I haven’t had too many chances this fall to talk about high school football, so I thought I would take the opportunity with this week’s column to do just that.
Fresh off his first season as the co-coach of the Alberta Football League Red Deer Buccaneers, a season that saw the Bucs make the AFL playoffs for the first time in five years; Kyle Sedgwick has guided his Hunting Hills Lightning to the best record in the Central Alberta High School Football League this year.
After a big 33-14 win last week over the Notre Dame Cougars, the 7-0 Lightning secured top spot in the CAHSFL standings, and while they could end up in a first place tie with the Camrose Trojans or Lacombe Rams, Hunting Hills holds the tie-breaker against both clubs.
That means the Lightning have guaranteed themselves a home playoff game, the first time that’s happened in the history of the program.
A lot of credit has to be given to Sedgwick, who has done a masterful job of building the program and identifying the right players for the team to have success.
Stas McPhail has once again been a workhorse for the Lightning, rushing the ball 70 times for 438 yards and four touchdowns in September alone.
Tyler Lewis has been another big bright spot for the Lightning, carrying or kicking the pigskin when called upon, and quarterback Jon Boutin has a done a good job of distributing the ball, completing 28 of 54 passes in September for 534 yards.
With Hunting Hills now sitting firmly atop the CAHSFL standings, it also signals a bit of a changing of the guard amongst the teams.
Yes, perennial favourites Camrose and Lacombe have taken up their favourite spots near the top of the standings.
But Notre Dame, which tore through the regular season last year at 8-0, saw a few key players leave in the off-season, and the Cougars have struggled to an 0-6 record with two games left to play.
To be fair, the Cougars are headed in the right direction, but they just aren’t there yet.
But with football stalwart Gino Castellan calling the shots at ND, you can bet they’ll be going great guns to finish off the season on a winning note.
And with the younger Cougars taking their lumps this season, look for them to bounce back next year.
Another bright spot in the CAHSFL this season has been the Stettler Wildcats.
After picking up just one tie last season to go along with seven losses, the Wildcats have already gone above and beyond those numbers this year, with three wins, one loss and one tie.
It doesn’t matter what happens to Stettler the rest of the season, you would have to consider this year to be a success for their football program.
The Sylvan Lake Lakers, meanwhile, are a team that I have a bit of trouble putting my finger on.
The Lakers, who won it all in 2007, have had an up and down season this year and struggled with consistency, going 3-4 with one game remaining against Lindsay Thurber near the end of the month.
Either way, the strong performances we’ve seen from some young football players this year speaks volumes to me about the work being done at the grassroots level.
So much work has gone into getting kids into football earlier, with the establishment of local atom and peewee leagues, leagues that weren’t available to Central Alberta teens 10 years ago.
And with those leagues seeing some increases in the number of players, local high schools will have no problems filling their rosters in the years to come.
Which means the future holds nothing for us but more great football.