The Lindsay Thurber Raiders were aiming to prove Friday that their season-opening win over the Hunting Hills Lightning was no accident.
The Raiders scored on their first possession of the evening and went on to post a 28-20 win over their Red Deer rivals in a Central Alberta High School Football League game viewed by a crowd of 645 at Great Chief Park.
“It’s huge for morale,” said Raiders quarterback Ben Pasiuk, who passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns, rushed for 35 yards and scored a major of his own. “Hunting Hills is always a great team, they’re always great competition. They’re well-coached, they play hard to the whistle.
“That’s what you want in an opponent and I guess we just got the better of them today.”
The Raiders also had a foot up on the Lightning while recording a slender 8-7 win Sept. 5 in the season-opener for both teams.
“We had a great two weeks of practice preparing for this game,” said Pasiuk, in reference to the bye week granted to all four teams in the league’s Tier 1/2 division. “This was definitely a statement game. The coaches told us going in that we needed to prove to the league that our first win over the Lightning was no fluke. So that’s what it was today — a statement game, and we did a pretty good job.”
The Raiders never trailed after scoring just 4:29 into the game on Pasiuk’s 26-yard pass to Kolbi Street that capped an impressive nine-play drive.
Lindsay Thurber got additional first-half majors from Pasiuk, on a 15-yard run, and Gordie Walls, on a 35-yard dash down the right sidelines, and led 21-6 at the half.
The Lightning’s lone first-half points came on an unconverted touchdown by Kaden Hall, who hauled in a short pass from quarterback Brett Barrett.
“It’s not good when you start the game with the ball, then go two and out and they (Raiders) come down on their first series and score while making it look easy,” said Hunting Hills head coach Kyle Sedgwick. “We gave up 21 points in the first half and we’d given up only 22 points in three league games coming into tonight.
“That’s just not good enough. It just comes down to passion and will.”
Hunting Hills pulled to within eight points in the second half when Barrett crashed over the line from four yards out and were set to score again late in the third quarter when Barrett’s pass into the end zone was intercepted.
The Raiders scored what proved to be an insurance major with just over four minutes remaining in the game as Pasiuk teamed up with Jon Goulet on a 15-yard pass-and-run play. Barrett answered back with a two-yard scoring run just under three minutes later, but it was too little, too late.
Street was the Raiders’ leading receiver with five catches for 90 yards, while Brad Pope paced the Thurber ground game with 94 yards on 18 carries.
Barrett threw for 218 yards in a losing cause, while Bradnt Burzuk caught five passes for 78 yards and ran for another 90 on 14 carries.
Owen Smith converted all four Raiders touchdowns and Mike Wakelin converted two of three for the Lightning.
“Give Lindsay Thurber a lot of credit. When you’re coming off a bye week, two things can happen — you either play very sharp or you play a little sluggish, and they played very sharp,” said Sedgwick, whose team has now lost three straight to the Raiders dating back to last year.
“This is a rival game and you have to find it somewhere . . . whether you’re sore or you’re sick, you just have to find it. They took it to us in the first half. Their O-line dominated our front seven and we were slow on offence and couldn’t get first downs.”
Pasiuk was quick to credit his offensive line for providing both pass and run protection.
“They were awesome, our O-line won us that football game tonight,” he insisted. “They play with great heart and hustle and work harder than anyone. They don’t get the publicity, but they’re the real heroes.”
l In other league play Friday, the host Sylvan Lake Lakers downed the Stettler Wildcats 24-0.
(See Monday’s Advocate for details).