Alberta Football League: AFL Press Clippings

Wednesday, July 1
Drillers given a scare

TERRY FARRELL - Herald-Tribune staff

Posted 1 day ago

 The Grande Prairie Drillers are 4-0 on the season, but they made it tough for themselves against the winless Red Deer Buccaneers. The Drillers scored 20 second-half points for a 23-13 victory, erasing a 6-3 half-time deficit and avoiding what would have been a monumental upset in Alberta Football League play. “We’ve said through the whole season, we don’t look at the score clock during the game, we just look at in the end. We succeeded and got the W,” said Drillers head coach Tim Skene. “In saying that, Red Deer came and played hard. Kudos to them.”

For half of the game, the Buccaneers kept the Legion Field faithful quiet, with a staunch defence that did not allow the Drillers much of anything. Tyler Fulmek opened the scoring with a 47-yard field goal in the final minute of the first quarter, just two plays after the Drillers had picked up their initial first down of the football game. That was it for Drillers scoring until the third quarter.

For the remainder of the first half, any time the Drillers got the fans excited, the Bucs sat them back down with a big defensive play. Red Deer tied the game, with four minutes to play in the half. Bucs linebacker Jeremy Makila intercepted a Nathan Aldred pass and returned it 65 yards to the Grande Prairie 15-yard line, setting up the game-tying field goal. On their next possession, the Drillers gambled on third and one from their own 35 and the Red Deer defence held, for Grande Prairie’s second straight turnover. The Bucs had to settle for another Jay Pine field-goal, giving them the three-point half-time lead. “They (Drillers) knew they were in a game at half-time,” said Buccaneers coach Dave Hanni. “We really took it to them in the first half.”

Whereas turnovers hurt the Drillers in the first half, they killed the Bucs in the second. Jon Sanchez ended one Red Deer drive with a goal-line interception and Cole Reddekopp essentially ended the game with his pick of a Josh Achtemuchuk pass with two minutes to play in the contest. It was the Drillers, however, who gave up the first turnover of the second half. They took the opening kickoff from their own 42 to the Red Deer three-yard-line, before Buccaneer defensive lineman Matt Vandale ended the drive, recovering a fumble as Grande Prairie was trying to punch the ball into the end zone.

“That’s the game of football,” said Skene. “Those are all big plays in the game. You get a little motivation going (with plays like that).” Even though that drive ended badly, Skene pointed to it as one of the turning points. “It proved to us that we could march the ball on these guys,” he said. “It was good for us, confidence-wise.” The Buccaneers were unable to move the ball after the fumble recovery and three plays later, they conceded a safety, rather than punt from their own end zone, making it a 6-5 game. It was another Grande Prairie turnover that set up the Drillers’ first major of the game. William Quintal picked off an Achtemuchuk pass midway through the third quarter and returned it to the Red Deer 25-yard line. Three plays later, Holdyn Lorentz caught an Aldred pass for a 12-yard touchdown strike. Aldred then hooked up with Brent Fulmek for a two-point conversion, giving the Drillers a 13-6 lead.

The Buccaneers responded on their next possession, driving 75 yards downfield and capping it with a five-yard touchdown run from Ian Keetch to tie the game at 13. The teams traded turnovers on consecutive plays in the final minute of the third. The Bucs intercepted an Aldred pass on their own 26-yard line, only to fumble it on their next play. The Drillers cashed in on that mistake. Trent Arsnal hauled in an Aldred pass for a 28-yard touchdown and a 20-13 Drillers lead. Sanchez’s interception snuffed out what was a promising Red Deer drive, that could have tied the game with eight minutes to play and Reddekopp’s pick led to a 14-yard Fulmek field goal, sealing the win with 90 seconds to play.

Although disappointed with the loss, there were plenty of positives for Hanni to focus on. “We told the guys that these guys (Drillers) put up 50-some points against the national champs (54-49 GP victory over Calgary Wolfpack June 13) and only 23 against us, and we gave them most of those, so we gave a pretty good effort,” he said. “We were toe-to-toe, all game long. But still, it is a loss, bottom line. I was pretty happy with the effort. The execution, well...”

tfarrell@bowesnet.com



Monday, June 29
Bucs drilled in GP

Advocate Staff 

The Red Deer Buccaneers came bearing gifts on Saturday, turning the ball over with regularity en route to a 23-13 Alberta Football League loss to the host Grande Prairie Drillers.

The Bucs committed a whopping five turnovers, three of which led directly to 17 Grande Prairie points.

The visitors led 6-3 at halftime on a pair of Jay Pike field goals of 15 and 22 yards, and watched their lead dwindle to one point when they conceded a safety touch early in the third quarter.

From there, Buccaneers quarterback Josh Achtemichuk threw an interception that the Drillers turned into a touchdown on their ensuing offensive series, but then led his team down the field and handed off to Ian Keetch who ran five yards for a major.

Keetch, however fumbled the ball away inside his own zone and the hosts capitalized with a touchdown to take a 20-13 lead late in the third stanza. The Drillers rounded out the scoring with a fourth-quarter field goal that followed a second Achtemichuk interception.

Achtemichuk completed 10 of 22 passes for 149 yards, while Keetch carried 12 times for 105 yards. Running back Kenton Poelzer had 13 carries for 42 yards and fumbled once, and also hauled in two passes for 44 yards.

Red Deer wide receiver Adam Donovan had three catches for 36 yards.

Defensively, lineman Matt Vandale had a monster game with three solo and three assisted tackles, with one tackle for a loss as well as a half sack (shared with Murray Green) and a fumble recovery. Vandale also played on the offensive line and the special teams.

Defensive back Jeremy Makila made two solo and two assisted tackles and also returned an interception 61 yards.

