It was a golden feeling for the girls and boys in blue at Great Chief Park on Wednesday night.
Both the Hunting Hills Lightning rugby squads captured titles in the Central Alberta Rugby League Finals, with thrilling victories in each match.
The Lightning senior girls overpowered the Notre Dame Cougars after falling behind early and pulled out a 31-12 victory to clinch the league title and a berth in Provincials.
“We had a few strategies coming in based on tactics and we were able to execute and I’m super proud of my girls. We have the talent and the skill level to adjust when game-play dictates,” Lightning girls head coach Justin Pilgrim said.
“It’s really great for the program. It really helps build the program for the following year and years to come. It just solidifies us as a quality team in the region. It’s good rugby in Central Alberta.”
Janelle Agot scored early for the Cougars but from there, the Lightning cashed four straight tries to pull away in the win.
Lightning Captain Olivia Watson said the early try for their opponent was a wake-up call for her squad and she was proud of the way they responded.
“Everyone played so aggressive and played upbeat and everyone wanted to win. It’s such a great match when both teams really go at it. We had great sportsmanship, great game-play and I’m proud of the way we played,” Watson said.
N’leah Jones, Kirsten Kehler, Abby Villeneuve, Laurel Stephan, and Jazzy Brown all scored tries for the Lightning.
Camryn Holland also added three converts in the win.
Watson, a grade 12 said hopes they can make the most out of their trip to provincials.
“It’s so exciting and we’re so blessed to go out there and show what we’ve got– the skill and quality of our team, it’s going to be great,” she said.
It was an all-out battle in the boys final as the Lightning managed to just sneak past Notre Dame 12-0. The shutout earned Hunting Hills a league title and a berth in the Tier 2 ASAA Rugby Provincials.
“The brotherhood and the heart,” said Lightning coach Connor Hurlburt postgame about what made him most proud of their performance in the final.
“It made me emotional as a coach because of the way they came together and kept working hard and punching the ball in–just warmed my heart.”
Captain Robert Sanderson scored for Hunting Hills early in the game, but after that, the two teams went tackle for tackle until the final whistle.
While the Lightning carried a significant possession advantage, it wasn’t until late in the game when they finally made it count. With the game closing in on the conclusion, Kallen Vickery punched in a try that all but sealed the victory.
The Cougars showed incredible resiliency to hold the line and keep the Lightning out of the end zone for most of the second half until the Vickery try.
“Very emotional battle,” said Sanderson, in his final year with the Lightning.
“Hunting Hills and Notre Dame have always clashed like titans and it was a low score, back and forth. I’m extremely proud as team captain and proud of my team.”
Jan Boghong hit one of two converts for Hunting Hills.
Hunting Hills will now represent the Central Zone at the Alberta Schools Athletic Association Tier 2 Rugby Provincials in Calgary on June 8 and 9. The Lindsay Thurber Raiders will represent the region in Tier 1 play.