Judah Knip, #13 of the Central Alberta Buccaneers spent last season waiting for his opportunity behind star quarterback Brandon Leyh.
This year he was given his chance when Leyh left the team and he is hoping to keep the ball moving for the 2-2 Bucs.
“The first two games we came out pretty strong and hit the ground rolling, but the past two games against the Gators and Monarchs have been pretty tough,” Knip said. “They are pretty good teams and I think it was a good gut check for us. We are half way through the season and we will make the right adjustments to go where we want to go.”
Knip is thankful for the opportunity to learn from Leyh, who played four years of CIS football at Mount Allison.
“It is definitely big shoes to fill,” Knip said.
“Playing behind Brandon last year was super beneficial for me and I picked his brain all year. I learned a lot about the game of football. Obviously I am not going to play as well as a guy who played four years of CIS, but I will do the best I can to the ultimate goal – which is to win a championship.
“It was a huge learning year for me. I played behind him all year and just getting to watch was a delight. He is pretty fun to watch and everyday at practice I got to learn about football.”
Composure is one of the key things that Knip took from his mentor last year.
“As a quarterback it is important to stay calm. Everyone on the offense is looking to you for leadership and whether you are playing good or bad – you have to be level-headed. You have to do the best you can every play no matter what the outcome is,” he said.
Knip feels as the season progresses, the Bucs’ offence will continue to gain confidence.
“You begin to build chemistry. Every week we play we will try to get better,” he said. “We have hit a little rut on offense the last two weeks, so we need to build from that and move forward.”
Knip noted the offence needs to catch up with the defence in order for the Bucs to get back in the win column.
“In both those games, I feel the score didn’t really reflect what kind of game it was,” he said. “Our defence played lights out in both games and the offense didn’t really execute. We didn’t show up in both of those games. We have sat down and watched film as a team. We think we can hang with those teams. They are big powerhouses but we just have to work on some things and fix some aspects of our game.”
An opportunity will present itself this weekend when the Bucs square off against the Parkland Predators, who are having troubles getting enough guys out on the field.
“It is tough. Anytime you get 17 guys out for home games, like Parkland does, it is hard to do well,” Knip said.
“For the Bucs, it will be a good tune-up game for us. You don’t want to come in arrogant and get knocked on your (bottom) but we should be able to work on some stuff we need to figure out on offence.”
Knip foresees another showdown with the Monarchs, who have had the Bucs’ number their last couple of outings.
“There is definitely some bad blood going back to last year in the finals,” Knip said.
“We have to keep our cool and not let them get underneath our skin at all. We aren’t intimidated by them at all and we know what we are capable of as a team. When it comes to getting ahead of them, we just have to play our game and execute.”
Knip knows his offence needs to gain time in the possession clock in order to give the defence a rest.
“With less guys, fatigue is more of a factor near the end of the game,” he said. “The last two games our offence couldn’t sustain drives and our defence was constantly on the field; they were gassed by the end of the game. With less numbers there is a downside to it but on the upside we are a closer group than last year. For me it is a lot more fun.”
Seeing the Monarchs again will require the Bucs excelling in their final four outings in 2017.
“We want to win our last four. The last week of the season we play the St. Albert Stars and that will be the biggest game of the year for us,” Knip said.
“That will decide third and fourth place, which will be huge for us and whether we travel or stay home. You don’t want to look ahead too far but our eyes are set on the Stars because we know the importance of that game.”