The defending Alberta Football League champions have returned to the postseason.
A year after winning the league’s ultimate prize, the Central Alberta Buccaneers by the narrowest of margins made the playoffs. However, this season’s Buccaneer team looks much different after some player departures at the end of last season.
Despite that, the Buccaneers, who finished the season 1-5, claimed the final playoff spot after the Peace Country Cowboys were unable to win their final game of the year.
With the matchups set, Central Alberta will head to Airdrie next weekend to take on the third-place Irish who finished the regular season 4-1-1.
Head coach Geoff Rambaut said one of the main keys for them to focus on against Airdrie is containing their quarterback who plays a mobile game.
“They have a pretty dynamic quarterback so our defence did pretty well against them but there were times when their quarterback exploited us,” he said. “I think we match up well if we’re healthy.”
The Buccaneers lost to the Irish in week one of the season by only nine points in a 31-22 defeat in Airdrie. Both teams have changed since then, Raumbauts said Airdrie lost their starting runningback and the Buccaneers have had many injuries. In the final week of the season, Central Alberta was playing without any of their five starting receivers.
He added the Irish have had players step up in the absence of their runningback and will have to work to contain that. However, the Buccaneers have a veteran defence who he said have been lights out this season.
“We have a very young offence so the fact we can rely on our defence to bail us out a few times has obviously been a reoccurring theme through the season where our offence has struggled to move the ball out of our own end. Our defence has still been able to be pretty stout holding opponents out of our end zone despite bad field position and I think that will continue in the playoffs,” he said.
The offence, led by rookie quarterback Brett Bylsma has struggled at times this year but Rambaut’s isn’t giving up hope on them turning things around. In week six the Buccaneers beat the Peace Country Cowboys 34-6 in an explosive game from the offence and in the final week versus the top team in the league, the Cold Lake Fighter Jets, which Rambaut said was a good test for them.
“Going into the playoffs I know Airdrie has a good defence but they’re not on the same par as Cold Lake obviously. So the fact we got to play against Cold Lake and then go back to a team that’s more comparable to us is kind of nice for our quarterback to look at,” he explained.
The Buccaneers will play the Irish at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 6 in Airdrie.