The Central Alberta Buccaneers have exorcised their past demons.
At least for the time being. The Bucs beat the Calgary Gators 35-30 in a contentious playoff game.
It’s the first time the Bucs hosted a playoff game in seven years and they didn’t disappoint. Things didn’t go according to plan for the league’s leading rushing team, as they were unable to get their running game going early on.
“Everyone underestimates our ability to throw the football,” Coach Duane Brown exclaims. “And that was the difference maker today. They came out and stopped our run after the first quarter. And our passing game was able to come out, and win the game for us.”
Coming out was an understatement for receiver Matt Merkley who’s line read, four receptions for 120 yards and two trips to pay dirt.
His TD early in the second half for 85 yards broke the game wide open. Usually in football, they say you have to run to open up the pass.
Saturday, the story was reversed. The Bucs threw to open up the run.
After Merkley’s big play, running back Kenton Poelzer hit the right holes, and went 92 yards to get the Bucs a lead they’d never relinquish.
Defensively, the Bucs were led by a number of players, Curtis Dreger and company were very stingy. They gave up little on the ground and in the air. And it was that tenacious defense that led to the five interceptions on the day.
The win will go down in the record books, occurring on Saturday Aug. 6th. However, if you ask Brown, it all started on the first day of training camp.
“When I came in as a coach at the beginning of this year, one of the first things I said was we had to change the culture of this team.”
Brown is a big believer in attitude.
“This team had a belief that we weren’t able to win the big game. From day one, I believe in ourselves. We believe in each other. And we’ve fed off that all year long. And that culture inside the dressing room is ‘We Know We Can’.”
Their work is cut out for them Saturday as they face the Grande Prairie Drillers, who manhandled the Buccaneers 71-0 in July.
“The score of that game is the reason I know this will be a different outcome,” Brown states proudly. “The score is their motivation, and it’s posted in their dressing room and inside their helmets. We know it. We fed off it. And we’re going out there to prove that’s not who we are!”
The Buccaneers get their chance to put the proof in the pudding on Saturday in Grande Prairie.