The Bucs return to action on July 11 at 6 p.m. versus the Calgary Wolfpack at Great Chief Park.

The team will stage a fund-raiser on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Shark’s Garage Sports Pub in the Red Deer



Monday, June 29
Vandals show grit in 21-20 win

Reporter: Rodney Oracheski Monday, June 29, 2009

The Lloydminster Vandals rolled into Spruce Grove Saturday night with an Alberta Football League (AFL) leading 3-0 record on the line against the 2-1 Parkland Panthers. The two teams traded touchdowns early, sitting even at 7-7 with 10 minute remaining in the first quarter. Only Parkland could keep that momentum going, however, picking up a 20-7 lead that they maintained into the game’s fourth quarter.

The Vandals offence started rolling in the fourth, going to running back Justin Dance on the ground. Dance broke through the Panthers line for several big runs, with teammate Glen Dembicki impressed by his performance. “He was having a lot of success in there, finding those holes,” Dembicki said. “That was probably his best game as a Vandal yet. It’s nice to have both him and [Travis] Levitsky back there. They have different styles and that gives us some options. “Travis is more of a power guy, just smashing through the line. Even if he doesn’t get many yards, he’s really softening them up for later in the game. Then we go with Dance and they’re expecting that contact, but he does a little move and he’s gone.”

The Vandals chipped away at the lead, scoring with 10:27 left on the clock to move within six. The Vandals defence stepped up on the ensuing Panthers possession, getting Lloydminster the ball back with time for one last run at the endzone. Led by quarterback Jared Valleau, the Vandals marched downfield. Valleau punched through the line on a second-and-one situation, revenge for being stuffed on a third-and-inches attempt in the second quarter. Valleau would keep the ball on the next play, picking up 10 yards against defenders caught flatfooted anticipating a pass. Dance figured into the final drive as well, pushing through to the three yard line and putting Lloydminster into a first-and-goal opportunity. Stopped on their first two plays, the Vandals faced a third-and-goal from the five yard line with under a minute left on the clock. Three receivers lined up on the right side, but Panthers coverage had Valleau scrambling and looking for other options. After avoiding two Panthers tackles, he found wide receiver Andrew Herrick open on the left side for the touchdown. With a successful kick for the point after, Lloydminster took its first lead of the game with under a minute left in the game.

The Panthers attempts to march the ball down the field with no-huddle offence were in vain. A last-second Hail Mary throw deep downfield was batted away by Dirk Treptow, giving Lloydminster the victory. “It’s not the way a guy wants to win, that’s for sure,” Dembicki remarked. “Still, a ‘W’ is a ‘W’ right? We’re at 4-0 on the season, and that’s all that matters. It’s definitely an intense way to get the win, and probably pretty exciting to watch from the stands. It’s a little more nerve-racking from the sidelines though.” Dembicki said he’s been impressed by the improvement Valleau has shown in the two games he’s been back with the club. “That first game wasn’t really one he could even knock the rust off in,” he said. “He comes back from being off for a year, missing the first two games of the season, and it’s raining and miserable out. This was really the first game where he got a chance to work on his game and he did really well for us. His decision making is getting way better. “He’s looking for receivers more, but when he tucks it in and runs he’s more willing to step out of bounds after getting that first down, instead of fighting for another two yards and getting his bell rung.”

Week 5 of the AFL season is a bye week, with action picking up again the following weekend. The Vandals will be at home, July 11, when they host the Calgary Gators.



Saturday, June 27
Last-minute pick saves Panthers' day

Posted By Gord Montgomery

The Panthers defence was on top of its game all night long on Saturday, including this play where Chris Crewes, among others, snuffs out a Calgary running play. The Panthers built up a 14-0 lead and then survived a late charge by the Wolfpack to earn their second win of the year by a score of 14-7 at West District Park.

There are scheduling breaks in sports that give you time to rest. Then there are the scheduling breaks that give you a home game when you thought you’d be cooped up in a bus for three or four hours. The Spruce Grove Panthers used the latter break on the weekend, when their regularly scheduled game in Calgary was moved to West District Park, to post a 14-7 victory over the defending league and national champion Calgary Wolfpack. “You definitely have to take advantage of things like this,” head coach Jeff Holton said of the home field win. “Whenever you travel you tend not to have as many guys because of work or other reasons, so this was an advantage for sure.”

The Panthers took full advantage of this opportunity as they scored once in each half and then staved off a late comeback attempt by the Wolfpack to raise their seasonal record to 2-1. The victory extended their win streak to two games, even though their quarterback Jordie Holton, felt his club left points on the field. “It was just some bad luck. A penalty at the wrong time or the ball (pass) was just a little bit too short. It was just bad luck for the most part. We couldn’t get rolling like we wanted to but that’s just a matter of hitting our stride by the end of the season.” While Holton didn't exactly shred the Calgary defence with his passing, he completed enough to keep the defending league and national champs on their heels.

When they kept the ball on the ground, running back Craig Carr, a CFL vet, had some impressive runs even though he was nursing an injury. Holton picked up the lone major of the opening half, when following a lengthy opening kick-off return by Tyler Hordo to the Calgary 29, he plunged in from a yard out. The Parkland defence stood tall throughout the second half and finally hit the scoreboard again when Justin Ashely picked a pass off in the Calgary end and rumbled untouched into the end zone for a 14-0 lead. Calgary made it interesting with a TD with less than two minutes left, and then had two final last-few-seconds plays to look at equalizing things again. An interception by Dan Rice however at the Panthers 27-yard line, spelled the end to any comeback hopes of the Wolfpack. “It’s never over with them,” coach Holton said. “(Quarterback Darryl) Leeson is a master at working the clock at the end of the game. We just knew coming into the second half these guys were capable of putting three or four touchdowns up on the board.” The fact they didn’t, managing just the one major in the dying moments, was a credit to the Panthers defence which after struggling mightily in their opening game loss, has rebounded dramatically in the last two contests.

