The Hunting Hills Lightning of Red Deer struck in the fourth quarter and defeated the host Stettler Wildcats 25-14 on Friday night.
The Wildcats were facing an upper-echelon opponent, but they led early in the final quarter and almost upset the Lightning in Week 4 of the Central Alberta High School Football League season.
“We just couldn’t finish,” said Stettler running back Braden Nelson, who gained 95 yards on 18 carries in another determined effort.
Wildcats quarterback Morgan Loshny, back in action after missing the previous two games, echoed that sentiment.
“We did good, I thought,” Loshny said. “I think we had a chance to win, but we just let it slip away.”
Mark Beingessner intercepted a Loshny pass in the fourth quarter and scored a touchdown that put Hunting Hills ahead to stay.
The Wildcats had done their homework on Beingessner, otherwise known as No. 40.
“Yeah, and 40 is a very good player,” said Stettler head coach Norbert Baharally. “We knew about him, we scouted him, and we knew what he was capable of doing. I think,
today, he had a very strong defensive game, as opposed to the offensive side.
“I mean, we were worried about him on offence, but we didn’t think he’d be that impactful on defence, like he was today. He did a good job shutting down our outside running game, there’s no doubt.”
Anton Stewart did all of the scoring for Stettler, with two touchdowns and a pair of converts.
With the return of starting quarterback Loshny, the Wildcats tried to add a passing game to their repertoire, but that’s not easily accomplished at the high school level.
“With the high school game, you try to rely on a run game, for the most part,” Baharally said. “And then, when the run game isn’t working, you’ll try to mix it up a little bit and you’ve got to rely on the pass game. And with the pass game, sometimes the pass is there, sometimes protection isn’t there, sometimes the receiver isn’t open. There’s all sorts of things that just need to go right at the same time to be successful with completing a pass in high school football.
“Tonight, we just didn’t have it. We had some good looks, made some bad reads at times and threw the ball maybe where we shouldn’t have thrown it. But this is Morgan’s first game back, after being out, so it’ll take a little while for him to get back in the groove.”
Loshny, a Grade 11 student, has been nursing a season-long hip injury that’s still under evaluation. He’s scheduled for a checkup at a sports medicine clinic in Edmonton in mid-October.
In the meantime, however, he’s playing through adversity and not making excuses.
“Oh, it was different,” he said of playing a game for the first time since Sept. 1. “I had to re-memorize my plays.”
“It was a tough game. I can’t really make any excuses. I’m just going by how I feel and it feels OK now. But when I go to Edmonton, I’ll find out, for sure.”
The Wildcats showed their defensive might for parts of Friday’s game.
“Overall, our defence had a great game,” said Baharally, whose son Nick was one of those standouts.
“Nicholas had an interception down in their end when we stopped (the Lightning) on that one drive. In the first half, they tried to throw a pass in the middle and he picked the ball off.”
“In the first half again, Parker (Cassidy) had a knock away from the (Hunting Hills) quarterback and recovered the ball himself. Parker had a strong game for us. He was all over the ball.
“Anton (Stewart) made a nice play on defence with that interception for a touchdown. That put us up 14-13. The defence played solid.”
Stettler hopes to welcome back another veteran, Ricky Armstrong, for this Friday’s game in Red Deer against the Lindsay Thurber Raiders.
Armstrong, a senior slotback, hasn’t played this season after suffering a hand injury in a farming accident on the eve of training camp.
Stettler (2-2) remained ninth in the provincial Tier 3 rankings released Monday by Football Alberta.