BIG CRUNCH - Matt Merkley and the Central Alberta Buccaneers would power through the St. Albert Stars to take sole possession of second place in the AFL. Todd Colin Vaughan/Red Deer Express

Bucs manhandle St. Albert to take second in AFL

56-8 win puts Bucs’ right behind Ft. Mac in AFL standings

The Central Alberta Buccaneers were coming off their bye week looking to take sole possession of second place in the Alberta Football League.

The only thing standing in their way was the St. Albert Stars, who came into Red Deer with the league’s leading rush game.

Luckily for the Bucs’, the AFL’s leading passer — quarterback Brandon Leyh — would overpower the Stars on the way to a 56-8 win.

“That was a good day,” Receiver Ben Hnatiuk said. “Everything worked out perfect. Our o-line protected the quarterback and allowed him to make moves”

The Bucs’ would ease into the game, with neither team managing to find the scoreboard until 6:15 remaining of the first when Tylor Johannesson ran back a missed Stars 35-yard field goal attempt for a touchdown.

The Bucs’ would follow that up with Leyh finding Hnatiuk for a 25-yard connection, putting Central Alberta up 14-0.

“He (Leyh) is a big body in the pocket. He can stand in there, take the hit and move the ball down field. I have never played with a quarterback that is able to do that,” Hnatiuk said.

The home team would keep on rolling in the second quarter when Leyh found Preston Bailey for a three-yard score, putting the Bucs’ in control with a 21-0 lead.

The Stars would have the answer with 3:18 remaining after quarterback Troy Pappas found Adam Nesbitt for the score, putting them within striking distance 21-8 after the two-point conversion.

Hnatiuk would have the answer a minute later after Leyh found him deep in the endzone for 31-yard score, reestablishing the 21 point margin.

The Bucs’ would keep the scoreboard flashing after Bailey caught his second ball of the game to put his team up 35-8.

Josh Blanchard would continue to rub salt on the Stars wound after he caught another Brandon Leyh pass, his fifth of the game, leading to a halftime score of 42-8.

Hnatiuk would keep the Bucs’ pillaging in the third quarter after he scored his third touchdown of the game, putting the Bucs’ up 49-8 early in the quarter.

Blanchard would follow that up with 80 yard run after a shovel past, extending the debilitating lead to to the final score 56-8 Buccaneers.

Hnatiuk finished the game with three touchdowns and Leyh through seven of his own in a game to put the 4-1 Bucs’ into second place.

Hnatiuk credited the team’s success to team work.

“We have bonded pretty well. We all get along pretty good. As far as the game goes, we have great chemistry,” Hnatiuk said. “Today we showed we have a running attack too which will help us in the long run.”

Central Alberta will now travel to Grande Prairie next week.

Hnatiuk said they have their tilt with first place Fort McMurray marked down but they still have to come ready against Grande Prairie.

“That is who our eyes are on now,” he said.

todd.vaughan@reddeerexpress.com

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