It was no wonder that coach Holton, and the entire Panthers team was concerned about what could happen with the Wolfpack. Last year, on the same field, the Calgary squad scored a late TD to win the game between the two clubs. The hosts weren’t about to let history repeat on this night. That was due to “great preparation” the coach noted. “The players had lots of game film that they broke down. Every play they had was anticipated.” The win could have been much easier to come by, coach Holton agreed, if his club had taken fewer penalties. One of those resulted in negating a 35-yard field goal by Steve Woziminsky which would have given the Panthers a 10-0 lead. Instead, on their second attempt at the kick, from five yards further back late in the second quarter, the snap was muffed and the Calgary squad took possession near midfield. Holton said he was concerned with the number of penalties his club continues to take, especially those that take points off the board. “It’s something we’ve got to continue to work on,” he noted. “In a game like this you know you’re going to be in a battle. This was a litmus test for us, for sure. The defence was the story of the day, for sure.” The coach said this win, maybe more than any other, was important given the fact they beat last season’s best team in Canada. “It’s a big lift because we almost shut them out and they’ve never been shut out before. "To hold them under 21 points is a real coup, so it will definitely give us a lift for the game next weekend.”

That game against Lloydminster will see the Panthers square off against one of the best defences in the league starting at 7 p.m. at West District Park in the Grove. ex.rep.sports@bowesnet.com



Monday, June 15
Stallions stomp Buccaneers
Stallions stomp Buccaneers By Greg Meachem - Red Deer Advocate Stallions 48 Buccaneers 13 The Red Deer Buccaneers had every intention of charging — not limping — out of the Alberta Football League starting gate. So far, not so good. The Bucs are 0-2 to open the 2009 AFL season after absorbing a 48-13 beating from the Edmonton Stallions Saturday evening at Great Chief park. The Red Deer squad surrendered just a field goal — a 40-yarder by Brad Matheson — in the first quarter, but then gave up three unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter and never recovered. “The mistakes we made last game we didn’t make today,” said Bucs head coach Dave Hanni, referring to a 28-11 loss to the visiting Lloydminster Vandals the previous Saturday. “We made a whole bunch of new ones. “Really, there’s not much you can say after something like that. We had 60 players out for the game and 30 of them were at practice this week. That being said, we’ve have good practice turnouts over the last few years. We were short key guys today on both sides of the ball, but we can’t use that as an excuse.” It simply boiled down to not making the right plays at the right time, the coach suggested. “Guys just didn’t execute. They didn’t pick the right guy, the right read. We blew about five coverages,” said Hanni. “We were frustrated on the sidelines because we had the guys in the right positions and the right plays called. But for some reason they just blew it up. I think maybe we just got out-gunned.” Stallions quarterback Travis Tyler threw two touchdown passes to Grant Shaw and also tossed touchdown strikes to Ray Nattress, Kelly McBryan and Orrin Bailey. Manny Gordon rushed for another major and Matheson booted field goals of 40 and 22 yards. For the Bucs, Kenton Poelzer scored on a one-yard run in the third quarter and rookie Randy Lawrence hauled in a 26-yard scoring pass from Andrew Stannix with eight minutes remaining in the game. Poelzer rushed for 88 yards on 14 carries, while Lawrence led all receivers with 48 yards gained. Stannix was nine-for-18 passing for 99 yards with one touchdown and one interception and was sacked twice, while teammate Greg Thompson completed four of 12 passes for 42 yards and threw one interception. Meanwhile, Bucs rookie receiver Mike Harris gained 109 yards on four kickoff returns and Jamie Blinkhorn had 72 yards on two returns. Defensively, cornerback Devon Mappin had three solo and five assisted tackles, plus a knockdown, linebacker Riley Quance had seven unassisted tackles and backs Jay Pike and Jivi Sudo each picked off one pass. Hanni is convinced that the Buccaneers do not require big-time changes in field personnel. “We’re maybe three guys away from doing some major damage,” he said. “We didn’t get any pressure on their offence today because we were missing two of our starting defensive linemen. If we get the proper guys there consistently doing what they’re supposed to do, we’re OK. “We knew coming into the season that the first two games would be tough. We should have had last week’s game, but this week I don’t think we were even in the game at all. The Stallions are a pretty tough team. They were champions of the league two years ago and they’re always in the playoffs.” The Buccaneers will host the Calgary Gators on Saturday at 6 p.m. at Great Chief Park. Contact Greg Meachem at gmeachem@reddeeradvocate.com

