Convincing win gives Bucs second place in AFL

The Central Alberta Buccaneers secured second place in the AFL as well as a playoffs bye and semifinals home game when they triumphed

Matt Merkely carries the ball down field and helps the Bucs gain yardage.

The Central Alberta Buccaneers secured second place in the AFL as well as a playoffs bye and semifinals home game when they triumphed over the St. Albert Stars July 13. The Stars are new to the AFL and have had an outstanding season for an expansion team. They had the same record as the Bucs going into Saturday’s game (3-1) and were vying for the number two spot in the AFL.

The Stars picked off a Buccaneer pass on the first play of the game and ran it into to the end zone for a quick touchdown. Continuing to put pressure on the Bucs, the Stars managed to recover the ball on the following kickoff. The Bucs’ defense, however, maintained composure and forced the Stars to punt after two plays. Gaining momentum, the Bucs were in the driver’s seat for the rest of the game, resulting in a 45-14 victory.

Head Coach Duane Brown was pleased with the play of the team’s defense and offense. “It was easily the most complete game I have seen this team play, ever. The defense was dominant and the offense controlled the clock all game.”

The Buccaneers’ defense was a solid unit. Halfback Jordan Willie had a standout game. He played tight coverage on the Stars’ receivers and picked off a pass for an interception. Brown was impressed with the “fantastic leadership” of linebacker Cody Baird. Baird attributes the team’s success partly to the increase in roster size.

“We have depth in all positions and can constantly keep rotating in fresh players.” In the fall, Baird helps coach the Ponoka Broncs as defensive co-ordinator.

Brown also praised the play of Dan Jorgenson, Tyson Dichrow, Corey Pusey, and Taylor Waldbauer, all of whom made clutch passes and extended offensive drives.

With their defense managing the Stars’ offense, the Bucs often had advantageous field position and were able to capitalize, resulting in a 39-7 score at halftime. QB Byron Sterns picked apart the Stars’ secondary and found the hands of both slot-backs Chad Murray and Josh Sorenson for passing touchdowns. Sterns managed to scamper across the end zone, scoring a pair of touchdowns himself. Jamie Blinkhorn muscled his way past the Stars’ defense all game and also scored a touchdown of his own. Tylor Johnson completed four field goals, one from a distance of 43 yards.

The Bucs travel north to Grande Prairie July 20 to take on the 2-3 Drillers in the final week of the AFL regular season. After being kicked out of the playoffs by the Drillers for the last three seasons, the Bucs will be playing with a chip on their shoulders.

— Bucs Banter

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