The Hunting Hills Lightning senior football team’s season ended on Saturday.
The Central Alberta High School Football League champions fell in the ASAA Tier II Provincial North Championship to the Austin O’Brien Crusaders 23-5 at Setters Place.
Despite the daunting final score, the Lightning never seemed out of it until the Crusaders delivered the final blow on a touchdown in the last minute of the game.
The loss came down to a lack of capitalizing on their opportunities. In particular, a pair of defensive stands by the Crusaders within yards of the goal line when the Lightning gambled on third down on two separate occasions.
The first came with 20 seconds left in the first half. The Crusaders were up 13-5 and the Lightning were on the three-year line and failed to punch it in on third down.
Head coach Kyle Sedgwick said he has a lot of faith in his team and felt they could have punched it in.
“I’m not going to kick a field goal there and you know what I might regret that decision later,” he said.
“If we kick the field goal there it’s 13-8 and it’d be a five-point game. Even if we don’t get it, it’s still a one-score game going into the half.”
The second chance came in the third quarter with the Crusaders up 16-5 after kicking a field goal on their opening drive of the half.
The Lightning marched down the field but were stuffed on the goal line after going for it on third down again with a minute and a half left in the quarter.
“We put together a good drive and got down to the four-yard line and again we could have kicked the field goal,” he said.
“Again that’s another opportunity because if we kick it’s 16-8 and a one-score game. We went for it and I’m not sure how close [receiver Adnesse Pannenbecker] was on that goal line but he was inches away.”
For much of the second half, the Crusaders ran down the clock with their running game and eventually notched another touchdown to extend their lead 23-5.
“It felt like one of those games where it was all good until the second half. It felt like we only had the ball twice and that’s not enough,” Sedgwick said.
“Credit to them and I hope they do very well next week whoever they play.”
Sedgwick also gave credit to his team saying their effort was phenomenal throughout the game. Hunting Hills’ points came from a field goal in the first quarter and a safety taken by the Crusaders on a punt in the second.
Lightning quarterback Marek Filipek threw for 197 yards and receiver Adnesse Pannenbecker caught nine passes for 82 yards. Runningback Ethan Bilo also had seven rushes for 46 yards.
It’s simply a tough ending to a fantastic season by the Lightning.
“They made more plays than we did and we didn’t capitalize on opportunities. If we get one of those in the endzone who knows what could have happened,” he said.
“The guys had a great season and they put our program back on the map. They made it to the final four in the province and there’s nothing to be ashamed of about that.”
Even though no Red Deer teams are left standing, Setters Place will host the ASAA High School Provincial Championships next week for the Alberta Bowl.
The weekend will get started with the 6-A-side provincial final on Friday at 1 p.m. between the No. 5 Hinton Wolfpack versus the No. 2 J.C. Charyk Hawks.
After that, at 4 p.m. the Austin O’Brien Crusaders will play the Cochrane Cobras in the Tier II provincial final followed by the Tier IV final between the Drumheller Titans and the St. Paul Lions at 7 p.m.
On Saturday the games start with Tier III action between the Cardston Cougars and the Holy Rosary Raiders at 11 a.m.. At 2:30 p.m. the Foothills Falcons will play the Salisbury Sabres in the Tier I Larry Wilson division followed by the Ernest Manning Griffins and Raymond Comets at 6 p.m. in the Tier I Brian Fryer division.