The Hunting Hills Lightning didn’t expect anything less than a battle Friday night.
That’s what they got from the Lindsay Thurber Raiders before scoring a pair of late touchdowns to prevail 29-14 in a Central Alberta High School Football League game played before an overflow gathering of 1,041 fans at Great Chief Park.
“They always put up a good fight,” said Lightning workhorse and star running back Brandt Burzuk, who gained 213 yards on 29 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Hunting Hills head coach Kyle Sedgwick was in total agreement, and then some.
“This is my seventh year at Hunting and it doesn’t matter what each team had as far as personnel . . . when we play that team it’s a true rivalry, a street fight,” said Sedgwick. “Both teams try and establish the run, and obviously that’s where we are now, and the defences always play hard.
“That was just a street fight. You have guys laying on the ground not just because they’re tired, but they’re literally exhausted. You have two public schools in the city, so that’s how it should be.”
The Raiders trailed 9-0 early but closed the gap to 12-7 at halftime, then grabbed their only lead of the game early in the third quarter when quarterback TK Kunaka hit receiver Jonathan Goulet over the middle for a 67-yard pass-and-run play for a touchdown that Goulet converted.
But the Lightning regained the lead on a 37-yard field goal by Eder Arias just over a minute later and never looked back, overcoming a late third-quarter fumble by Burzuk at the Raiders three-yard stripe with a fumble recovery for a touchdown by linebacker Edward Kim on the first play of the final quarter.
Burzuk scampered 25 yards around the left end for a major with 1:56 remaining and teammate Zech Pilgrim followed with an interception of a Kunaka pass at midfield to nail down the victory.
The Lightning got on the board 3:23 into the contest on a conceded safety, then got a major from Burzuk — on a six-yard run — 68 seconds later. Kunaka tossed an 11-yard scoring pass to David Dunbar to get the Raiders off and running before the end of the opening quarter, and Arias, who booted three converts on the evening, replied for the Lightning with a 24-yard field goal with 5:12 left in the first half.
Burzuk left the game twice with leg cramps.
“I’m a little sore, but I can tough it out,” he said. “I just ran behind our O-line tonight. I have a great line.”
The Raiders’ ground game was good for only 69 yards — with Bradley Pope gaining 48 on 12 carries — but they gained 131 yards through the air, with Kunaka completing eight of 13 passes for 119 yards and one interception, and Sean Vandervlis going one-for-two for 12 yards and a pick. Goulet hauled in two balls for 71 yards and Dunbar grabbed three passes for 15.
Hunting Hills quarterback Eric Thomson completed three of seven passes — all to Pilgrim — for 20 yards.
Raiders head coach Dave Smith was impressed with the intensity shown by both teams.
“That was a slugfest, back and forth,” he said. “Our defence played really well in the first half, we had their number, then we got a little tired in the second half and they got some breaks on us, for sure.
“Offensively, we have to work on moving the ball more consistently and controlling the line of scrimmage, which we didn’t do like I wanted to today.
We had some bright spots with Jonathan Goulet and TK, who played a good game, but it all starts and stops at that line of scrimmage.”
l Raiders quarterback Ben Pasiuk, who suffered an injury while playing for Team Alberta at the Football Canada Cup in July and is expected to be out until late fall, has committed to the University of Alberta Golden Bears for the 2016 season.