The Central Alberta Buccaneers, for the first time in franchise history, are going to the AFL Championship.
After the St. Albert Stars bested the Edmonton Raiders in the quarter-finals (56-0), they were matched up to take on the Bucs in Lacombe (who finished in the first seed overall). In regular season play, the Bucs beat the Stars in convincing fashion 44-8. After some additions to their team, the Stars were looking to avenge that loss and upset the men in red.
Contrary to the Bucs’ play during the regular season, the team got off to a slow start. The offense that had been so potent and deadly was struggling to reach the Stars endzone for much of the first half. Going into the second quarter, the Bucs only lead by 2-0. Eventually, the pirates fell back into their usual rhythm and were able to earn positive yardage. The Stars offense found success too, however, and marched the ball during numerous drives. After a long and hard-hitting game, the final score was 43-24, Bucs.
Penalties were a major hindrance during the Stars matchup.
“We need to play more disciplined on both sides of the ball,” said Jesse McPhail. “In every game, there’s going to be calls that you can’t control. At the end of the day, it’s still our responsibility to keep those to an absolute minimum. We had trouble doing that yesterday.”
Looking ahead to the AFL Championship, McPhail said “we’ve got the talent and the numbers – we need to just stay focused and composed.”
Several Bucs had outstanding performances, including several AFL record-breakers. Josh Blanchard scored 4 receiving touchdowns (a new AFL record), Jamal Henry had multiple receptions and managed to return a Stars punt for a touchdown, and Nick Leonidakis sacked the Stars QB 5 times (a new AFL record).
With the semi-finals victory over the Stars, the Bucs are set to take on the Fort McMurray Monarchs, August 27th, 6pm, at Lacombe’s MEGlobal Athletic Park. The Monarchs beat the Calgary Gators, 32-20.
Earning the right to play in the AFL Championship is a first for the Buccaneers football club.
For long-time veteran, Dave Henderson, this game “means everything. It’s been 15 years of hard work. It truly is an honour to share this game with the other guys, especially the other vets on the team like Baird, Blinky, Fay, Keetch, Lewis, and Tylor. I’m forgetting a few others, but you’ll have to excuse me: I’m old!”
In addition to the on-field success, the “Romance Galore with 24” came to its conclusion. The fundraiser (organized by the Buccaneers and Whisker Rescue) raised money in order to help and rescue stray cats in the Central Alberta. Throughout the season, tickets were sold at each home game; the winning ticket was drawn during Saturday’s halftime. The winner, Krista Lanz of Lacombe, gets to go on a date with #24 Ryan Miller (as well as receive other prizes). Several hundred dollars were raised for the Whisker Rescue.
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