Drillers set for Saturday season opener

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James Kostuk, left, the founder of the Grande Prairie Drillers men’s football team, and his wife Heather, who made the suggestion to start the team, James, who played for the team from 2004-2015 will have his #23 jersey retired by the team Saturday before their opening game at Legion Field at 6:30 p.m. (Daily Herald Tribune FILE PHOTO)

Logan Clow – Daily Herald-Tribune – Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bigger, stronger and better.

That’s how Jordon Fersch, president, player and head coach, describes this year’s Grande Prairie Drillers team.

The Drillers open their Alberta Football League season Saturday against the Central Alberta Buccaneers at Legion Field at 7 p.m.

“Our defensive line is really strong again this year and our defensive backs are actually pretty strong too. I’d say defence is definitely one of our strengths again,” said Fersch.

“I believe we’re stronger than we were last year. We’re stronger on defence and our offence, we have a bit of a new offence running this year, so I think that’s going to be huge. Our offensive line is way bigger… one of the bigger offensive lines we’ve had in years. That’s another strength for us.”

Fersch said having more size and strength on offence allows more time for their starting QB Trace Griko to make a play.

“I have a feeling we’re going to be a run-heavy team,” noted Fersch, noting they’re going to play “old-style football”.

The Drillers are expected to dress 25+ players for the game.

The Buccaneers are starting the AFL season as a probationary franchise in the AFL after allegedly violating league rules last year for “compensating a player”.

“I’m expecting a very strong team. They’re not going to be as strong as they were last year just because of the penalties that they got laid down, so they’re not going to have that high-end talent from overseas or other provinces. I’m expecting them to be a pretty even match with us. I think it’s going to be a really good game,” noted Fersch.

Kostuk being recognized

Drillers founder James Kostuk will be having his #23 retired in a pre-game ceremony Saturday at 6:30 p.m.

He was the founder and president of the Drillers. Their inaugural season was in 2004.

Kostuk played for the Drillers from 2004-2015 and was the team’s defensive coach last season.

He ranks No. 1 all-time with the Drillers in knockdowns and blocked kicks. He’s also ranked No. 2 all-time in interceptions and kick returns, and No. 3 in all purpose yards, tackles and fumble recoveries.

“Without him, we wouldn’t be here,” said Fersch.

“He was the most deserving guy to have his jersey retired first. The guy who started it all might as well be the first to have his jersey retired.”

The pre-game ceremony is expected to run until 7 p.m., followed by the game.

lclow@postmedia.com

Twitter: @DHTLogan