Buccaneers fall in AFL semifinal

The Central Alberta Buccaneers guaranteed they’d turn in a better showing in their Alberta Football League semifinal meeting with the Grande Prairie Drillers than they did in their regular season contest — a 71-0 loss.

Drillers 40 Buccaneers 18

GRANDE PRAIRIE — The Central Alberta Buccaneers guaranteed they’d turn in a better showing in their Alberta Football League semifinal meeting with the Grande Prairie Drillers than they did in their regular season contest — a 71-0 loss.

They did just that, but still came out on the wrong end of a 40-18 decision.

“A 10 minute span turned the tables against us,” said Buccaneers head coach Duane Brown. “We had an excellent first half (leading 11-10) and the second half started the same way, until we ran into a string of penalties at the wrong time. Three times we stopped them on third down, only to take a penalty to keep a drive alive. They scored there, then recovered a short kick. We had an interception, but there was another penalty which gave the ball back to them and they scored again and we never got the momentum back.”

The Drillers scored three touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 31-11 lead which they upped to 33-11 on a safety. Kenton Poelzer came back to score on a four-yard run to narrow the gap to 33-18, but that was as close as it got.

“They got another touchdown in the final seconds,” explained Brown.

Jamie Blinkhorn had the other Central Alberta major on a one-yard pass from quarterback Byron Stearns. Tylor Johnson had two converts, a field goal and a single on a wide field goal attempt.

Poelzer finished with 98 yards rushing on 13 carries while Stearns hit on eight of 14 passes for 96 yards,

Marc Bartolf had three receptions for 88 yards while linebacker Todd Lewis finished with 4.5 tackles and one sack. Lineman Blake Jacobs had 3.5 tackles and a sack and linebacker Braden Doupe had 2.5 tackles, an interception and one knockdown.

The game was the second time in the Bucs history they played in a semifinal game and the first time in six years.

“We definitely took a huge step forward this season,” said Brown. “The idea for next year is to finish in the top two and host a semifinal game. The one thing we lacked was depth, so I plan on doing a lot of recruiting this off-season to get the players who will push the guys we have now.”

The Calgary Wolfpack downed the defending champion Lloydminster Vandals 34-26 to meet the Drillers in the final.

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