The William E. Hay Wildcats of Stettler sputtered on offence and defence last Thursday as they suffered their first loss of the Central Alberta High School Football League season.
A week after their season-opening victory over the Camrose Trojans, the Wildcats lost their home-opener as they fell 31-14 to the unbeaten H.J. Cody Lakers (2-0) of Sylvan Lake.
The Wildcats were battered even before the game, playing without injured veterans Ricky Armstrong, Matt Hataley and Morgan Loshny, the starting quarterback.
Another key cog, running back Braden Nelson, left the field prematurely for the second straight game, but he later deemed his injury as not serious.
There were no excuses, though, coming from Wildcats head coach Norbert Baharally immediately after Thursday’s game in scorching sun.
“You can’t take anything away from Sylvan Lake,” Baharally said. “They’re a good ball team and, definitely, they were the better team out there tonight.”
“I’m not going to make excuses and I’d sure like to see them again later in the year.”
Before heading to Rocky Mountain House for this Thursday’s game against the West Central Rebels (1-1), Baharally and his coaching staff planned an intense practice week to try to get the offence on track and tighten gaping defensive holes.
“After that display with our pass coverage, we need to work on some things there and figure out what was going on,” he said.
The Lakers’ dynamic duo of quarterback Chase Hoffman and receiver Tyler Ledwos highlighted a crisp offence from the Stettler visitors.
“Their passing game is really good,” said Nelson, who also complimented Sylvan Lake’s defence.
“They definitely had a lot of good defensive formations, that’s for sure. They just stopped every hole — we didn’t have a hole to run through — but I tried anyway.”
Nelson, a Grade 11 student who’s five-foot-11 and about 170 pounds, needed help going to the sidelines after injuring his left leg.
“I get hit a lot every game, but the last one I took, it was just the wrong kind of hit,” he said. “Just right on the shins, I got hit both ways. I couldn’t walk at the time.”
After icing his leg, Nelson wanted to jump back into the action.
“I was trying to ice it to get back in the game, but the coaches wouldn’t let me,” he said with a laugh.
Nelson scored a second quarter touchdown. Joey Standage added a late TD for the Wildcats, while Anton Stewart kicked both converts.
Bud Kriekle scored two touchdowns and a two-point convert for H.J. Cody, and Ledwos and Brad Hunold each added one major. The Lakers led 14-7 at halftime and went on a 17-point run to open a 31-7 lead in the fourth quarter.
It’s already been a tough season for injuries for the Wildcats, who dropped out of the provincial Tier 3 rankings after securing the No. 10 spot after Week 1 action.
“They’re dropping more faster than usual, so I don’t really know what’s up,” Nelson said of the team’s injury woes.
Baharally said senior slotback Armstrong — who has been sidelined since suffering a preseason hand injury — might be able to return next week in time for a Sept. 23 home game against the Hunting Hills Lightning of Red Deer.
Armstrong began practising lightly Monday.