The Cold Lake Fighter Jets proved they are a force to be reckoned with in the Alberta Football League.
Cold Lake, an expansion team in the AFL, won their fourth straight game in convincing fashion Saturday afternoon in Red Deer.
It was never really close as the visitors handed the Central Alberta Buccaneers its first loss of the year, a 38-3 defeat at Great Chief Park.
Without quarterback Jarrett Burzuk, the Bucs offence led by Mustapha Yekini and Andrew Stannix struggled to fill the void.
“We have a young fella in there that we have to get under fire. He’s not getting under it at practice so he doesn’t really feel the pressure. He’s trying to feather the ball in there and he’s got a great arm. He’s an athlete, he’s just young,” Bucs head coach Gary LaGrange said of Yekini.
“He just needs to calm down, execute and not try and modify the plays and understand the plays and control the huddle.”
Cold Lake is in town, and when the dust settles somebody’s going to have their first loss of the season. Join us down at Setters Place at 2pm for what is sure to be an instant CLASSIC!
— C.A. Buccaneers (@CABucs) June 22, 2019
The Bucs struggled on offence early, only picking up a few first downs in the first half and scoring on a lone field goal.
For the Fighter Jets, it was their ground game that did the damage with three rushing touchdowns in the opening 24 minutes.
Leo Mantuilla was the key to the running attack for the Fighter Jets. He got them down to the one on their second offensive possession of the game. He also scored the second touchdown. Fullback Tendayi Jozzy added a touchdown late in the half from the three-yard line.
“We knew they were going to be solid run game. They had one pretty good receiver and they picked on our one corner until he settled in. After that, in the third quarter, they didn’t really do much. We just gave them the ball back in scoring positions,” added LaGrange.
Despite trailing 23-3 at half, the Bucs defence was able to limit the damage. Andrew Taylor had two interceptions in the first quarter and Tylor Johannesson has a fumble recovery at midfield late in the half.
Taylor picked up his third interception of the day late in the third quarter. That tipped the scales little bit but after a solid drive, the Bucs had three chances to score from the five-yard line only to turn it over on downs.
After failing to convert, Cold Lake needed just two plays to extend their advantage. Mantuilla broke a huge run, then on the following play, Mike Holman hit Jordan Moss to put the game out of reach.
“Defence had to settle in and they did. We had our chances if we had our conversions and actually executed a few plays. It’s growth,” LaGrange said.
The head coach also noted that a lack of participation in practice has been a major sticking point for the team this season. Saturday was the first time it hurt them.
After a bye week for Canada Day, the Bucs will head to Fort McMurray to take on the Monarchs on July 6. Next home game is July 13 at Great Chief Park.