CA Bucs look to build on last year’s success

GOOD EFFORT- Counter-clockwise from right Axsavier Lawrence of the Central Alberta Buccaneers was tackled by Jourdain Alexis and Aaron Gordon of the Fort McMurray Monarchs during the Alberta Football League Final at MEGlobal Athletic Park in this Express file photo from the AFL Final this past summer. Zachary Cormier/Lacombe Express

GOOD EFFORT- Counter-clockwise from right Axsavier Lawrence of the Central Alberta Buccaneers was tackled by Jourdain Alexis and Aaron Gordon of the Fort McMurray Monarchs during the Alberta Football League Final at MEGlobal Athletic Park in this Express file photo from the AFL Final this past summer. Zachary Cormier/Lacombe Express

Zachary Cormier – Lacombe Express – Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017

The 2016 football season was a crazy one for the Central Alberta Buccaneers organization.

Over the course of the past 12 months, the Bucs went from a middle-of-the-pack team in the AlbertaFootball League to a championship contender which posted an undefeated record in the regularseason.

Meanwhile, off the field, the organization continued their charity work in the community,participating in multiple blood drives and food drives throughout the year.

“It was a fantastic year for the franchise. On the field we had the most success we’ve ever had – ever.Hands down,” said Buccaneers community representative Todd Lewis in an interview with theExpress.

“Off the field we continue to be a force in the community. We continued blood drives and kidscamps. We did our annual food drive and we raised about 2,000 pounds of food, half of which wentto Fort McMurray because it was right during their fires. It was good both on and off the field.”

After the Bucs season came to an end at the hands of the Fort McMurray Monarchs in the AFL Final inlate August, the team took some time off until late November, when they re-convened for theirannual awards banquet.

Lewis said that normally, the team would try to hold the annual year-end celebration in October —closer to the acutal end of the season — but it was delayed this year due to scheduling.

“It was fantastic to just get all the guys together, especially that late after the season. It’s been awhilesince we’ve all been together. So it was great to hang out and celebrate our season and all oursuccesses,” said Lewis, who finished his two-term stint as Chairman of the Buccaneers at the end ofthe 2016 season.

Throughout the awards evening, the Bucs recognized some of the players that lead the waythroughout their breakout season as a powerhouse team in the AFL.

Starting quarterback Brandon Leyh was named the team’s Most Valuable Player after a year wherehe set records in every offensive category for the Bucs, earning a nod as an AFL First Team All Star inthe process.

“He hands down deserved it. The guy’s an amazing athlete and he carried our offense and was afantastic leader with the team,” Lewis said.

Meanwhile, wide receiver Jamal Henry was named the team’s most valuable offensive player, RyanMiller took home the hardware for most valuable defensive player and Lewis was named best specialteams player.

“There were tons of guys this year that deserved awards that didn’t necessarily win awards or winawards that a lot of people talk about. Guys like Ian Keetch, who won Unsung Hero for our team.He’s obviously a huge impact player for us,” said new Bucs Chairman Markus Fay, who served asteam captain of the Bucs last year.

“There’s tons of guys who were more than deserving to win awards and probably would have wonMVP on many other teams in our league. We just had a really good roster this year and we had tospread the awards around.”

Unfortunately, the Buc’s fantastic year has not gone untouched by controversy. On Sept. 5th, the AFLreleased a statement on their Facebook page that AFL board had ruled that the Bucs had been “beenfound to have compensated a player during the 2016 season. This was found to be in violation of thecompensation for players rules and conduct detrimental to the league,” the statement said.

As a result, the Bucs will begin the 2017 season as a probationary franchise in the AFL, according to aDec. 18th post on the league’s Facebook page.

“There’s not really much to comment on right now. There’s some things that are being dealt withright now and there’s really not much we can do as far as letting people know what that is, becausewe don’t even know what that is. We’re just kind of letting the situation sort itself out.

“I don’t see the Bucs being under probationary status in the future but only time will tell,” said Faywhen asked about the situation.

Despite the controversy, the Bucs will continue to press on and build on their success from lastseason as they head into 2017.

“I think the goal for this year is obviously winning our league and making a push for a National title, Idon’t think that’s really out of the realm of possibility,” said Fay.

Lewis added that off the field, the team will continue to be involved in the community and isplanning to start their off field activities with a blood drive on Jan. 14th in Red Deer.

zcormier@lacombeexpress.com