A strong season came to a crashing end for the Central Alberta Buccaneers as they were stopped 15-3 by the St. Albert Stars in Sunday’s AFL semi-final game in Lacombe.
The Bucs offence failed to ignite, there were untimely penalties and five turnovers, all which added up to an unflattering end to a terrific season for the franchise.
“It was the same Achilles heel we’ve had all year long. Our inconsistent offence,” said Head Coach Duane Brown following the season-ending loss.
“We couldn’t get any momentum going and when we did we’d turn around and shoot ourselves in the foot, with a turnover, a fumble, a penalty.”
The Bucs were coming off a 5-1 season, good for second place in the Alberta Football League.
Just a year ago this team was 1-5 so the hopes were high to make it into the league final for the first time, especially after manhandling the Stars in the second last game of the season 45-14.
The Bucs had plenty of time to prepare for the semi-final and Brown says the layoff is not an excuse for the poor showing by his team.
He said the first half rust may have been acceptable with the Bucs putting up the only points on a field game as time ran out but the second half was where things should have turned around.
“A rested team should have dominated. A rested team with depth should have been dominant and a short-handed team – they took it to us in the second half, ” he said. “Hats off to them, they played a hell of a game.”
Brown says he felt his team did a very good job in the first half in winning the battle for field position which in a low-scoring playoff game can be vital.
“We kept moving them back, silly things would happen, we’d then get out of our end and win that position again,” he said.
In the second half, a different scenario emerged as the Bucs were simply too inconsistent, not able to put any drives together and the St. Albert defence gained more confidence as each series was played.
Brown says the Stars didn’t do anything the Bucs hadn’t seen before but what they did do was execute on a regular basis.
“That’s a huge difference,” he said. “At this level of football it doesn’t take much but you execute what your game plan is and you’re going to be in the right position and you have guys make silly mistakes and it costs you.”
The Bucs have lived and died with a very aggressive defence this year and the Stars avoided the blitz through quick throws and changing up the snap count to prevent any sustained rush, he said.
“Our defence was our heart and soul today (Sunday) and an inconsistent offence was the back-breaker.”
Brown says this team has made such a dramatic turnaround from a year ago and he expects there will be some turnover going into 2014 as the core of the team, players like Dave Henderson, Kerry Lynch and Josh Achtemichuk may not return after a decade of suiting up in the red and black.
He hopes the younger players in the high school ranks not going to junior or university step up and fill those gaping holes.
“We’re going to need these Central Alberta kids sticking around here, playing football and we’re going to get some great things happening.”