Monday, June 15
Nailbiter, but a W: Grande Prairie holds on to defeat Canada’s top team 54-49
PETE LUCAROTTI – Herald-Tribune sports It was almost like the Grande Prairie Drillers didn’t want to beat the reigning national champion Calgary Wolfpack on Saturday. It certainly didn’t look like they wanted to win comfortably. The Drillers held leads of 16, 21 and 12 points in their home-opener. Only the last lead stood, and just barely, in a 54-49 Grande Prairie win. “I saw the mental lapse definitely happen, but in saying that it was really nice to see the guys pick up and bear down when we had to,” said Drillers head coach Tim Skene. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight. We did see a little bit of early celebration of our sidelines and knowing this team I knew it was going to cost us and it just about did.” The Drillers were able to jump out to an early lead with two rushing touchdowns by running back Holdyn Lorentz. A field goal by Tyler Fulmek had the Drillers up 17-1 with six minutes remaining in the first half. Two quick Wolfpack touchdowns, both with successful two-point conversions, and the lead was gone. But the Wolfpack left about a minute on the clock for the Drillers to work with. Quarterback Nathan Aldred found Brent Fulmek in the end zone on the final play of the half to regain the Drillers’ momentum. Grande Prairie started the second half the same way it started the first. Aldred connected with Fulmek for another touchdown. Donald Jones also had a receiving touchdown as the Drillers built what seemed like an insurmountable 21-point lead. But the Wolfpack are national champions for a reason. Calgary started its comeback after Drillers’ punt returner Will Quintal fumbled, giving Calgary good field position. After the Wolfpack scored their first touchdown of the half, the Drillers couldn’t stop them from scoring another, and another, and another. “We were trying to force them to the middle, but we just couldn’t do it,” Quintal said. “They were just picking us apart in little spots, one at a time.” “We were panicking there a lot. When they got near the end zone there we didn’t know what to do. We got down on each other and that’s what we need to not do.” The Drillers’ offence woke up just in time. Aldred again found Brent Fulmek in the end zone. Grande Prairie was able to put together another scoring drive on its next possession when John Warr caught Aldred’s fifth throwing touchdown of the day. The Wolfpack scored again with under two minutes left, but the Drillers recovered the onside kick. Colton Hodges was able to run the ball up the middle for just enough yardage to gain a Drillers first down with 30 seconds remaining to close out the game. “We came back a couple of times. Unfortunately, we just ran out of time at the end,” said Wolfpack quarterback, Darryl Leason. “We’re looking forward to playing them again in the playoffs. Hopefully we’ll have a full roster by then. I think we were missing eight starters and five on defence, so it shows out there. Hats off to them. They did what they had to do out there to get the win.” The win marks the second time in as any years the Drillers have beaten the Wolfpack to start the regular season 2-0. Skene said before this season started that the team peaked with its 44-42 victory over Calgary. By the time the playoffs started they were 4-3 and lost in the AFL semifinals. He’s determined to make this year a different story. “This was a reality check, I’ll tell you right now,” Skene said. “They did not come with their full squad and we’re going to see a different team if we get a chance to beat them again, so we always have to be improving game after game.”

Monday, June 8
Backup offence drops the Bucs (Wainwright Star Chronicle)

The Lloydminster Vandals kicked off the 2009 Alberta Football League (AFL) season with a win, Saturday night, dropping the Red Deer Buccaneers by a 28-11 final.

The win came despite being without a slew of starters on the offense, including starting quarterback Jared Valleau and wide receiver Jordan Priebe - both former standouts with the WHS Commandos.

Jared’s younger brother Jess, also a Commandos all-star, filled in at pivot for the season opener. The younger Valleau connected quickly, finding a wide open Andrew Herrick for the game’s first major just 1:24 into the first quarter. Valleau found the endzone twice more before the end of the game, with wide receiver Riley Young the recipient of both passes.

The Vandals added a rushing touchdown to the mix, at one point holding a 21-0 lead and finishing the day with a 28-11 margin of victory.

The defense also hit the field without several players, including Jordy Lovig, Billy Steele, and Brock Priebe, also found success - keeping the Buccaneers off the board and recording a pair of interceptions.

Red Deer scored on special teams, with a 75 yard punt return for a touchdown being their lone major on the day. The remainder of their scoring came from a safety for two and a pair of single points from a rouge and missed convert.

Lloydminster takes on the Edmonton Seahawks in the second week of the AFL season, with the game slated for 7:15 p.m., June 13, on Edmonton’s Clarke Field.

The Seahawks opened the season with a loss to the defending champion Calgary Wolfpack.



Monday, June 8
Drillers open ’09 campaign with 34-7 beating of Parkland Panthers (Daily Herald Tribune)

PETE LUCAROTTI – Herald-Tribune sportswriter

Tim Skene’s debut as head coach of the Grande Prairie Drillers was all he could ask for as the Drillers opened their 2009 season by beating the Parkland Panthers 34-7 on Saturday. “It definitely feels like you’ve got a monkey off your back,” Skene said. “With the league being as strong as it is and Parkland definitely being one of the powerhouses it was definitely nice to get the first one behind us. At any given moment, things can turn around and you can be 0-4 in the blink of an eye so it was really good to get that one up and we can go up from here.”

While the end result was a resounding success for Grande Prairie, the beginning of the game wasn’t quite the way Skene would have scripted it. Parkland opened the scoring on its second possession of the game when former Edmonton Eskimos running back Craig Carr ran the ball in from 26 yards out. It was all Drillers from there.

Quarterback Nathan Aldred finished the game with more than 200 yards and two touchdowns through the air and added another 60 yards and one touchdown rushing. Donald Jones and Shane Smith both had receptions for touchdowns and running back Holden Lorentz had 120 all-purpose yards and one rushing touchdown to give the Drillers a balanced attack on offence. “The running game was working well and Nathan was doing extremely well in the passing game,” Skene said. “The receivers were making some catches. I think, for the most part, it was pretty close between the air and the ground for the scoring.”

Lorentz’s performance answered one of the questions surrounding the Drillers heading into this season. Lorentz hadn’t played runningback since his senior year of high school and there was some uncertainty whether players would be able to adapt to new positions and a new head coach. It turned out to be a non-issue. “It was a big game for myself being a rookie head coach and people like Holdyn stepping into a key position at running back,”

Skene said. “We’ve definitely done some switching with guys trying new positions with one or two vacancies being left. Everyone stepped up.” The Drillers will need that kind of effort again when they play their home-opener against the defending national champion Calgary Wolfpack on Saturday. “I think if we play Drillers football we can be more than competitive,” Skene said. “There’s no doubt the defending national champions will be coming with their A game. It will be a test and it’s definitely the benchmark team that you set your expectations against.” Game time is set for 7 p.m. at Legion Field.



