Lightning ready to strike

It would hard not to pick the Hunting Hills Lightning as one of the top teams in the Central Alberta High School Football League.

Hunting Hills Lightning quarterback Josh Boutin hands off to running back Stas McPhail during a scrimmage.

Hunting Hills Lightning quarterback Josh Boutin hands off to running back Stas McPhail during a scrimmage.

It would hard not to pick the Hunting Hills Lightning as one of the top teams in the Central Alberta High School Football League.

But head coach Kyle Sedgewick isn’t about to put the cart before the horse.

“When it comes to our skilled positions we’re set,” he said. “But we have a lot of inexperience on both sides of the line.”

So the Lightning’s start to the season will likely depend on how quickly the offensive and defensive lines come together, especially on the offensive side as the Lightning should have plenty of offence if they get the blocking.

They have one of the premier running backs in the league in third-year veteran Stas McPhail, who was second in the league scoring with 12 touchdowns, and tied for third in rushing with 1,134 yards.

“I thought Stas wore out a bit toward the end of last season as he had an unreal work load, but he looks bigger and stronger this season,” said Sedgewick, who will also use McPhail on defence in the early going. “He’ll play some defensive back as we need the veteran presence at least for a while,” added Sedgewick.

Grade 12 quarterback John Boutin returns along with slotback and kicker Tyler Lewis, who led the team in receiving last season, and receiver Matt Costain.

“I’m excited to see Boutin this year as he’s made some big strides,” said Sedgewick.

Boutin will be the only offensive player not to see some duty on the defensive side.

“That will be the case early on until the younger kids get some experience,” added the second-year head coach. “Last year we knew our defence would be strong because we had a lot of Grade 12s. This year the younger kids step in and it changes a bit. That’s the reason a lot of the offensive guys will be going both ways.

“You look at Lacombe and they’re loaded with Grade 12 talent and will be tough from the start. I know that will be a tough game for us.”

The Lightning open their regular season tonight at 4:30 p.m. in Lacombe against the Rams, who were 7-1 last season.

The Lightning posted a 6-2 record and lost to the Rams in the semifinals.

“I would like to play them a bit later in the season, but on the other hand it’s kind of exciting to meet the team you finished against last year . . . I know the veterans will be pumped up,” said Sedgewick, who feels his squad will be among the top four teams at the end of the season.

“I believe the four teams that played on the A-side last year will be there again,” he said. “Lacombe is real solid while Notre Dame is always strong as is Sylvan Lake. And I believe in our team.”

Although they may be young, the Lightning do have one of the top middle linebackers in the league in Ben McIver, who was the team’s top defensive player last season. As well, defensive back Joel Nicholson is returning and linebacker Logan Sabourin, who will also play tight end, has moved over from Notre Dame.

“They will be key to our defensive success, but possibly the main thing is for the offence to control the ball,” Sedgewick said. “Mind you all teams want that.”

Last year the Rams beat the Lightning 26-0 late in the season as they were able to stop McPhail.

“They ganged up to stop him so it’s important for us to show we can pass the ball to open things up,” added Sedgewick.

l Graham Vanderwater, Landon Rogers, Jim Brown and Jordan Willie will work as assistant coaches.

drode@bprda.wpengine.com