Buccaneers fire blanks in playoff loss
LACOMBE — It was a disappointing end to what was a very good Alberta Football League season for the Central Alberta Buccaneers.
The Buccaneers, who posted a 5-1 regular season record and finished in second place, couldn’t find any consistent offence and fell 15-3 to the St. Albert Stars in the league semifinal before an excellent crowd at MEGlobal Park Sunday afternoon.
It was a bit of a surprising outcome considering the Bucs downed the Stars 45-14 in their regular season meeting.
‘They didn’t do anything different, but they executed much better,” said Buccaneers head coach Duane Brown. “But then we didn’t execute as well. When you have a game plan in position and make mistakes it hurts you.”
What hurt the Bucs more than anything was a lack of execution on offence. They turned the ball over five times, including four interceptions by quarterback Byron Stearns.
“When we did try to get things going we’d shoot ourselves in the foot,” said Brown. “We had too many turnovers and we didn’t seem to have our heads in it as we’d call a play and someone wouldn’t run the right pattern. Or we’d call no huddle and two guys would huddle up.”
Long time veteran Josh Achtemichuk, who moved to defence full time after playing on both sides of the ball, knows you can’t be making mistakes at this time of the season.,
“Our offence sputtered and we had turnovers at bad times,” he said. “The other team didn’t make mistakes.”
As it was the Buccaneers defence held them in the game and the Central Alberta crew took a 3-0 lead into the dressing room on a 29-yard field goal by Tylor Johnson on the final play of the half.
Johnson missed a field goal midway through the third quarter and set the stage for the best drive of the game and the Stars first touchdown.
The Stars drove the ball 90 yards on seven plays with quarterback Troy Pappas bulling in from the one on third down.
The big play was a 65-yard pass and run play between Pappas and Warabek Guwop on a second down play from the Stars 26.
The Buccaneers then turned the ball over on an interception and a fumble their next two possessions, but the defence held the fort and kept it close.
The Stars finally broke through with their second major at 6:40 of the fourth quarter when Pappas once again went in from the one. The play followed a very questionable pass interference call in the end zone.
“I wasn’t overly trilled with our defence the first couple of series in the game, but then we did run into some penalty trouble,” said Brown. “The defence was very consistent as it has been all season. It’s the heart and soul of this team. The inconsistent offence was the back breaker.”
Brown also gave credit to the Stars defence.
“Their No. 27 (Devaughn Harper) was outstanding. He played with the (Lloydminster) Vandals last year when they won the Canadian championship and he came over the Stars halfway through this season and brought that attitude with him. They were a different team with him.”
“They played with a lot more intensity than they did the first time here,” he said. “The first time they didn’t appear as if they wanted to play.”
Despite the loss Achtemichuk can look back at a good season,.
“We came a long way from the start of the season, too bad we came out flat in the one we needed,” he said. “We were off almost three weeks and that didn’t help, but we also had a lack of players out to practice. We needed everyone there. I think we were lulled to sleep a bit.”
Achtemichuk is one of the veterans who won’t be around for much longer.
“I can see us having a bigger turnover as guys like (Dave) Henderson, (Kerry) Lynch and Achtemichuk have been around for a decade and won’t be around much longer,” said Brown. “Hopefully we get the main core back, but we also need the younger guys to step up, Many of them did this year and we need that to continue.”
“If we keep the main core together we’ll have a contender again next year,” said Achtemichuk. “Early on we were labelled a joke, but here we are. It’s encouraging this year, but some of us won’t be here much longer.”
Stearns managed to connect on 12 of 28 passes for 143 yards with Johnson grabbing three passes for 40 yards and Matt Merkley three for 33 yards before he was injured.
Pappas was good on eight of 22 for 122 yards and running back Craig Carr carried the ball 19 times for 78 yards.