While the high school football season is well underway for most teams, one local group has yet to hit the field for game action.
The Hunting Hills Lightning have not yet taken to the turf for an official game.
It is a new, measured approach to the season by the team that has won the Central Alberta High School Football League city title the past two seasons and seven times since 2010.
The Lightning did take part a joint practice with the Henry Wisewood Warriors out of Calgary on the weekend, which included a 12-on-12 controlled scrimmage.
That’s all part of a new attitude from Lightning head coach Kyle Sedwick, who said the combined workout was a good exercise for his team and he thinks it will have them ready for when the real football flies on Friday.
“A lot of pro teams are starting to do that. There’s talk even in the NFL that they want to eliminate preseason games and do more combined practice. It still creates a competitive environment, but you can control it more,” Sedgwick said.
“We wanted to do this with Wisewood because we thought it was going to benefit us and them more than playing a full game. The last two springs we’ve also done the same thing with Harry Ainlay. We’re going against good competition and even though it’s a one-day, two-hour practice, it benefits our guys because they’re going against really good football players.”
Hunting Hills will welcome a familiar foe to town Friday, in what has been touted as the Football Alberta Game of the Week.
The Foothills Falcons out of Okotoks will hit the field at Great Chief Park against the Lightning at 7:30 p.m., Friday under the lights.
Sedgewick said they are always a force in high school football.
“It’s a good team and it will be their third game. That’s the one advantage they have ahead of us. We’ll be alright, we’ve got a solid group of grade 12s. Our numbers are a little bit lower but that seems to be the case for a lot of schools,” Sedgwick said.
“These non-conference games are good because you’re playing teams that you hope to maybe see in November in provincials… as long as we can get better every week, that’s what we’re aiming to do.”
This season they will have to rely on a veteran group of wide receivers if they hope to have success. Dolan Hills, who was a force at running back and linebacker is at the University of Manitoba and last year’s quarterback Haiden Brown is playing for the Edmonton Huskies in the Canadian Junior Football League.
Still, Zac Sanderson leads a strong returning group of receivers, while Logan Kendze and Quinn Doll are grade 12s who anchor the defence along with grade 11 linebacker Joel Demale. Third-year Kyle Rees will also be huge help as a returning offensive and defensive linemen.
“We have a tremendous group of grade 12 receivers and DBs, a lot of them are going to be two-way guys which adds some pressure,” Sedgwick said.
“A lot of them have experience on at least one side of the ball. Most of our secondary returns from last year and most of our receivers… we have to figure out some things on the line of scrimmage and go from there.”
As for when league play starts on Sept. 20 against the Lacombe Rams, the Lightning will be firmly focused on winning and also being ready to take another run at a provincial title.
“High school football is cyclical and guys graduate every year… we want to avoid the rebuild year. We want to do everything we can to reload and be able to compete,” Sedgewick noted.
“If we can compete in our league and with teams around the province and get better with some young guys that are pretty talented– I like our grade 10 group a lot. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get to provincial play again, that is our goal. The league is important, but we also want to qualify for provincials.”