ‘stop our run’, because they (Cougars) did at different times tonight.”
Raiders 19 Rams 14
The Raiders rolled up 238 yards of offence — 17 more than the Rams — while opening their season on a winning note.
“We’ll take the win,” said Lindsay Thurber head coach Dave Smith. “It was kind of a typical first outing. We have a lot of guys who haven’t played at certain positions before.”
Raiders quarterback TK Kunaka completed five of eight passes for 84 yards. David Dunbar had three receptions for 20 yards and Jonathan Goulet scored on a 52 pass-and-run play.
“TK was really good. He threw a really nice ball,” said Smith.
Raiders back Bradley Pope rushed for 79 yards on 15 carries and scored on a two-yard run. Goulet kicked a 28-yard field goal and Rams punter Cayden Pickford conceded a safety.
“Our lines played well and our defensive coverage was very good,” said Smith, whose club gave up 110 yards rushing — 96 by Logan Ellis — and 111 through the air as Rams quarterback Jonathan Ericson was six-for-22 with three interceptions.
David Mueller hauled in passes of 39 and 24 yards to account for both Lacombe touchdowns. Kyle Popp added a two-point conversion.