Falcons strike chance at three-peat
Football: Falcons advance to Tier II final by downing Hunting Hills Lightning 42-7
Tuesday, Nov 21, 2017 01:58 pm
LACOMBE — Catching Lightning in a bottle has the Foothills Falcons going for a third-consecutive provincial high school football title.
The Falcons capitalized on seven Hunting Hills Lightning turnovers in routing the Red Deer school 42-7 in the Tier II provincial high school football semifinal Saturday in Lacombe.
“I thought we could have given Foothills a battle, the scoreboard isn’t indicative,” Lightning coach Kyle Sedgwick said. “We had seven turnovers and they had zero. You just can’t cough up the ball seven times.”
Cough up the ball seven times against Foothills and it will leave a worse taste in your mouth than Buckley’s.
“I thought the first quarter and half was a slug-fest,” Sedgwick said. “These looked like the two best teams in the province. They capitalized today.”
The Falcons had a slim 8-7 lead after 12 minutes, with Foothills’ major coming from an eight-yard swing pass from QB Tyson Pitcher to runningback Payton Price on a drive that resulted from the Lightning fumbling on its first play from scrimmage.
The Lightning, who went into the game with a 10-0 record, struck on an alert play by Hunting Hills punter Kallen Vickery before the end of the opening quarter.
Vickery, who was punting on a third-and-10 from about the Foothills 35, pooch kicked and was able to pounce on the ball in front of the bewildered Falcon returner for a first-and-goal from the three. A play later, Lightning QB Brandon Rees ran it in from the one to make it 8-7.
That would be as close as the Lightning would strike.
Foothills would up their lead to 15-7 when after Payton Burbank picked up 16-yards on a run to the Lightning three, Price then took it in for the major.
Foothills put their foot down with a long drive from the Falcons nine late in the second half which resulted in a Pitcher to Burbank TD pass from the Lightning one-yard line when Foothills coach Darren Olson opted very un-Edmonton-Eskimo-like to go for the major rather than kick a field goal on third down.
The drive was highlighted by a 15-yard gain when Pitcher called his own number. Receiver Tanner Young also had a highlight-film 26-yard reception in the drive. Price had a huge 35-yard run to put the Falcons deep in the Lightning’s territory.
It was huge.
“The score right at the end of the half at 15-7, is a lot better than 22-7,” Sedgwick said.
“We were able to convert two third downs,” Olson said of the drive. “Tyson was very composed and the guys did what they had to do.”
It was all about staying calm.
“We knew that if we could get another score we would be in the clear — we just kept it pedal to the metal the whole way because we knew Hunting Hills can play,” Burbank said.
The Falcons would put the game away in the second half on a one-yard TD run from Pitcher, and a 12-yard catch and run from Keaton Neish, who broke a couple of would-be Lightning tackles.
Price completed the scoring the scoring with a one-yard TD.
The Falcons defence was once again nearly perfect — the lone Lightning score came on a three-yard drive.
“Our defence was big,” Olson said. “(DB) Callum Minor made a big strip in the opening play of the second half and we were able to convert into a TD and that almost put the game away.
“We did the same thing last week and that was a big thing for us today.”
Pitcher also credited the defence.
“If defence gets us the ball, we have to score and we were able to do that tonight,” Pitcher said.
First-year Falcon centre Parker Nakamura, is thrilled to get a shot at winning a title.
“There’s been a lot of hard-work from everyone and we just brought it today,” Nakamura said. “With the brotherhood we have on this team, I think we can do anything.”
The Falcons are hoping Lacombe is not only a great place to visit, but continues to be great place to play football. They will return to MEGlobal Field to take on the Lloydminster Barons in the Tier II final. The Barons stunned the top-ranked St. Joseph’s Celtics 38-14 in Saturday’s other semifinal.
The Falcons have defeated St. Joe’s in each of the past two provincial finals.
Pitcher is one of a handful of Falcons, including Price and safety Seth Nelson, who have the opportunity to win three titles in their high school careers next week.
The last team to do the trick was the Austin O’Brien Crusaders from 2011-13. Ironically, the Crusaders’ championship streak was bookended by final victories over the Holy Trinity Academy Knights in 2011 and the Falcons in 2013.
Pitcher realizes he’s got a chance at something rare.
“Not a lot of people have that opportunity,” he said. “I have been blessed.”
Kick-off is at 11 a.m. in Lacombe. Follow the action on Twitter @OKwesternwheel.