Friday, June 5
Vandals ready to prove them wrong (Meridian Booster)

Posted By Carl Carter

It’s been said you’ve got to lose before you can win, and the Lloydminster Vandals are hoping that rings true for them this year. After losing out in the Alberta Football League championship last season to the Calgary Wolfpack, the Vandals feel they have the squad to dethrone the powerhouse Wolfpack this year. The first step for the team comes this weekend when they open up their season on the road against the Red Deer Buccaneers. “We want to be back in that championship game, and this year winning it,” said offensive coordinator Ken Fisher, who along with defensive coordinator Matt Fisher and special teams coordinator Brad Ollen will be charged with leading the Vandals to glory. “The first goal is getting into the playoffs, second goal is making the championships, and three is winning it all, so I think with the guys we got it’s definitely attainable.” Fisher has the utmost of confidence in his team so there’s not many teams that scare him – including the Wolfpack – but he admits the one problem he’s worried about is keeping the squad together. “Things are looking pretty good this year, but our biggest challenge this year is going to be just the scheduling of guy’s personal lives,” said Fisher. “When we have our whole team I think we’re going to be the best in the league, otherwise we’re fighting weddings and personal things like that, but when everyone is around it’s going to be a great season.” The Vandals have plenty of returning players. Most notably Jared Valleau will be back behind centre and making plays for the team.

“We’ve got some great playmakers on the offensive side of the ball that’s for sure,” said defensive half Cole Payne. “I think everybody’s seen that last year with what the Valleau brothers can do. It’s exciting watching those guys play football.” Defensively the Vandals will be as strong as ever as they have the main core of players returning, and they all remember losing to the Wolfpack in the finals and don’t want to relive that experience. “Last year we made that our goal but didn’t quite complete it. This year it’s the same goal again – we want to make it to that game and this year come out on top,” said Payne. “Just like any sport – you make it there once and you want to make it there every year.” The first roadblock will be the Buccaneers this weekend. Last season the Vandals throttled Red Deer, 41-0, but this year the Buccaneers have improved. Fisher expects a closer game as both teams take to the field for the first time. “I think it’s going to be a tight game, and we’re missing a few guys this weekend so we’ve been working on making a few adjustments the last few weeks,” said Fisher. “Hopefully we’ve done that and can come out with a really competitive game in the end.” While the Vandals have confidence heading into this season they know you have to beat the best to be the best, and so far the Wolfpack are still the best. “(The Wolfpack) are always tough and they will be the team to beat,” said Fisher, adding the Vandals will not be pushovers this year with plenty of returning talent and some new recruits who could surprise some people. “There’s a couple of new guys from Wainwright that are going to be able to make a difference and jump in right away, but overall I think we’ve got a pretty strong returning core.” The Vandals’ season kicks off tomorrow when they head to Red Deer to meet the Buccaneers.


Friday, June 5
Lorentz gets the call for the ball (Daily Herald Tribune)

PETE LUCAROTTI – Herald-Tribune sportswriter

With 90% of last year’s roster returning, the Grande Prairie Drillers have no shortage of players with experience at their respective positions. Then there’s Holdyn Lorentz. Lorentz will be the team’s new halfback when the Drillers open the season on the road against the Parkland Panthers in Spruce Grove, tomorrow. It’s a position he hasn’t played since his senior year with the Grande Prairie Composite high school Warriors in 2005. Lorentz has had just over a month to re-familiarize himself with the position. “It was a long (training camp),” Lorentz said. “We were trying to figure out who was going to be starting. I was lucky enough to get the go, so it all worked out. “I played in high school as starting running back. I kind of went away from running back, so it will be nice to play again.”

 It’s not just that he hasn’t played running back. He hasn’t played much offence, period. After his last year of high school football, where he helped lead the Warriors to the provincial final, Lorentz was given an invite to Team Alberta. He felt his odds of making the team would improve if he tried out as a defensive back. He made the team as a corner and that’s the position he’s been playing ever since, including last year with the Drillers. The running back position was left empty after last year’s starter, Kevin Winnicky, decided not to return to the team this year. Winnicky led the team and finished fourth in league rushing last season with 499 yards while averaging 7.6 yards a carry. “We had Donald Jones trying out and a couple of other slotbacks, but we were short receivers so we can’t really have those guys playing running back,” said Drillers quarterback, Nathan Aldred. “We thought we’d pull Holdyn off the defence and switch somebody over. If need be he can play both ways as well.” Winnicky was known for his speed, which is Lorentz’s speciality as well. “He (Lorentz) is a very fast runner so it will give us a lot of speed to the outside. Hopefully he’ll be good for us,” Aldred said. Aldred’s familiarity with Lorentz goes beyond just his running style. The two were teammates on the Comp during Lorentz’s original stint as a feature back. “I know what he’s capable of. It has been a little while since he’s played in a real game, but he’s shown in practice he can break off tackles and get the touchdowns we need him to get,” Aldred said. “I’m very confident in what he can do.” Aldred is so confident in Lorentz’s abilities, he decided to give his former Warriors teammate the backfield position all to himself. There will be no running back by committee with the Drillers, meaning Lorentz won’t have much time to adjust to his new position. “I think that there’s so much going on in the game of football that you kind of need to know where you’re playing at,” Aldred said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve been tossing people around and they haven’t been playing well at those positions so we’ve decided just to put people in certain positions, get them used to that and see how it works in the first game. If we have to change things after that, so be it.” Having Aldred behind centre should ease Lorentz back into being a running back. Aldred was second in nearly every statistical category for quarterbacks last season and even finished second in rushing yards for the Drillers with 260. “It’s definitely an honour,” Lorentz said. “I’m not worried about getting a few yards for the team, because when you have a good passing game, you’re going to have a good running game.” Also working in Lorentz’s favour is that the Drillers’ starters on the offensive line are all returning and haven’t been switched around to different positions. “We have a good O-line so that’s definitely a benefit because I’m not the biggest guy,” he said. “It gives me somebody to hide behind.” The Drillers will get their first chance to see how Lorentz adjusts, tomorrow. “I’m just going to do my best and we’ll see what happens,” Lorentz said.  


