The Hunting Hills Lightning may still feel the sting of 2016, but a fresh start is on the horizon.
A loss in the high school football city final last year to the Notre Dame Cougars might still linger, but the players insist that memory is long gone.
“Not at all, we have not talked about that since that last game. It does not matter to us. It’s a new year, it’s a new team,” said grade 12 veteran linebacker Kallen Vickery.
For Lightning head coach Kyle Sedgwick, the competitive rivalry that big games help build is great for the sport in Central Alberta.
“The guys were a little disheartened not to win a championship but Notre Dame had a great season last year and I’m proud of them for making it to where they did,” he said.
“If a down year for Hunting Hills is going to our league final and a provincial (regional) final, we’re okay with that… the guys are hungry and they want to get to where we’ve been in the past.”
Sedgwick will have 19 grade 12s in the lineup when they kickoff this week and the head coach hopes to rely on the veteran presence of his squad this season.
That includes Vickery, receiver Jordan Lenius and two returning quarterbacks in Layton Barisenkoff and Brandon Rees. Also in the secondary four of five defensive backs are returning, including James Nobbs and Austin Schneider.
“With the number of returning starters we have and not a lot of new guys, we hope our offence and defence are pretty balanced. We’re going to rely on both,” Sedgwick said.
“Offence we want to dedicate ourselves a little bit more to the run, we installed some new things in the pass game knowing that we had a lot of our receivers and quarterbacks back this year. Defensively we’re pretty athletic and pretty tall in the secondary and have a couple of outstanding young linebackers.”
On Friday in Lacombe, the Lightning will get a chance to write a new chapter, when they kickoff the season against another longtime rival, Lindsay Thurber.
“The league isn’t going to be won or lost this week. All we’re really trying to do is make a statement and get better this week. The last two years and three of the last four years we were one game away from the provincial final,” Sedgwick said.
“(Lindsay Thurber) always play us tough, it’s always physical. We’re looking to make a statement and I know they are too, it should be a good game.”