It will be a learning process in more ways than one for the Hunting Hills Lightning this season.
The Lightning not only lost several veterans from last year’s squad, that finished fourth in the Central Alberta High School Football League with a 4-4 record, but have a new head coach for the second time in two years.
Former Notre Dame Cougar Kyle Sedgwick took over control of the team from Rhett Lundgren and admits it will be a learning experience.
“This is a new challenge for me as a head coach and I also haven’t seen the league in several years and it’s changed a lot,” he said. “When I played it was basically Lindsay Thurber and ourselves (Notre Dame) fighting for top spot. Now there’s a lot of other teams, which makes it a more interesting league.”
Sedgwick will get a chance to see the league tonight when the Lightning opens against the Lindsay Thurber Raiders at 7 p.m. at Great Chief Park.
“I know I’ll be a little nervous,” said Sedgwick, who played for the Cougars seven years ago.
He spent five years with the junior Edmonton Huskies, helping them win two Canadian championships, then joined the University of Saskatchewan Huskies for two seasons.
Sedgwick started his education degree in Edmonton and finished at the U of S. Last year he returned to Notre Dame for the second semester and last May received an offer for a full time position at Hunting Hills.
“I’m looking forward to starting my career and being able to stay in Red Deer,” he said.
He admits he received a lot of “good natured kidding” from the Notre Dame staff when he accepted his new position.
“But it’s something you certainly don’t turn down,” he added.
Sedgwick not only gives credit to Cougars head coach Gino Castellan, but the coaching staffs of the Edmonton Huskies and the U of S. for his development as a coach.
“I learned a lot. We won two national championships in Edmonton and the U of S has one of the best programs in the country. They have different styles of coaching, but a lot of experience. Being with those programs was a great way to prepare for this.”
Sedgwick will institute his own systems into the Hunting Hills program, which may take some time to learn.
“But it’s nothing fancy. The offence, for example, will be new, but as simple as it can be,” he said.
Third-string quarterback, Jesse Verwey, will take over the starting role after expected starter Travis Steinke left to attend a baseball academy and will be backed up by John Boutin, who was with the bantam program last season, and Jesse Pawlak, who is in Grade 10.
Grade 11 veteran Stas McPhail will give the Lightning one of the top running backs in the league. McPhail was second on the team sixth in the league last season with 469 yards on just 39 carries for an outstanding 12.0 average.
“I expect Stas to be a special player for us, especially once we get the offensive line figured out,” said Sedgwick, who expects to use Grade 10 rookie Tim Pratt at fullback.
The offensive line will be anchored by guard Ben McIver, centre Ian Mercer and tackle Jose Liso. McIver will also play some linebacker and anchor the defence along with linebacker Adam Proulx and defensive backs Josh Earl and Tyler Rutherford.
Sedgwick have a solid group of assistant coaches in Tim Burris, Graham Vanderwater, Alex Mann, Josh Sorenson and Scott Doan.