Monarchs 33 Buccaneers 9
LACOMBE — The battle for second place in the Alberta Football League took a wrong turn for the Central Alberta Buccaneers shortly after the opening kickoff Saturday evening at MEGlobal Athletic Park.
The Fort McMurray Monarchs were on the receiving end of the kickoff and promptly put the ball in the end zone on a four-yard run by Kwami Osei. The touchdown, the first of four by the visitors in a 33-9 victory, was set up by a big-yardage play, which — with the odd exception — was a foreign concept to the Bucs.
“At the end of the day they’re a very talented team with probably the best skill group in the league,” said Bucs head coach Devon Hand, whose club dropped to 4-2 and into a third-place tie with the St. Albert Stars, while the Monarchs improved to 5-1.
“So if you have opportunities and don’t make them in the moment, they’re going to make you pay for it and that’s what it came down to. We had opportunities, we didn’t take advantage of them and that’s really the ball game right there in a nutshell.”
Trailing 26-3, the hosts got down to the Monarchs’ 12-yard stripe in the final minute of the third quarter when quarterback Pascal Plante hit Tanner Green for a 53-yard gainer. Plante was intercepted on the first play of the final quarter, but Bucs defensive back Tylor Johanesson returned the favour in short order and returned the pick 60 yards to the end zone to account for Central Alberta’s lone touchdown of the game.
After the convert attempt was blocked, the Bucs got the ball back with a successful onside kick and worked down to the Fort McMurray 30-yard line, but Mike Asare picked off a pass by Jarrett Burzak— who replaced an injured Plante for a play — and ran it all the way back for the game’s final score.
Asare booted a 19-yard field goal and added a punt single to give Fort McMurray a 10-0 lead after one quarter, and the Monarchs got a major from Mo Abba on a 22-yard pass from quarterback Carson Williams and a conceded safety to pad their cushion to 19-0 in the second quarter. The Bucs finally got on the board when Johanesson capped a late drive with a 30-yard field goal with 36 seconds remaining in the half.
The visitors all but sealed the deal midway through the third quarter when Williams evaded some serious heat from the Buccaneers defence and ran 22 yards to paydirt.
Hand insisted his club wasn’t surprised by anything the Monarchs brought to the field.
“They have the best running back in the league with Melvin (Abankwah) and a dynamite receiver in Jordain (Alexis), so we were prepared for them personnel wise,” said the Bucs sideline boss.
“Again, when we had opportunities we didn’t take advantage of them. And with a team that good — they scored 173 points in their previous two games — you know they can put it up.”
Hand said the biggest positive he could take out of the contest is that his club can perform at a higher level.
“It’s a potential thing, but it’s a true tragedy when a team that has potential doesn’t actualize it. That’s the thing going on — we have to actualize the potential we have,” he stated. “We talked all the last two weeks about mental toughness and the ability to overcome adversity. It’s the culture of it all.”
The Buccaneers return to action in a clutch game Aug. 8 at home against the Stars, who hammered the 1-5 Lloydminster Vandals 72-0 Saturday. Central Alberta’s final regular-season game is a week later against the host Airdrie Irish, who possess a 1-5 slate.
“If we win out I feel confident we’ll host a playoff game and then anything can happen,” said Hand. “We just need to show up and believe we can persevere when we play the big teams, the (7-0) Calgary Gators and the Monarchs.
“We flashed potential in both games against them. We hung in there with the Gators in the second quarter and fell apart when they made big plays (in a 50-6 loss June 13 in Lacombe). We did the same tonight. We just need to put it all together.”