The Central Alberta Buccaneers are well underway in preparation for their upcoming AFL season. With the signing of Devon Hand as head coach, the Bucs are entering the 2015 season with a new direction and vision. By fostering a football culture of commitment and accountability and recruiting a large and competitive roster, the team will, “Allow as much fun as possible without compromising the work it takes to win a title,” said Hand. “This will be a program guys want to play in.”
Defensive end Ian Keetch, former Rimbey Spartan, is heading into his sixth season as a Buccaneers and has loved every second of it, he said. Keetch has found his stride in the AFL, being named to the All-Star team for 2013 and 2014 as well as crowned the defensive MVP in 2013. While he is one of the league’s premier d-linemen, Keetch admits that his initial transition into the league was daunting. “It was a hell of a transition from playing football with (high school) boys to playing with the men of the AFL.” Keetch credited his recent success to Hand who swapped Keetch to the defensive side of the ball. “Hunting quarterbacks is natural for me and (Hand) saw that.” When asked why others should join the Bucs, Keetch said, “I use it as therapy. It works for me.”
After falling short of the 2014 AFL title, the Bucs are continuing to bolster its roster size and talent pool. With increased depth, the team will be better able to endure injuries as well as avoid over-fatiguing players. To find these additional recruits, the Bucs will operate booths at trade shows during the spring (Ponoka, Lacombe, and Stettler), host its first annual Bucs Recruitment Night, and continue to have a presence in the Central Albertan community via fundraisers and charity events.
The Bucs will continue its partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters Ponoka by entering a team into the Bowl for Kids fundraiser. At this event, participants raise pledges, which greatly contribute to BBBS’s yearly operating funds, and bowl for game or two. This will be the Bucs fourth year participating in this event and the team aims at raising $1,200 for Big Brothers.
After completing its fourth team-blood-drive on Dec. 13th (which included 17 blood donators), the Buccaneers sent out a friendly challenge to the rest of the AFL to see which club is more willing to bleed for Alberta. On Feb. 7th, the nine teams that comprise the Alberta Football League will collectively roll up their sleeves in their respective blood clinics in order to donate. Fans and interested players are encouraged to participate.
The Bucs Recruitment Night will function as a meet and greet for interested potential players. Coaching staff and veteran players will be more than willing to share information regarding the team, its culture, its history, and, most importantly, its goals for 2015. While an exact location has not yet been decided upon, the Recruitment Night will happen on Jan. 24th. For more details, follow the team’s web site at www.cabuce.com.
When asked about the 2015 expectations, Hand said, “When we strap up in red and black this upcoming summer, players will be challenged to leave it all on the field for the better of the team. There will be no excuses. There will be no shortcuts. When the summer turns to fall and the dust settles, players will be able to look each other in the eye and say they laid it on the line for the team. That is what 2015 Central Alberta Buccaneers will be all about.”
Submitted by Todd Lewis, chair of the Central Alberta Buccaneers