Friday, May 15
Drillers face new coaching Skene - New AFL season on the horizon (Herald-Tribune)

TERRY FARRELL, Herald-Tribune sports editor

 When the Grande Prairie Drillers take to the field in Spruce Grove for their first game of the 2009 Alberta Football League season June 6, against the Parkland Panthers, they’ll be doing so with a new coach. Not a new face... just a new coach. Cornerback/halfback Tim Skene has hung up his cleats and will lead the team from the bench this year, taking over the head coaching duties from Doug Stenberg. Consider this the official press release of Skene’s hiring. “Thanks for the advance notice,” he said, laughing, when the impromptu interview began. “We’ll see how the season goes, I’m not sure whether (the team) wants to announce it or not.” Skene has been involved with the Drillers ever since the infancy stage of the team. He helped build the foundation of the franchise with Past President and team founder James Kostuk and has played on the team for three of the first five seasons.“I played for the first two years, then I had a son, so I took a two-year hiatus,” said Skene. “I came back last year, but this year, without Doug around, I figured it might be in the best interest of the team to hang the cleats up and face the inevitable truth (about getting older).” Stenberg’s resignation was not a surprise. “When Doug first came on to coach he made a verbal agreement with the guys, committing to two years,” explained Skene. “Five years later, he had definitely had enough. We knew it would happen eventually.” The transition will likely be more difficult for Skene than his players. After all, with 90% of the 2008 team returning, everyone knows him. No need for introductions. But trading in a helmet for a headset can take a bit of getting used to. “It’s going to be a bit different, to be sure,” he said. “There will likely be a few times where I’ll have to stop myself from just running out there. But it’s a great new challenge for me.” Skene is adopting as stable a Drillers squad as there has been. With the vast majority of the 2008 personnel returning, Skene is looking for an even better performance than last year, which saw the Drillers lose in the AFL semifinal round, to the Lloydminster Vandals. “I think, ultimately, we peaked at absolutely the worst time last year,” said Skene, reflecting upon the 2008 season. “We played the defending national champion Calgary Wolfpack the second game in and had pretty much our best game of the season. (The Drillers upset the Wolfpack, 44-42.) I think that just gave us a false sense of reality and we weren’t able to continue at that level on a game-to-game basis.” The Drillers finished the regular season with a 4-3 record, before posting a gutsy 48-27 victory against the Calgary Gators in the first round of the playoffs. Skene wants to see the team build throughout the regular season and peak at playoff time this year. “Drillers teams in the past have always been exceptional teams in regards to the regular season, then have faltered in the playoffs,” he said. “I’d like to turn that around – have us emphasize the playoffs, without sacrificing the regular season, but knowing that the biggest games are always at the end of the season, not the start.” The Drillers will be led offensively again this season by quarterback Nate Aldred, who was second only to Wolfpack QB Darryl Leason in virtually every statistical category last year. With his favourite receiving targets, Fulmek brothers Brent and Ty, both returning, there’s plenty of familiarity running routes. Defensively, the club will be led by committee. “We have six or seven veteran guys who can step up in the blink of an eye and take control of any situation that arises,” said Skene. As for special teams, Skene is unsure as of yet how they will look, only to say that with the Fulmek brothers returning kicks, it will not be a weak point on the team. “It‘s going to be a little bit of a different philosophy with special teams this year,” said the coach. “We’re going with a little bit more youth on the special teams, letting the youthful energy take care of that part of the game, trying to save the legs of the older guys. It’s kind of a bit more of a professional approach to special teams. “We‘ve got a full scrimmage going next Tuesday and that will be our first kick at the cat with special teams. But with the Fulmek brothers running things, I think we’ll be pretty good in that area.” Just about the only question mark heading into the final two weeks of spring training is at running back. Kevin Winnicky, who was among the AFL league leaders in rushing stats last year, will not be returning. Skene was a bit coy about his replacement. “We have a few things we’re looking at in regards to which way to go there, but I can‘t give you any names yet,” he said. As long as the team plays to its potential, Skene sees no reason for the Drillers not to be playing in the league championship this year – pretty much like every team, two weeks before the season starts. “I think, realistically, every year, about 80% of the teams enter the league as serious contenders,” he said. “What we all have to be aware of are how injuries play a part. If we can maintain a healthy lineup and enter the playoffs with the proper focus, I see no reason why we can’t play for the provincial championship.”


