Red Deer Buccaneers head coach Dave Hanni would have liked a better outcome, but he saw enough to be encouraged following their opening game of the Alberta Football League regular season.
“Of course it’s frustrating to lose, yet it’s encouraging in that we feel we have the right guys in place and it’s a matter of correcting a few minor mistakes,” said Hanni following a 28-11 loss to the Lloydminster Vandals at Great Chief Park Saturday.
“Last year we lost to them 41-0. This year we make a few mistakes that cost us, yet we outplayed them in the second quarter and most of the second half.”
The Bucs got behind 21-0 early in the second quarter and there were some signs that the team would start to fall back into their old ways.
“Last year was a tough year and once we got behind the guys gave up. We told the guys tonight that they (Vandals) are a good team and they’d score some points and not worry about it. But even then when it was 21-0 we started to hang our heads. But we get the big return and that pumped everyone up and we played much better the rest of the way.”
Two of the Bucs mistakes came early on a broken assignment in the defensive backfield and a interception.
Andrew Herrick scored for the Vandals at 1:35 of the first quarter, when he grabbed a pass from quarterback Jess Valleau and went 55 yards following a mistake on the coverage.
“We had a couple of younger guys back there and they got confused on who was covering,” said Hanni.
“It will happen with younger guys. But it’s also something that can be corrected.”
Matt Fisher made it 14-0 for Lloydminster at 11:44 of the first quarter, intercepting a Greg Thompson pass and darting 67 yards for the major.
Matt Loveseth converted both scores.
The Bucs made another defensive mistake early in the second quarter and the score was 21-0 at the 4:41 mark when Riley Young took a Valleau pass 28 yards. Loveseth kicked a single.
Jamie Blinkhorn got the Bucs the moment at 10:40 of the second quarter when he returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown and added a two-point convert.
Dave Henderson was credited with a safety at 3:29 of the third quarter for the Bucs and Blinkhorn added a single on a missed field goal at 12:39 to make the score 21-11.
However, the Vandals put the game away late in the fourth quarter when Valleau connected with Young on a four-yard pass following a turnover on a bad third-down snap. Loveseth added the convert.
“That was another mistake and a mistake that can be corrected,” added Hanni, who felt the offence showed more than last year despite not scoring.
“We missed a couple of reads and a couple of blocks, but there were positives. Kenton Poelzer rushed for a 100 yards and there were a number of outstanding catches. We have the receivers who will do the job if we get them the ball and that will come.”
Poelzer finished with 100 yards on 15 carries while Blinkhorn returned four punts for 104 yards and had two kickoff returns for 42 yards. Marc Bartolf returned three punts for 30 yards and two kickoffs for 57 yards.
Thompson completed nine of 24 passes for 77 yards and two interceptions.
Defensively, linebacker Dave Henderson had three solo tackles and six assisted tackles while defensive back Josh Achtemichuk had four solo tackles, one assisted tackle and an interception. Defensive back Keegan Poelzer had three solo and two assisted tackles plus an interception.
The Bucs return to action Saturday when they host the Edmonton Stallions at 6 p.m. at Great Chief Park.