Last season the Central Alberta Buccaneers removed a King Kong-sized monkey from their backs with an exciting shoot-out win over the Calgary Wolfpack in Alberta Football League action.
It was the first win for the Bucs’ franchise since getting into the league more than a dozen years ago.
This past Saturday the Bucs showed last year was no fluke as they manhandled the Pack, winning 39-17 to kick of the 2014 AFL season.
At the same time, another large primate was sent packing as the Bucs win was engineered by quarterback Josh Achtemichuk.
“I’m just euphoric. It’s amazing. Yes we beat them last year but I wasn’t under centre and to be under centre and to do this, I can retire now and be a happy guy,” he said.
The 39-year-old veteran has been with the Bucs for more than a decade and has never chalked up a win against the powerful Wolfpack, coming close a few times but never closing the deal.
Last year he was on the defensive side of the pinnacle win for the Bucs but this victory had a much sweeter taste to it.
Achtemichuk had no designs on playing quarterback this season as the Bucs were relying on Byron Stearns to take the snaps but work commitments have caused him to shut it down.
So with one practice under his belt the veteran was thrown into the breech Saturday night.
He said grasping the offense wasn’t that difficult as it’s the same system basically they’ve run for awhile but he admits the toughest assignment was keeping himself calmed down.
“It was the jitters. It took me three and a half quarters to get warmed up. I was shaky, I was nervous but then I took that big hit and thought, it’s not that bad. I remember how that feels.”
Head coach Duane Brown was impressed with his QB’s performance which included four touchdown passes and some very controlled drives, especially as the clock was winding down with the Bucs needing to keep the ball out of the hands of the Wolfpack’s dangerous offence.
“This is extra special for him and I’m thrilled for him. I’m also thrilled for Kerry Lynch (veteran defensive tackle) he’s never beaten them and now he has a win too.”
The Bucs started out slowly with a scoreless first quarter but things got moving with more precision as the game wore on and Achtemichuk got plenty of help from a swarming Bucs defense all night long as they kept perennial all-star quarterback Darryl Leason in check.
“The defense held us in there as we got rid of the nerves and got things going on offence,” said Brown.
In addition to Achtemichuk’s performance the Bucs got a strong effort all night long from rookie running back Junior Riviera who piled up plenty of yards on the ground and showed his speed and agility when in the open field when he took a swing pass into the end zone.
“From the moment we saw him in practice we knew he was the real deal,” said Brown.
“It was a huge bonus for Josh to have that running back because he didn’t have to try and win that game with his arm. He could let those kids do their thing.”
Another one of those kids who helped out was receiver Matt Merkley.
He was behind the Pack secondary all night long, hauling in a pair of touchdown passes for more than 100 yards.
As for who will start Saturday’s game at home against Grande Prairie, Achtemichuk says he’s not sure if it will be him or not.
“All I knew is I was coming in here and it was last second. I’ll enjoy this one and it’s a long season so let’s get ready for the next one.”