In year two of a rebuild, the Central Alberta Buccaneers have heard many times they have a solid defence and they just need to score a few points.
Head Coach Devon Hand may have found the guy who can get touchdowns for the Bucs in quarterback Brandon Leyh.
Recruited from the Mount Allison University Mounties, the six-foot-two, 230 pound New Westminster B.C. native threw for 1,470 yards and six touchdowns in his fourth season playing Canadian Interuniversity Sports football.
“He has 35 CIS starts, he’s been to Saskatchewan Roughriders training camp, a two-time all-star, he quarterbacked an 8-0 team, he’s the all-time passing leader for his team,” said Hand. “He’s a guy we’re going to lean on a lot. He has great intangibles, he’s a great leader. Every league is a quarterback-drive league and now I feel we have a piece that can help us.
“We can compete with the bigger teams with a guy like that.”
Last season the Bucs made the semifinals on the heels of a 6-2 regular season, but lost to the Fort McMurray Monarchs. Hand said the top tier Calgary Gators and Monarchs dominate the league while the other six teams in the Alberta Football League are in the next tier.
“The Gators haven’t lost a regular season game in three years and the Monarchs have done a great job of recruiting and they have an excellent coach up there,” said Hand. “We’re the team that’s creeping up on those two guys.
“Although we had a 6-2 record, we weren’t competitive in the big games against the two stronger teams. We want to get to the level where we can compete with those guys. We’re nipping at the heels of the big dogs.”
Training camp has concluded for the Buccaneers and they are now working to get to the point where they can compete in games.
The Buccaneers season starts on May 28 at the M.E. Global field in Lacombe against the Grande Prairie Drillers. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
“The team has gone from one that shows up and plays to a highly competitive team where the true focus is to win a championship,” said Hand. “We’re constantly evolving, constantly changing and our identity is still taking shape.”
The second year of the rebuild focused on strengthening the offence and improving the team’s mental toughness.
“We struggled a bit with the mental toughness side of the game,” said Hand. “When we faced adversity, how we reacted wasn’t how a champion should react. We’re working towards getting over the hump and it has a lot to do with mental toughness.”
Known as a blue-collar group of guys, the defence has carried the team through the first year of its rebuild.
“We’re tired of hearing ‘if the Bucs could score some points, they might have something there,’” said Hand. “We are going to lean on our strength, which is our ability to play aggressive and attacking defence that creates opportunities. But we have new offensive pieces to help us get over the hump.”