The Lacombe Rams had the opportunity to test their early season success against a highly-touted Hunting Hill Lightning football squad in the first official league game of the season.
The Rams came into this week after convincingly winning a nine-man exhibition game against the Innisfail Cyclones 42-7 on home field, but the Lightning were also on a roll after defeating the Foothills Falcons — one of the best Tier 2 football programs in province and a perennial rival of both the Rams and Lightning.
The Lightning pressure would come early, with the Lightning defence routinely breaking through the Rams o-line, leaving Quarterback Mitch Simmons with very little operating room.
“We were expecting some guys to be prepared and a couple injuries bit us right before the game. It was tough to prepare,” Coach Brian Ross said.
The extended pressure on defence led to several chances on the other end of the field for Lightning Coach Kyle Sedgwick’s offence, leading to Hunting Hills jumping out to a 16-0 lead including a nine-yard score by Joel Demale.
The Rams would keep things interesting heading into the half after Gabe Hiebert caught a nine-yard pass from Simmons, cutting the Lightning lead to 16-7. Ross said his lineman were able to settle down after the first quarter.
“Once our lineman are able to figure some stuff out — which will be our weakness for awhile — we will be okay,” Ross said
The Lightning would, however, make good use of the 11 seconds remaining in the half, running the length of the field on the kick-off and then following that up with field goal with just .9 seconds remaining.
Runningback Joe Hunt would keep the keep the Lightning striking in the third quarter, capitalizing on an extended possession and running it one yard for the score — extending the lead to 26-7 with with just over seven minutes left in the third quarter.
The Rams did have a chance to put a dent into the lead late, but failed to capitalize from the the one-yard line but an incomplete pass would lead the end of an almost five minute possession. Luckily for Lacombe, on the ensuing Lightning possession, they be given another chance after a interception led to a 10-yard Zach Schwab touchdown, cutting the lead to 27-14.
The Lightning would shut the door on the next play when Quarterback Lucas Fuerbringer called his own number and ran it back 19 yards, pushing the lead to the final score 34-14.
Ross said the lesson from this game is about responding to pressure next week when they play Lindsay Thurber in Red Deer on Friday at 7:30 p.m.
“High school football is a pressure-filled game and the guys that figured it out today led us to being able some pretty cool stuff. Zach Schwab was awesome and all over the field and Mitch (Simmons) played well under fire,” Ross said.
Ross was pleased to finally be playing league games in 2019.
“I hate the exhibition stuff, but it is what it is. We will see what Lindsay Thurber brings, we will see what Notre Dame brings and we will be ready for it,” Ross said.