Revenge wasn’t the first thing on the Notre Dame High School Cougars’ minds heading into the Red Deer High School Football City Final against the Hunting Hills High School Lightning last Saturday afternoon but, after a dominating victory, revenge is exactly what they got.
After falling to the Lightning in the final a year ago, the Cougars pulled off the comeback that was a full season in the making, dethroning the defending champions with 39-15 victory at MEGlobal Athletic Park in Lacombe.
“The bottom line is we are a good team and the kids played well and they came today to play, which was nice to see,” said Cougars’ Head Coach Gino Castellan after the victory.
It was the culmination of a near perfect season for the Cougars, who came into the game as the heavy favourites with a 7-1 record.
And it didn’t take long for the ‘Dame boys to draw first blood in the contest either. Before the first quarter had even expired, the Cougars had jumped out to a 16-0 lead thanks to a safety and two majors within the last minute of the first quarter.
“We prepped hard last week and I thought we did a good job and we took advantage of what they gave us,” Castellan said of the early lead, which turned out to be a huge boost for the Cougars, especially in the late stages of the game as the Lightning started trying to mount a comeback.
In fact, it was pretty much all Cougars throughout the first half. Just five minutes into the second quarter, quarterback Devin Desormeaux tossed an easy pass to a wide open Jacob Palmondon, who took it to the house for a score.
Palmondon had a trio of touchdowns on the day to lead his team to their first City title since 2009.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time and I think just this week we pulled together and we knew what we were capable of doing and we just did it,” said a beaming Palmondon after the game.
The Cougars, who normally rely on their running game to pick apart opposing defenses were able to find a lot of success through the air in Saturday’s matchup.
“Hunting Hills is a very aggressive team and we took advantage of that and when you’re very aggressive you’re suceptible to the pass,” Castellan said.
Meanwhile, the Notre Dame defense put on a stifling performance throughout the game. Rarely did they let the Hunting Hills offense string together more than a few successful plays as they forced fumble after fumble and turnover after turnover.
It took the Lightning until the third quarter to get on the board.
“We had a good run. Seven straight years in this game, four wins in a row. I’m proud of our guys and I’m proud of the character they showed at the end of battle. I know it’s kind of tough in a lopsided game and they may have let off a little bit but our guys battled right to the end and that’s going to lead us into next weekend here in the provincial quarter final,” said Lightning Head Coach Kyle Sedgwick of his team’s play.
Despite a couple of touchdowns in the final two quarters, a turnover in the last three minutes which turned into a touchdown spelled the final nail in the coffin for Hunting’s four-year run as champions. Final score: 39-17.
With the City final out of the way, both teams will now turn their attention to the Football Alberta provincial tournament, which gets underway next week.
The Lightning will be competing in the Tier II provincials and will play the Robert Thrisk Comets this Saturday at 1:30 p.m.
Later that day, Cougars will kick off their Tier I provincials as they host the Harry Ainley Titans from Edmonton at 4 p.m.
Both games will be played at MEGlobal Athletic Park in Lacombe.