The Central Alberta Buccaneers kicked off in Airdrie against the 2015 expansion team, the Irish, in the last week of regular season AFL play last weekend.
While the outcome of the game would not affect either team’s playoff situation (the Bucs locked up third place with a win against the St. Albert Stars and the Irish did not qualify), both teams were determined to win.
For the Irish (2-5), it was their last chance to play before the offseason. For the Bucs (5-2), it was a chance to improve and gain momentum before the playoffs.
From the opening whistle, the Bucs were in a battle they didn’t expect from the down but not yet out Irish.
For the majority of the first quarter, it was a tied ball game at 7-7. Pascal Plante hauled in the lone Bucs TD with a few nifty moves and a long 70-yard sprint into the Irish endzone (his second in as many games). The Bucs would finish the first half with a moderate lead, sitting at 18-8.
While the Bucs were able to make some dynamic and opportunistic plays in the second half, it was (yet again), penalties that were their Achilles’ heel. It seemed that every time the Bucs made an outstanding play, an orange flag was somewhere to be found on the turf.
“We will not win games with how many penalty yards we are racking up each game,” said defensiveback Layton Johnson.
“We need to work on staying focused and coming out of the gate working as a united team,” added runningback Tanner Green. “We don’t have a lack of great athletes by any means; it’s the mental errors that get us.”
As a result of these errors, the Bucs scoring trickled to a halt. Before they knew it, the Irish had tied the game at 18-18 with a few minutes left. It would be veteran cornerback Tylor Johnson who made the game winning play when he intercepted a stray Irish pass and ran it into the endzone. The Bucs won their final regular season game 25-18, finishing with a 6-2 record.
Despite penalty woes, “There were a lot of positives to be taken away from the game,” said rookie receiver Hunter Gooderham.
The Bucs are gearing up to kickoff against the Edmonton Stallions in the quarter-finals.
“With a couple solid practices and with our heads on right, we will come home with another ‘W’,” said Green.
The Bucs host the Stallions on Aug. 22nd at 6 p.m. at Lacombe’s ME Global Athletic Park.
In addition to the game, both the Irish and the Bucs raised pledges for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in their first annual ‘Real Men Wear Pink’ game. While the Bucs were the victors on the football field, they came in second to the Irish on pledge forms (Bucs raised $250, Irish $1,000). As a result, the Buccaneer team chairman will wear pink for a day at work.
– submitted by Todd Lewis, Central Alberta Buccaneers chairman