BY KALISHA MENDONSA
The Central Alberta Buccaneers have completed their indoor training sessions, but are not standing idly by as they await the 2017/2018 season.
The Bucs pride themselves in continuously working with various community groups, from food drives to awareness programs and more. Right now, as they wait out the rest of the off-season, they continue to put work into the community.
“We’re obviously a men’s football team so we’re at the ages where a lot of us have families and kids of our own we want to set an example for. Not only that, but growing up a lot of us had community coaches, too, so it’s important to us to give back the goodness we’ve received,” said new chairman of the Bucs, Markus Fay.
“It’s always been a staple of the Bucs to do those sorts of things. We don’t care about the credit for it, or being able to show what we did, but it’s more about giving back to our community and showing a lifestyle we think is right for the community.”
This month alone, the Bucs are involved in several events, from the Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl For Kids’ Sake on March 11th, to volunteering with a car auction on the 17th and finally, the guys are hosting their fundraiser pub night on March 31st.
All of these events offer opportunities for the guys to get together, celebrate the work of their team and build up their presence in the community.
Fay added that it’s important to the team to be role models within the community and contribute where they can.
“Like I said, a lot of the guys have families and there are some limitations in terms of volunteering that come with that. That said, I see everyone pitching in where they can,” he added.
“That’s what I like about this team – everybody kind of knows that we all have to step up and put in their time with the community to stay a part of the team.”
Last year, the team breezed through the regular season into the finals with an 8-0 record, but unfortunately fell short of the Alberta Football League (AFL) championship title with a loss to the Fort McMurray Monarchs.
“Going in, we really felt we were going to win that game. That was a great goal to have, but we also know at the back of our minds that Fort Mac is a really good team. We weren’t going to win just because we went 8-0. We had to put in the work, but sometimes that’s just how it goes,” Fay said.
“I still think we’re a better team all around, but they were the better team that day.”
Fay said it was a tough game, especially with three of their starting players out during the game.
Looking to the upcoming season, Fay said the team is still going to be putting in the work to carry on their momentum from last season, however, there are going to be a few roster changes that will take some adjusting to.
“Overall, we had a pretty good year last year. This year we are losing a couple of key players, including our starting quarterback Brandon Leyh. It unfortunately doesn’t look like he’s coming back, which is a major blow for our team, as he was one of the best players in the league last year,” Fay explained.
He said that the team will simply adjust and move forward with the goal of becoming AFL champions in mind.
Judah Knip will take over the role of starting quarterback, and Fay said Knip worked closely with Leyh over the last year and is ready to “take the reigns” and hopefully continue to add to the team’s success.
He remained optimistic, but realistic.
“Basically, this year, we’re trying to make it back to where we made it last year – the finals. Once you’re there, anything can happen, really. Last year, we went 8-0, and lost in the final unfortunately, but we still want to try.”
He added that he is very proud of the Buccaneers, and is glad the entire team works hard to build the profile and quality of the team as a whole.
“Really, what makes this team are the guys. I’ve played a lot of sports in my life, and a lot of sports at high levels, but football is the ultimate team sport in my opinion. That comes from the bonding you get with your team, and the physicality of the sport, too,” Fay said.
“I also enjoy testing myself as a man, especially being one of the smaller guys on the field usually,” he said.
“It’s honestly one of the best team sports I could hope to play, and my team is great.”
The Bucs will kick off the regular season in April.