Sunday, May 3
Vandals Eye Championship (Meridian Booster)

Team goes through changes as they prepare for title hunt

Posted By Carl Carter

After putting together their best season in the Alberta Football League the Lloydminster Vandals are looking to take the next step. The Vandals finished with a 6-3 record and made it into the championship game, but lost to the Calgary Wolfpack. The team has been getting in some extra work beforehand by training at Lloyd Comp, but with spring camp opening up the Vandals will have one thing in mind – a championship. There will be some big changes this year, however – especially on the sidelines. “Out of the 40 to 45 guys that suited up last year we should have in the high 30s to 40 returning, and then I know we probably got five or a half dozen that I’ve seen,” said player-president Glen Dembicki. “Now that we’ve reached the championship game there’s not too many places to go once you’ve been there besides win it, so that’s obviously our goal this year. “There’s been one team in this league that’s been able to (win) on a consistent basis, so it will be tough but it’s definitely something we’re striving for.” The Vandals will be without last year’s head coach Chris McKenna, however. Dembicki will take over the title of head coach but the team will rely on a coaching-by-committee mentality. Ken Fisher – who basically ran the offence last season – will be the team’s offensive coordinator, and Brad Ollen will manage the special teams. Ollen and Matt Fischer will run the defence. “Chris won’t be on the sidelines but last year Ken ran the offence – Chris didn’t have much to do with that part – so that will be status quo, and then we have the guys on defence that can step up and keep our special teams going, which was one of the best special-teams units in the league,” said Dembicki. “I’m not comfortable with the term ‘head coach’ myself, but I am comfortable with running the team and making sure everything keeps moving forward. “We’re all grown men. We should be able to make things work and no one’s feelings will get hurt.” The Vandals have always been known for their bone-crushing defence – last year they allowed only 157-points against, second best in the league – and put together one of the best offences in the league as well last season – scoring 297 points. Dembicki would like to see the offence improve and they are going to put the work in before the season to make sure they are firing on all cylinders come game day. “If we can put a little more work in with the Wainwright crew – which is a big part of the offence – hopefully that can get us over the hump,” said Dembicki. “We think we have the offence that can pick apart defences and march the ball down the field, so it’s mostly timing in that regard.” The Vandals will open their main camp May 9 and 10, and plan on having another camp in Wainwright later in May to get those players on the same page. The Vandals first game will come June 6 when they head out to Red Deer to battle the Buccaneers. Their first home game will come June 20, when they host the Edmonton Stallions.



Monday, July 28
Gift Wrapped (Daily Herald Tribune)

Drillers fumble and bumble their way to a loss against Calgary

Written by TERRY FARRELL - Herald-Tribune sports editor

The B.O. that emanated from Legion Field on Saturday night was not body odor. It was worse. It was Blown Opportunities. Those two words can best describe the outcome of the Alberta Football League match between the Grande Prairie Drillers and the Calgary Gators, at least from a Grande Prairie point of view. The Drillers had the ball inside the Calgary 15-yard line three times during the game. Net result: One point. “You’ve got to score on at least half your (red zone) opportunities if you expect to win and we could not capitalize,” said Drillers head coach Doug Stenberg. That was the difference in an 11-7 Calgary victory. That, and an ex-CFL kicker by the name of Ian Hewitt who did it all for the Gators.Hewitt, who was drafted by the Montreal Alouettes in 2000 and attended training camps in Toronto and B.C. before signing with the Ottawa Renegades in 2004, nailed field goals of 43, 48 and 51 yards. The Drillers took a 6-5 lead in the second quarter when, on the first play from scrimmage after a Hewitt 48-yard field goal, quarterback Nathan Aldred hooked up with wide receiver Brent Fulmek on the single biggest play of the game. Aldred hit Fulmek in full stride 30 yards downfield. After making a spectacular one-handed catch, Fulmek shook off the Calgary defender to scamper the final 45 yards for the major. A two-point convert attempt failed, leaving the Drillers with a 6-5 lead. The home side had a chance to expand on that lead later in the quarter, when they drove to the Calgary five-yard line. Running back Kevin Winnicky was stripped of the ball at the two, however, snuffing that drive. Tyler Fulmek kicked a 47-yard field goal with four minutes to play in the second quarter that would have given the Drillers a 9-5 lead, but the team chose to accept a Calgary major penalty, giving Grande Prairie a first down at the 25-yard line instead. Mistake. “Never take points off the board,” said Stenberg. “We were yelling at the bench, but they didn’t hear us.” Another Gator major foul moved the ball to the 13, but Driller quarterback Nathan Aldred was intercepted at the goal line on his next play from scrimmage. The Gators drove the length of the field and on the last play of the half, Hewitt kicked a 43-yarder for an 8-6 halftime lead. The Drillers had another glorious opportunity to take the lead in the third quarter, but a drive stalled at the Calgary eight-yard line. Still, just a chip shot for a 9-8 lead, right? Wrong. Tyler Fulmek missed a 16-yarder and the single point made it 8-7. Hewitt iced the game in the fourth with the 51-yard field goal. The offensive blunders ruined what was an outstanding game by the Drillers defence. The Gators never even threatened the red zone, much less the end zone. But, with a weapon like Hewitt ... “When I missed those two earlier ones (36 and 41 yards) I was mad,” said Hewitt. “I’m glad I had a chance to make up for those. The team is telling me now that they’re going to stop driving at the 40 so I can make the field goals.” When he wasn’t kicking to win, he was tackling to preserve the win. Hewitt was the last man between Driller Brent Fulmek and the end zone on two separate fourth-quarter punt returns, stopping Fulmek both times. “I could tell (Fulmek) was getting a little fed up with me in the end,” said Hewitt, laughing. “I’m a rugby player at heart, so I learned how to tackle young.”

“Obviously he didn’t get the memo: Kickers don’t tackle,” deadpanned Fulmek, after the two met at midfield for a chat at the end of the game.

