The Central Alberta Buccaneers came home in heartbreak after a few plays at the end of the Alberta Football League (AFL) Championship game went the wrong way, leading to a 30-24 win for the Calgary Wolf Pack.
Team Chairman and Offensive Lineman Vince Roth said the outcome wasn’t what they expected, although the game was likely entertaining for the fans present at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.
“It came down to the last 30 seconds and I think we had a good shot but we just couldn’t make that connection. It is disappointing but at the same time, we were in it, we played a good game and ultimately came up a little short,” he said.
Despite the loss, the game marked the end of a season that saw the Bucs’ face a tonne of adversity, only to turn it around near the end of the season to put together a championship run.
“I think we really gelled as a group on our road trip to Cold Lake. We started playing for each other a bit more rather than playing for the sake of playing.,” Roth said.
The game was nearly a double-dose of disappointment when AFL leading receiver Ben Hnatiuk went down on a play that required him to be taken to hospital.
“He gave us all a scare. Myself and couple other guys went down to pick him up at the hospital. He is tender but he shouldn’t have any long-term issues out of it,” Roth said.
Hnatiuk has been a key difference maker for the Bucs’ all season long.
“After the Gators folded, he was looking for a home. We were lucky to land him here in central Alberta,” Roth said. “He is a big body that is extremely athletic and anyone who comes to our games knows he is going to make a couple plays. He has ridiculous hands.”
Roth and the Bucs’ are already looking ahead to the 2020 season, where he expects a strong returning core.
“Much like last year, we lost in the Championship game but unlike last year — there doesn’t seem to be a lot of guys questioning whether they are coming back. We gelled during the season and I hope to maintain that during the offseason,” he said.
Roth also expects a defence that turned on the jets in the second half of the defence to improve.
“I think our defence the last half of the year did great. We made some adjustments after a questionable start. The core of those guys are coming back, so I am excited to have them and add a few more athletes. I think we can have a pretty solid defensive team,” Roth said.
The offseason will, however, be busy for the Bucs’ with their usual blend of charity and community support.
“We do a lot of blood drives throughout the offseason and we will do some of our fundraising. Through the Christmas season, we will find something to do for the community and we will carry that right into the spring camp when we do our annual food drive,” Roth said.