The Central Alberta Buccaneers 2016 season has come to an end with a 32-23 loss against the Fort McMurray Monarchs.
After a perfect regular season (8-0) and a semi-finals victory over the St. Albert Stars, it was the Bucs championship to lose. In the regular season, the pirate crew edged the Monarchs with a 43-42 victory. Coming into the game, they knew they were in for a battle.
Throughout the rainy first half, the Bucs took command of the game. Their AFL-leading offense marched the ball down field early, relying on the talented core of receivers and pinpoint passing of QB Brandon Leyh. At halftime, the Bucs were in charge 17-11. The Monarchs responded with a strong running game – the athletic Monarch runningbacks seemed to slip through gaps and holes in the Bucs defense. In the dying minutes, the Monarchs were able to return an intercepted Buccaneer pass for a touchdown, putting them up 32-23.“
“Fan support was the best I’ve seen in eleven years on the team,” said Bucs veteran Jamie Blinkhorn. There were over 600 people in the stands at the MEGlobal Athletic Park. “I loved how many fans people came to the final and toughed out the rain. No better feeling going in and out of the locker room, high fiving kids as you pass.”
While the team can’t help but feel disappointed with the result of the championship, 2016 has been a highlight year for the Buccaneer franchise. For the first time ever, the Bucs finished the regular season undefeated, as well as competed in their first AFL Championship. Numerous individual AFL records were broken by Buc players: Josh Blanchard set the AFL record for most TDs in a single playoff game (he scored 4), Nick Leonidakis broke the record for number of sacks in a single playoff game (5) as well as the number of tackles for a loss (6), and Tylor Johanesson over took the career record for interceptions (32). The team’s community efforts were greater than ever: to name a few of these efforts, the annual Bucs Day to Tackle Hunger food drive raised 2500 pounds of food for the food bank, the Pink Game against Airdrie raised $1600 for breast cancer research, and the team donated blood en masse on 3 separate occasions. While the Bucs did not win the championship game, they did finish their season as a success.