Rams fall short of championship
Zach Schwab of the Lacombe Rams is hauled down by a trio of Hunting Hills Lightning players during high school football championship action at MEGlobal Athletic Park on Saturday night (Ashli Barrett/Lacombe Globe)
The Lacombe Rams played their best game of the season, but the Hunting Hills High School Lightning played to perfection to hand them a loss when a win mattered most.
The hometown team fell 34-11 to the Lightning in the Central Alberta high school city league final Saturday at MEGlobal Athletic Park. It was a similar story to their previous two meetings this year, with the Lightning capitalizing on every mistake and giving up little themselves.
The score, however, wasn’t indicative of the football game according to Rams Head Coach Jason Petrie. His team established the game they wanted to play, just ultimately didn’t have bounces go their way.
“We had them reeling, we had them backed off. We were doing what we wanted to do on offence, just didn’t convert inside the 20 like we needed to in the first half,” he said. “They didn’t score an offensive touchdown on us in the first half....We came out a little bit flat in the second and they didn’t make a mistake in the second half.”
“They’re a very good football team. They were very well coached.”
Unlike past games, the Rams actually opened the scoring on a 35-yard field goal by Jack Bahler. Aside from a safety, however, it would be the only offence the Lightning allowed them until the dying moments of the game when quarterback Jonathan Ericson pushed the ball over the goal line.
A fake punt caught the Rams off guard early on and the Lightning capitalized, and followed it up with their second touchdown of the game. At the half, the Rams were down 14-3.
Their third quarter was their weakest point, where Nathan Lavigne struck twice for the lightning, including on a fumble recovery sequence that almost had the Rams on offence.
“I thought we played pretty well. We had a few gaffes on specials - you can’t have those mistakes in the championship game,” said Petrie. “At the same time, if you told me at the beginning of the year we were going to be in the championship final and down by 11 points at halftime, I would’ve been jumping out of my skin. I would’ve been pretty excited about that and that’s where we were.”
In the fourth, they started taking chances with the ball, but the risks didn’t come with the kind of reward they were looking for, and the Rams finished in second place – an improvement on their third place finish last year.
Despite falling short of the championship, players focused on the growth of their team, rather than the loss.
“It’s definitely tough because, obviously we lost,” said quarterback Johnny Ericson. “I felt like that was probably our best game as a team... At the beginning of the year we weren’t sure, we weren’t connected, we were playing as individuals on the field. We kept on growing, kept on improving every game and came together on all aspects.
“It was a great time. High school football is a dream,” he said. “It’s so awesome playing under the lights. I’m definitely going to miss this.”
Ericson, along with Matt Darnell, Evan Standish, Wyatt Glover, David Morin, Tristyn Foley and Jeremy Blakely, played his final football game as a Ram on Saturday. While he has plans to play basketball this year as well, the sun isn’t setting on his football career just yet.
“I have some offers from universities across Canada,” he said. “I’m just looking at what I can take education-wise and figure that out first, what universities offer what I want and what’s the best fit for me and my family.”
The Rams will cap off the football season with their annual gala and awards ceremony in December.
As for their opponents, the Hunting Hills Lightning will now head to the regional semifinals this Saturday, Nov. 11 to face the St. Mary’s Saints at 4:15 p.m. at Stampeder Field at Shouldice Park in Calgary.
The Alberta Bowl Provincial Final will be held Saturday, Nov. 25 at 11 a.m. at MEGlobal Athletic Park.