Lakers 30 Saints 14
The Sylvan Lake H.J. Cody Lakers’ best players were their best players Saturday at Great Chief Park.
“Just like they have been all year,” said Lakers head coach Jeremy Braitenback, following his team’s 30-14 win over the Calgary St. Mary’s Saints in a provincial Tier 2 high school regional semifinal.
Tailback Brad Huhnold rushed for 185 yards on 19 carries and scored two touchdowns. Meanwhile, quarterback Chase Hoffman completed 12 of 19 passes for 162 yards and Tyler Ledwos had five receptions for 66 yards as the Lakers executed when necessary and simply had more finish than their guests.
“Brad was awesome when we asked him to be against a good team,” added Braitenback. “And when it came to second down, Chase and Tyler were able to connect for some big plays to keep the ball moving and we were able to score.”
The Lakers struck first as Shon Zenert ran nine yards around the right end for a touchdown with 12 seconds left in the first quarter. From there, St. Mary’s quarterback Mike Klukas rushed 10 yards up the middle for a major midway through the second quarter and Bud Kriekle hauled in a 30-yard scoring pass from Hoffman and Ledwos added a two-point convert to put the Lakers up 14-7 six minutes later.
Huhnold extended the Lakers’ lead five minutes into the third quarter when he scored from six yards out following a 28-yard reception by Ledwos, but the Saints answered back early in the fourth quarter as Alex Cho, who finished with 162 yards rushing, scored on a six-yard scamper.
Huhnold then sealed the deal with a 31-yard run to paydirt on the Lakers’ next possession and Alistair Smith added closure with a 23-yard field goal with 73 seconds remaining.
“We had a little bit of film on them (Saints), but they came out and ran totally different from what we saw on the game tape,” said Braitenback. “But we knew they had some good athletes and some great guys up front blocking.
“Fortunately they didn’t move the ball through the air and really had to work for their yards. I thought we finessed it a little more.”
St. Mary’s racked up 278 yards along the ground with Cho leading the way and Yaw Addai gaining 94 yards on 13 carries. Klukas completed just four of 10 passes for 91 yards.
“We always gave them a long field to work with,” said Braitenback, while praising his defence. “They moved the ball and we bent but didn’t break.”
Huhnold and Nathan Tarling each had two catches for H.J. Cody for 15 and 34 yards, respectively.
“We’re just kind of riding the high. We practised hard all week and just tried to stick to the basics today and do what we do,” said Huhnold.
The Lakers star tailback said the best thing that happened to the team was a 44-20 regular-season loss to the visiting Hunting Hills Lightning Oct. 14. “I think it really kicked in for us when we lost that game,” said Huhnold. “Before that we were undefeated so we were kind of thinking we were invincible. It really made us think twice and made us realize that we have to work for everything and that really showed in the championship game.”
The Lakers defeated the Lightning in the league final to qualify for Saturday’s game as the Central Tier 2 representative in provincial playdowns and next Saturday will be in Okotoks to face the Holy Trinity Academy Knights in the south regional final.
“This is the dream, right here,” said Huhnold.
St. Mary’s came in as the seventh-ranked Tier 2 team in the province. The Lakers are No. 4 and now go against the No. 2 Knights, who defeated the Medicine Hat Mohawks 27-7 Saturday.
“Every step in provincials you’re going to be playing good competition, especially at the Tier 2 level,” said Braitenback. “The teams are so well coached and they prepare for this all year, so it gets pretty competitive.”
• The Stettler Wildcats and Rocky Mountain House Rebels also advanced in provincial high school play Saturday, with the Wildcats beating host Cold Lake 20-14 in Tier 3 play and the Rebels dumping No. 1-ranked Lloydminster Holy Rosary 31-21 in a Tier 4 outing at Rocky.
Stettler will host the St. Albert Skyhawks in the north final this Saturday at 1 p.m., while Rocky will be at home to the Ardrossan Bisons, also at 1 p.m.
• The Lindsay Thurber Raiders advanced to the provincial bantam Tier 2 football final with a 21-19 win over the Leduc Ti-Cats at Great Chief Park and will host the Calgary Colts in the Alberta final this Saturday at 1 p.m.
• The Innisfail Cyclones will host the Calgary Colts in the Tier 3 provincial peewee final at 1 p.m. Saturday and the Lacombe Explosion will take on the visiting Spruce Grove Cougars in the Tier 4 final at 1 p.m.