Central Alberta Prairie Fire football club off to slow start in 2017

The Central Alberta Prairie Fire football club will be looking to get in the win column when they return from their bye week on April 28. (File photo)

For the Central Alberta Prairie Fire, the bye week couldn’t have come at a better time.

It’s been a tough start to the Calgary Area Midget Football Association season for the Prairie Fire, with three losses in three games.

Head coach Pat Callan, in his sixth season with the organization, said the year hasn’t gone as planned but there’s still a few reasons for optimism.

“We could have won all three and I think we should have,” he said. “It’s disappointing that way but I guess the positive is we are competitive in every game and we’ve played some pretty good teams. That’s the silver lining.”

They will need a bounce-back performance in their final three regular season games before they launch into the playoffs next month.

The Prairie Fire opened the season with a close 19-16 loss to the Mavericks, then a 22-14 loss to the Broncos followed by a 21-15 defeat against the Hilltoppers.

Callan said with the pieces they have on defense and on the offensive side of the ball, getting back to .500 is real possibility.

“Our defense is very good. We knew they would be going into the season. It’s a veteran group,” he said.

“Offensively, we have one of the best quarterbacks and receiving groups that we’ve ever had. Throwing the ball has been our focus. It just hasn’t led to the wins.”

The league introduced a new schedule this season, with six games and a bye week and then for playoffs the teams are split into three tiers. That means the Prairie Fire are guaranteed at least one playoff game.

Partially, the slow start is something Callan has come to expect, because his roster usually goes through a heavy turnover from year-to-year.

He said there’s a core group of players that stay for all three seasons of eligibility, but there are typically one third or so new faces when the season starts. The coach explained that’s where the Calgary opponents have an advantage.

“Where they have a leg up on us, is up until they get into high school, they can play with the same kids for a number of years,” he said.

“You come up from peewee, to bantam and midget you play with the same kids from the same area. Whereas for us, we’re taking new kids from all over Central Alberta every year. It’s hard for us to not have a slow start.”

He’s seen growth in the program since it started six years ago, with word continuing to get around about what they’re building.

“We’ve broken down a lot of barriers when it comes to kids coming from different teams to play for us. So a lot of the kids know each from different teams around the league,” he said.

“There’s a lot more camaraderie that way. The program, since our third year has been very competitive. Took us a year or two to get going. I would say we’re not far off from maybe being able to win one of these things.”

The Prairie Fire will play their next home game on May 4 at ME Global Athletic Park in Lacombe with kickoff at 7:15 p.m.

byron.hackett@bprda.wpengine.com

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