With the weather finally feeling like summer in Central Alberta, high school football season is naturally just around the corner.
Two of three local high schools kicked off “fall” camp this week in preparation for the Central Alberta High School Football League season.
With the league moving into the second year of playing each city team just once, regular-season games won’t start until the third week of September.
Still, each school will be busy early on in the month, playing non-conference games to get ready for the fall push.
According to Notre Dame Cougars coach Ian Rattan, that helps with long-term development and making sure kids have strong practice habits in place before the year starts.
“It’s looking pretty crisp right at the start here which is nice. Always want to be getting better every day and every practice,” said Rattan.
That’s another reason why the Cougars have kicked into high gear this week, running two-a-day practices. The idea is to work on some skill development in the afternoon and later on, make sure players have a strong grasp of the playbook.
“Hopefully they’ve been doing something over the summer so they’re not coming in sluggish,” Rattan said.
“Really excited to see them competing and trying new positions, trying some of our systems. We have new grade 10s coming up, so get used to the coaches and new teammates. Just really excited to see these guys competing.”
Last year, the Cougars finished 0-3 in conference play and have been in rebuild mode since their city title in 2016. They have a deep crop of grade 10s and plenty that won a bantam title in 2017.
Notre Dame will play two of their three exhibition games on the road and will host Robert Thirsk on Football Day in Red Deer on Sept. 7.
The Lindsay Thurber Raiders started fall camp on Tuesday. They took a huge step forward in 2018. They were 2-1 in league play but finished 8-3 overall and won the Football Alberta Tier I North semifinal against the Grande Prairie Warriors.
Raiders coach Aaron Sheppard, who was at the helm the last two seasons and was Football Alberta Tier I coach of the year last season, stepped down this spring. Devon Hand, who has been a member of the Raiders football coaching staff for over 15 years and defensive coordinator for five seasons, is the new head coach.
A big loss for the Raiders will be quarterback Josh Campbell, who was a huge part of their success last year. Linebacker Chase Pack is returning, he also played for Team Alberta U17 at a showcase event in Hawaii earlier this summer.
The Raiders will play the Cardston Cougars on Sept. 6 at Great Chief Park and play the Notre Dame Cougars on Sept. 20 to start the city regular season.
The defending city champion Hunting Hills Lightning will get camp started on Saturday with a pair of practices.