The Hunting Hills Lightning senior football team is chomping at the bit to get back on the field.
Since August, the team has been practicing in preparation for the upcoming season opener on Sept. 16 against Sylvan Lake after a pair of non-conference games on Sept. 2 and 9.
Head coach of the lightning Kyle Sedgwick said two weeks out from the season opener he feels pretty good about his team.
“Other than just a handful of schools around the province everybody’s really still rebuilding coming off of COVID-19. I mean 2020 we didn’t have a season, we were able to practice but we didn’t have a full season. The younger guys what they didn’t get was the chance to compete and prepare for games, become smarter football players by going through that full season,” Sedgwick said.
He added that 2020 was disappointing because they had a lot of momentum going into that season with success from years prior.
Last year he said most programs had to start over again after the missed season. In 2021 the Lightning had a small number of Grade 12 players and Sedgwick said in the final game they only started four Grade 12s. This year they have set a goal to reestablish their winning culture.
“We took the opportunity last year to get a lot of guys’ experience. So we have a lot of Grade 11s that are in Grade 12 now and a lot of 10s that are in Grade 11 now that had a lot of valuable experience last year,” he said.
Coming into this season he said they had a better idea of the team they’re working with and as a bonus had a few players play for the provincial team this summer. It’s now a matter of taking the experience his team gained and building off of it.
“Overall our numbers are OK. We had some veterans decide not to play this year, which kind of surprised us but that’s something you’ll always have to deal with now and then. We’re really happy with the guys here, the ones who’ve been here have been here right since camp started on August 19 and they’ve been working really hard through some pretty hot days,” he said.
The Lightning will field 12 seniors this season with a roster of 40 players with potentially a few more joining once school starts. They’re somewhat even among the Grade 10 and 11s and ideally would like a roster of 45 players.
“I’m really happy with our Grade 10s with those guys coming in you know really we got some talented lineman in Grade 10,” he said adding some of the rookies, which is the biggest group of players, could play significant time this season.
Their goal this season is to win the league final and move on to provincials.
“It’s not going to happen in September and it’s not going to happen in week one, two, or three but we’ve got to build every week and be able to put ourselves in a position to do that,” he said.
They also want to be the central Alberta tier II south representatives in provincials. They’ve had some years where they’ve been very close to making it to a provincial final but came up short. They have made four appearances in the semi-final where they had some tough battles against great teams. Last season they were eliminated in the semi-finals by Lacombe.
“We ended up 3-5 last year and it was the first time we didn’t make our league final 10 years. We had won eight championships in 10 years so it was a bit of a shock. It was a good wake-up call for everybody in our program,” he added.
After opening the season against Sylvan Lake on Sept. 16, they will travel to Lacombe on Sept. 23 and will finish the season playing Stettler, Notre Dame and Lindsay Thurder the final three weeks before playoffs.