The Central Alberta Buccaneers let one slip away Saturday during a three and a half hour marathon Alberta Football League game.
With a comfortable 21-10 advantage at halftime, the Bucs allowed 27 unanswered points by the Calgary Wolfpack on the way to a 49-35 loss at Great Chief Park.
It was the tale of two halfs for a Bucs team that had been dominant on defence for the most part this season and an especially tough way to drop to 4-2 on the year.
“Not much to say about it. A lot of penalties killed us. Myself included, it was undisciplined. We just gotta get better and smarten up,” said wide receiver Ben Hnatiuk, who had a massive game with three touchdowns and over 100 yards receiving.
“It’s a lot harder than getting blown out or losing straight up. Especially the way we were up. Coming out in the third quarter, putting up the amount of points we did and then all of a sudden it’s gone, the score ends up the way it did, it hurts– hurts a lot.”
A massive storm ripped through Red Deer and delayed the game with heavy rain and lightning for about 40 minutes late in the second quarter, which looked to affect some of the momentum for the home side.
Even so, just out of the break, Hnatiuk caught in his second touchdown of the game. Jarrett Burzuk lobbed a pass into his big wideout for the 26-yard score with just 50 seconds left in the first half.
With a 21-10 lead, the wheels fell off for the Bucs and the Wolfpack offence rattled off the run of 27 straight points.
“Third quarter we held our own and in the fourth quarter, we fell apart. I don’t know if it’s guys getting tired. Our defence they held in there as long as they could and I don’t know if they got fatigued or what but our offence turned the ball over constantly doesn’t help,” Hnatiuk said.
Still, down 10 with less than four minutes to play Axsivier Lawrence hauled in a huge 32-yard touchdown to get the Bucs within three. It was all for not, as the Wolfpack found pay dirt with just over two minutes left in the contest to put the game away.
Wasted on the night was a monster performance from the Bucs dynamic reviving duo of Lawrence and Hnatiuk.
Hnatiuk scored three times and Lawrence twice in the victory and both collected more than 100 yards receiving. Hnatiuk’s night included the opening score of the game after some penalty trouble from the visitors. He hauled in a rocket from Burzuk with one hand for a highlight reel score in the first quarter.
“A lot of it comes to just the relationship I have with Burzy. When we throw in practice we have good chemistry and he seems to find me. Then I just go up and do what I have to do to catch the ball,” Hnatiuk said.
“Especially with Axsivier out here. The way he’s been playing as well just opens up everything for me, takes safety help away. He’s a big part of this as well. Team effort.”
Things were looking rosy Central Alberta even early in the third quarter.
The league leader in interceptions Bucs’ Andrew Taylor made his presence felt when he collected his ninth pick of the year.
It was a quick strike by the visitors following the interception that kept them alive and begun to turn the tide.
After the Bucs failed to convert on a third down fake punt, it was another score just 56 seconds into the fourth quarter that got the Wolfpack within striking distance down just five points.
Dylan Minshull pushed the Wolfpack ahead with 10 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. He punched in a run to give Calgary a 31-28 advantage.
On the ensuing possession, Burzuk was picked off at midfield and the visitors hit the endzone again with a short field.
He temporarily made up for the blunder with the game on the line late. Burzuk launched a deep ball from the 30-yard line that dropped perfectly into Lawrence’s outstretched hands to get his side within three points with three minutes to play.
From there, the Wolfpack added a touchdown and field goal to close out the night.
The Bucs will host the Airdrie Irish next week at Great Chief Park with kickoff set for 6 p.m.