The Red Deer Buccaneers are busy gearing up for their first Alberta Football League playoff appearance in five years.
They just have to finish off the regular season first.
The Buccaneers will be in Edmonton this Saturday to battle the Stallions in the their final regular season game of the year, but they may have some rust as they haven’t been on the field since beating Sherwood Park 47-14 on July 25 to secure a spot in the post season.
“It’s going to be interesting for us because we’re coming off two bye weeks,” said co-coach and offensive coordinator Kyle Sedgwick.
“Our schedule has been changed around a little bit but it’s a nice time of the year to have that because it gives us a chance to rest and get healthy heading into the playoffs. Over the last few years, we didn’t get into the playoffs, so this is something new for our club.”
Sedgwick knows his guys are excited about a return to the playoffs, but he cautions that they can’t look past this weekend’s game against the Stallions.
“This game is still important for us because if we can win, then we can move up the standings and that will change who we’ll possibly play in that first playoff game,” he said.
“Most likely, it’ll either be the Calgary Gators or Lloydminster Vandals we end up playing. Either way, we want to make sure we’re not completely rusty this last game but we also want to try and keep everyone healthy.”
One of those players the Buccaneers need to get healthy is all-star running back Kenton Poelzer, who suffered an early season hamstring injury and hasn’t played a lot this year.
“Kenton took about five to 10 carries in our last game against Sherwood Park,” said Sedgwick who has to juggle his offense a bit because of Poelzer’s injury.
“I wanted to get him in there for a bit, just to give him some game reps. By the time we play in Edmonton, it’ll have been three weeks since he played. So I think he’s as close to 100 per cent as he’s going to get for the year. It’s a touchy injury, but he’s had enough reps now, and he felt good after the game against Sherwood Park. By no means is he going to be getting 30-35 carries this weekend against Edmonton, but he’ll get some more touches in and that way we can use him come playoff time and that’s really good for us.”
Despite the revolving door that has been the Buc’s backfield this season, Sedgwick credits other players with stepping up and filling the void left by Poelzer’s injury.
In the win against Sherwood Park, quarterback Josh Achtemichuk went 14 of 22 for 293 yards, three touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns and one interception, while receiver Jamie Blinkhorn ran double duty, rushing for 36 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Blinkhorn also picked up 57 yards through the air as a receiver.
“Having Josh back there throwing the ball is good for us,” said the Hunting Hills high school teacher.
“He’s played a number of years and has some good chemistry with the other players. It’s no surprise he’s having such a great year. And Jamie is doing a fantastic job playing tailback for us. He’s a good athlete and a smart football player and he’s carried the load for us at running back for most of the year. And Ian Keetch as well, who we wanted to use more at the fullback position, he’s been carrying the ball as well.”
Add in an almost fully healthy Poelzer, and Sedgwick sees the team having a lot of offensive options to work with, just in time for the playoffs.
“If he’s good for around 20 touches a game, that means we can move Jamie back into the receiving corps,” he pointed out.
“Then we can use Ian as well to carry the ball and it’s just a different change of pace between those two runners so hopefully all three of those guys will be healthy as we go into this next game. And they should be. Jamie and Ian are fine, they’ve both had good years, they’ve kept themselves healthy and we just need to keep that going as we head into the playoffs.”
Kick off this Saturday is set for 4pm at the Jasper Place Bowl in Edmonton.