It was a battle for third place in the Alberta Football League this weekend, where the Central Alberta Buccaneers emerged victorious over the St. Albert Stars with a score of 19-6.
Both teams headed into the game with a season record of 4-2. The Bucs, now with a third-place standings record of 5-2, will travel to Airdrie later this month for their final game of the regular season.
Bucs Head Coach Devon Hand was pleased with the overall results and is already looking forward to continuing the team’s improvement.
“I thought we were better than we were last week, and as a coach trying to get a team over the hump that’s all you can ask for. We still have a long ways to go – we left some points on the sidelines that we should have scored,” Hand said.
“We had a couple of mistakes. We gave up big plays in the second half there, so it was by no means a perfect outing, but we were better than we were last week so I’ll take that.”
Within the first five minutes of game play quarterback Matt Merkley gave a solid pass to fullback Pascal Plante, who ran the ball in for the first touchdown of the game. These two players were recently switched in their positions on the offensive line.
“We just started with a new quarterback – Matt Merkley – and we need to get more continuity there to get momentum. This was the last game of the regular season before we head into the playoffs, so it’s all about momentum. It’s about keeping things moving and improving, and hopefully we can take that into the playoffs.”
The Bucs did carry a slow but steady momentum through the game after the inaugural touchdown. The offensive line worked hard to continuously push the ball forward, granting a favourable field position to the Bucs for the majority of the game.
The first quarter ended with a 7-0 lead for the Bucs, but quickly grew to a 9-0 lead at 17 minutes into game play. Just a few minutes later, Merkley shone again when he retrieved a mishandled snap and ran the ball up the field securing some yards.
Unfortunately, a punt from Plante sent the ball into the hands of Stars’ player Adam Nesbitt.
The Bucs moved the game forward with strong offensive plays and eventually a second touchdown by Xavier Lawrence 28 minutes into the game.
The Bucs’ offense brought 15 points to the team, and the score was rounded out with four points surrendered by the opposing QB. Hand praised his offensive and defensive lines for their roles in the victory.
“I think we did well today. We got good pressure today – we forced some bad passes and things like that, which is typically what we do defensively,” he said.
“I’m excited the offense was moving the ball and we didn’t have a huge amount of turnovers, just a few penalties.”
Penalties have been a major factor throughout the Bucs’ season. Hand said he guessed that they were one of the most penalized teams in the league, although he didn’t have an official record.
“To get ready for that playoff game we need to get rid of all the penalties because they’re killing us. I don’t know the stats for sure, but I’d say we are by far the most penalized team in the league and it’s incredibly frustrating,” he said.
He said these penalties could be attributed to the high energy of the team and the need for a little bit more compatibility among its players.
“I think from an identity standpoint we’re still trying to feel that out and figure out who we are. We’re a bit reckless and bit over-zealous – we get excited at times. We’re just trying to figure that out. It was better this week than it was in weeks past and it’s improving.”
The third quarter passed without much action. The Bucs nearly shut out the Stars, but Branden Seimens scored a touchdown for his team very late in the fourth quarter.
This was the final home game for the Bucs in the regular season. The team will travel to battle the Airdrie Irish on Aug. 15th. Hand said he would not underestimate the opposing team, regardless of their record.
In addition to the game, both teams are competing to see which can raise the most pledges for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. To donate, message the Bucs facebook page or head to their web site at cabucs.com.