Central Alberta Buccaneers ready crew for season

Axsivier Lawrence of the Central Alberta Buccaneers takes his opponent wide during the Black and Red intrasquad game Saturday at MEGlobal Field. Ashli Barrett / Lacombe Globe

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The Central Alberta Buccaneers are hoping 2019 is the year they’ll finally grab the Alberta Football League (AFL) title.

Falling in the final last year 65-7 to the Fort McMurray Monarchs – who would eventually claim the national title – the Bucs are eager to find a way to plunder the Monarchs’ crown for themselves.

Formal preparations to that end began the past couple weeks as the crew held a series of training camp sessions, followed by an intrasquad game Saturday at MEGlobal Field in Lacombe.

The game, however, became more of a practice as one of their earliest challenges of the season made its presence – or rather, lack thereof – known.

“They’ve got to get the numbers out .They’ve got to get their buddies out and they’ve got to be committed to coming – I’ll coach whoever shows up, but as far as install, we’re not moving forward unless we get the guys out,” said the Bucs’ new head coach Gary LaGrange.

LaGrange was named the new head coach in early April and is well acquainted with playing in the AFL final, as he made it there seven straight times between 1991 and 1997 with the Red Deer Sooners and Calgary Thunder, and winning it four times. He also has 20 years of experience as a coach, including with local area high school teams.

His goal now is to help the team finally win the AFL title that has eluded them for the several seasons, but there were gaps in the offensive line, which limited his ability to move forward, as broken plays and several bad snaps plagued the team on the field.

Fortunately, the game wasn’t for points, and they were able to work through some of their mistakes with LaGrange right on the field directing plays and making adjustments as they went along.

“It’s slow. We did a couple new wrinkles today and they went really well – the guys are still struggling with zone blocking but I think we made some headway today. Our scrimmage, it was nice to have it at that pace….There was progress. It’s just a little bit slower than I anticipated,” he said, but noted he was in no rush to move ahead until the team has nailed what they’ve already begun working on.

“The guys are hungry to get the entire playbook, but I’m not going to give it to them. We’ve got out seven, eight plays installed; let’s get them down so we’re silky smooth on them.”

Whether or not quarterback Brandon Leyh will be back for the season is still a mystery.

There’s a couple of options, including Jarrett Burzuk, who played with the Bucs last year behind Leyh.

“Burzak is pretty steady there, he just a little shorter. We’ll probably be running spread – a lot of spread – and he’ll be comfortable in his own read stuff too because he can run, he can scoot and he’s smart,” he said.

The team opens the regular season May 25 on the road against the Calgary Wolfpack, then face the Fort McMurray Monarchs at Setters Place in Red Deer.

It’s their goal that come the start of the season they’re ready to beat both teams, particularly the Monarchs.

“I was told they were the team to beat and these guys think they can beat them, said LaGrange. “I’ve got to believe them because I see some of the athletes there and it’s just one or two key players that’ll make it go.”

On June 8, they’ll return to MEGlobal Field in Lacombe for a game.

The Bucs will also be heading door to door in Lacombe for food bank donations as part of their annual Drive to Tackle Hunger.

Season schedule is as follows:

  • May 25 @ Calgary Wolfpack
  • June 1 vs. Ft. McMurray Monarchs
  • June 8 vs. Grande Prairie Drillers*
  • June 15 @ Airdrie Irish
  • June 22 vs. Cold Lake Jets
  • July 6 @ Ft. McMurray Monarchs
  • July 13 vs. Calgary Wolfpack
  • July 20 vs. Airdrie Irish
  • July 27 @ Cold Lake Jets
  • 10 @ Grande Prairie Drillers
  • August 17 – AFL Semifinals
  • August 24 – AFL Final

For more information, visit www.cabucs.com or follow them on Twitter and Facebook @cabucs.