Lightning 10 Raiders 6
Kyle Sedgwick’s first game as head coach of the Hunting Hills Lightning was far from a classic, but it’s one he’ll long remember.
Sedgwick watched his troops come from behind in the final quarter to pull out a 10-6 victory over the Lindsay Thurber Raiders at the Central Alberta High School Football League regular season opened Thursday before close to 400 fans at Great Chief Park.
“That was more stressful than any game I played in and I played in several tough ones,” said Sedgwick, a two-time national junior champion with the Edmonton Huskies.
“It was my first game and it was a little tough as everything was out of my control except trying to call the right play,” he said. “You have a lot of things racing through your mind, especially in such a close game. But that was good as it builds nerve and character. I know it felt good when we took a knee with five seconds remaining.”
The Lightning trailed 6-0 until late in the fourth quarter, when outstanding running back Stas McPhail went in from the five with 2:56 remaining in the game. Tyler Lewis kicked the convert and later added a 20-yard field goal.
McPhail’s major put a lid on a six-play 53-yard march that was kept alive by a critical roughing call against the Raiders on a third-down kick.
“We took a lot of penalties as well, but they took the penalty that gave us a first down and we capitalized which showed a lot of character by a relatively young team,” said Sedgwick.
Raiders head coach Dave Smith agreed the penalty was key.
“But they also took a lot of penalties, especially in the second quarter and we didn’t move the ball well enough to put the game away,” he said. “The problem was we gave them field position with our penalties and they made the most of it.”
The Lightning finished with 14 penalties for 153 yards while the Raiders were assessed 11 for 95 yards.
The Lightning did run into a string of penalties in the second quarter, which led to a safety, conceded by Lewis at 10:11, which made the score 6-0.
Earlier Brody Slagman kicked a 27-yard field goal and punter Kyle O’Meara booted a 50-yard single.
“We got ourselves into trouble with penalties, but that’s to be expected as this was our first game and we just put in a new offence,” said Sedgwick. “The guys played hard and some of the holding penalties, and penalties for being in the wrong formation can be corrected at practice.”
While the Lightning offence struggled at times, the defence was solid, holding the Raiders to 21 yards rushing and 20 yards passing. Although they did lose 30 yards rushing on one play in the final seconds of the game.
“I thought our defence was awesome,” added Sedgwick. “We proved we have some athletes on defence and they did the job when they had to.”
The Raiders didn’t move the ball with any consistency, but they also lost veteran running back Charlie Jacobson in the first half with an injury, then saw quarterback O’Meara go down with a leg injury in the fourth quarter.
“The penalties hurt, but I’m more concerned with the injuries,” said Smith. “But that’s part of the game. We have to see what we have left and regroup.”
Jacobson had 44 yards on six carries while McPhail led the Lightning with 103 yards on 20 carries. Lightning’s Adam Proulx had 32 yards on five tries.
“McPhail is a special player and he’s like everyone else on the offence, just learning the systems,” said Sedgwick.
l One of the bright spots for the Raiders was safety Mark Fay, who had a pair of interceptions . . . O’Meara connected on four of five pass attempts while Jon Boutin was good on two of seven for 15 yards for the Lightning . . . League play continues today with Sylvan Lake at Lacombe and Stettler at Rocky Mountain House at 4:30 p.m. and Camrose at Wetaskiwin at 7:30 p.m. . . . The Raiders return to action next Friday at home against Lacombe while the Lightning visits Stettler on Thursday . . . In Central Alberta Bantam Football League play Thusday Notre Dame downed Hunting Hills 36-8.