Most of the time a tie doesn’t mean much, but it was just what the Red Deer Buccaneers needed to stay in the playoff hunt in the Alberta Football League.
The 24-24 tie with the Parkland Panthers Saturday at Great Chief Park left the seventh-place Buccaneers (1-5-1) one point out of the sixth and final playoff spot with one game left.
The game won’t be easy as the Bucs face the Calgary Wolfpack Aug. 8 at Great Chief Park while the sixth-place Calgary Gators (2-5-0) clash with the Drillers in Grande Prairie.
“This was a huge step forward for us,” said Buccaneers quarterback Josh Achtemichuk. “We needed this and we’re still in the playoff hunt.”
The Bucs came within a whisker of winning the game after Jay Pike capped a 65-yard march late in the fourth quarter with a 10-yard field goal to give the Red Deer squad a 24-21 lead.
However, the Panthers moved the ball down to the Red Deer 31, thanks to a third-down gamble that they made by inches, and later a 15-yard roughing penalty with 6.2 seconds remaining. Panthers outstanding place kicker Steve Wozimirsky kicked a 38-yard field goal at the final buzzer.
“The penalty hurt us, but things happen in the heat of the battle,” said Bucs head coach Dave Hanni. “No one on this team has goat horns. We win and lose as a team and today we tie as a team. It was still a big point for us.”
“The offensive line played their hearts out and the defence was huge,” added Achtemichuk, who also gave credit to an outstanding performance by veteran running back Kenton Poelzer.
Poelzer rushed 19 times for 147 yards and carried the ball on every play during the Bucs’ final march.
He scored twice — the first on a 76-yard swing pass and the second on a 25-yard run.
One of the Bucs biggest plays came early in the game when Achtemichuk found Alex Reinhart for 103-yard touchdown.
“That was huge for us, it gave everyone a lot of confidence,” said Hanni. “We said before the game that if we do things correctly we can play with anyone. Today it was with one of the big dogs.”
Achtemichuk was making his first start of the season after recovering from a series of major leg injuries last season. He hit on four-of-12 passes for 202 yards, but the main thing was he calmly controlled the offence.
“Greg (Thompson) came in and did a good job as well, but I enjoy it. The big thing was we played as a team,” said Achtemichuk.
Pike had there converts for the Bucs and Jason Loosmore scored a pair of touchdowns while Wozimirsky had three field goals, two converts and a single for the Panthers, 3-3-1 . . . Reinhart grabbed two passes for 119 yards and Poelzer two for 79 . . . Other games saw the Wolfpack beat the Gators 65-7, the Edmonton Stallions down the Edmonton Seahawks 64-7 and the Lloydminster Vandals stop the Drillers 21-15.