BY ZACHARY CORMIER
Little mistakes turned out to be kryptonite for the Lacombe Composite High School Rams football team in their season opener against the Hunting Hills High School Lightning last week.
Despite strong performances from many of their veteran players and a late push by their offense, the Rams weren’t able to overcome the defending Central Alberta High School Football League champions as they fell 19-14 at ME Global Athletic Park last Friday night.
“Three mistakes. Basically, you know, you get three mistakes – a turnover and a kick return. And those things are easily fixed because that comes with experience,” said Rams’ Head Coach Jason Petrie after the game.
Petrie, who is in his first year as head coach of the team, said he was proud of how the team played, especially in the second half.
“I’m proud of all our guys today. We prepared for the game. They didn’t do anything we didn’t expect them to do. Our defense were lights out, in the second half especially they had trouble with us. We started marching the ball in the second half. It’s just unfortunate.”
In what would turn out to be a hard-fought defeat, the Rams football program put the rest of the Central Alberta League on notice, as after conceding a few scores in the first half, the local team surged back to a fourth quarter lead before conceding the game winning score in the final five minutes.
A controversial red zone interception on their final drive of the game turned out to be the final nail in the coffin for the Rams.
“I don’t know if I necessarily want to celebrate a loss, but at the same time we’ve got to be positive and encouraged with where we’re at right now. We’ve just got to keep working,” Petrie said.
Despite being held scoreless in the first half by a tough Lightning defense, the Rams’ offensive unit were able to find a lot of success through the air in the third and fourth quarters.
Grade 12 quarterback Jonathan Ericson was solid under centre for Lacombe, connecting on 19 of his 31 passing attempts for 157 yards passing.
Ericson, on his part, benefited from some very sure hands and quick feet downfield.
Rookie receiver Richard Jans was money for his new team. The former Lacombe Bantam Raiders quarterback hauled in a total of nine passes to contribute 81 yards receiving on the offensive end.
Meanwhile, veteran slotback David Mueller was absolutely stunning for Lacombe as he put up 37 yards receiving on just four catches for an average of 9.3 yards per carry and two touchdowns.
The Grade 12 player was also able to contribute to the ground game, as he rushed the ball for 45 yards on seven carries.
But Mueller’s biggest contribution, perhaps, came on special teams as he was the one to put up a game tying 87 yard kickoff return late in the fourth quarter to give his team a chance to come out on top.
“In the end it doesn’t come down to my play. We lost by five points and in the end that’s all that really matters. We’ve just got to bring it next week. It doesn’t matter if one guy brings it, two guys bring it. We all have to bring it or we’re not going to win,” said Mueller, adding that he’s excited to see what the rest of the season holds.
“It’s a hard fought game but I’m excited for the year. I think we’ve got a really good shot and we’ve got a hard working team. Obviously it’s a tough loss but I’m looking forward to what we’ve got coming this year.”
Defensively, the Rams were lights out, especially when it came to shutting down Hunting Hills’ passing game.
Led by Bryce Woodrow’s two interceptions, the Rams secondary limited the HHHS quarterbacks to just 37 passing yards.
“We’re serving notice. That’s what we’re doing right now. We’re serving notice that we’re here and we’re not going anywhere and we’re going to play physical,” Petrie said.
The Rams are back in action this Friday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. when they take on the Lindsay Thurber Comprehensive High School Raiders at ME Global Athletic Park.