“I gotta say, I was a bit winded the second time or I’d have beaten him,” he added with a laugh. “But I have to hand it to him, he’s an all-around athlete. A great player.” “He did what he had to do,” said Gators head coach Doyle Matheson. “He was really big for us, especially under pressure.” With the win, the Gators improved to 3-3 on the season, surpassing the 2-3 Drillers and sitting in a for third with the Edmonton Stallions, although the Stallions have a game in hand. “That was a huge win for us,” Matheson. “We really came together. It was teamwork, a total team effort. Every game in this league is so tight, every win is really important. “Our entire defence played superb for us, stopping them so many times from in close. And my running back Jake (Swainson) had a spectacular game. He really ate up the clock with some big runs.” As for the Drillers, they are now in sixth place, with a 2-3 record and riding a three-game losing streak. “Now it’s a matter of making sure we get a playoff spot, period, wherever it is,” said Stenberg. “We have the (Edmonton) Stallions coming up (Legion Field, August 9) and then we head to Red Deer. “We usually seem to be missing about eight players or so for every road trip. If that happens, we’re in trouble.”  


Monday, July 28
Peak Performance (Meridian Booster)

Vandals tame Panthers, set sights on Wolfpack

Larry Fisher
Monday July 28, 2008

Another first-place showdown, another convincing win for the Lloydminster Vandals.
Facing their toughest test to date, the Vandals passed with flying colours in picking apart the top-ranked Parkland Panthers to prevail 38-17 Saturday afternoon at Armstrong Field.
“I kind of predicted we would beat them by 21, and I didn’t think it would be this way, but we did it,” said Vandals coach Chris McKenna, whose club improved to 4-1 on the season and now sits tied for top spot with the Calgary Wolfpack, who were also victorious in Week 7 – downing the defending Alberta Football League champion Edmonton Stallions 38-21. “I think that puts us in first place now … right where we should be.”
Saturday’s triumph marked the second time this season the Vandals pulled off an upset according to the standings – preceded by Week 4’s 52-10 demolition of the previously undefeated Grande Prairie Drillers during the Vandals’ home opener. As was the case in that contest, the hosts got out to an early lead and never looked back against the Panthers.
Jess Valleau returned the game’s opening kickoff 91 yards for a touchdown – his second special teams major in as many weeks – in setting the tone for the Vandals to extend their winning streak to four games, while halting the Panthers’ unbeaten run at four as well.
“That really got us going, got the momentum on our side, and then the defence was just incredible,” said Jess Valleau, who led the Vandals in all-purpose yards with 196 – doubling as a wide receiver on offence. “As soon as we get a lead on anybody we know they aren’t going to come back against our defence, so it’s reassuring for the offence.”
The Vandals benefited from an ever-present give-and-take relationship – you give us the ball, we’ll take it to the house – as the offence fed off the defence and vice versa.


After Jess Valleau got the ball rolling, defensive back Dirk Treptow gave the offence good field position to work with by recovering a fumble in recording his first of three turnovers.
Starting quarterback Jared Valleau successfully converted Treptow’s efforts into points – connecting with Jordan Priebe in the corner of the end zone from nine yards out to give the Vandals a 14-0 head start. That drive was aided by Brad Ollen faking a punt and gaining 19 yards on the ground to give the offence a new set of downs, and Ollen later added a 16-yard field goal to go into the break up 17-0.
The second half saw more of the same. Although the Panthers drew first blood and actually came within striking distance – only trailing 24-17 with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter – the Vandals’ defence picked off Panthers quarterback Jordie Holton on back-to-back drives and Lloydminster’s offence made Parkland pay the ultimate price on both of the ensuing possessions to put the score out of reach.
First it was Treptow – aka Agent 0 – who found himself in the right place at the right time for his second interception of the game with 3:48 to go. That turnover set the stage for running back Curtis Vetter’s 21-yard sprint to the promise land to make it 31-17.
Then Ollen followed suit in getting his hands on another errant pass from Holton with 2:12 left on the clock – putting the ball back in the hands of relief quarterback Trevor Townend, who made no mistake in hooking up with Priebe on a 45-yard pass-and-run play resulting in Priebe’s third major of the day to round out the scoring.
Priebe also hauled in a six-yard touchdown toss from Jared Valleau in the third quarter to answer the Panthers’ early score and restore the Vandals’ point spread at 24-7.
“To do that for the offence and for them to do that for us, that’s what teamwork is,” said Treptow, who’s had more than a helping hand in the offence as of late – returning a pair of fumble recoveries to paydirt, from 105 yards against Grande Prairie and then from 57 yards in last week’s 41-0 beatdown of the Red Deer Buccaneers. “It feels a lot better when the score is not so lopsided. It’s nice to know the team relies on you to get a big play for the defence, and then the offence turns it into points and puts the game away.”
That ‘you scratch our back, we’ll scratch yours’ approach produced a few turning points in the Vandals’ favour, and kept the Panthers scratching their heads in struggling to solve the Vandals on either side of the ball.
Parkland coach Jeff Holton pointed to those aforementioned five forced turnovers – linebacker Justin Dance also had an interception for the Vandals – and Jess Valleau’s initial tally as backbreakers for his visiting squad.
“Right off the start you saw that they were here to play and I think we were a little flat coming out. That put us behind early and it kind of went down from there,” said coach Holton, adding the new-look Vandals are vastly improved from last year’s edition that bowed out to the eventual-champion Stallions in the first round of playoffs – Holton and a handful of players jumped ship from the Stallions to the expansion Panthers prior to this season. “Lloyd definitely has more balance and a lot more potent offence now. In the past the Vandals were a very defensive team, but now they are killing us on special teams and offensively too.
“It’s just a good team all around, but hopefully we get a shot at them again in the playoffs.”
The AFL playoff picture is still very much up in the air with two weeks to go in the regular season, but the Vandals can cement home-field advantage and essentially clinch first place by knocking off the Wolfpack in Calgary when play resumes on Aug. 9.



Friday, July 25
Drillers host Gators Saturday night (Daily Herald Tribune)
Both the Grande Prairie Drillers and the Calgary Gators will look to get back on track as the teams square off at Legion Field Saturday night. The 2-3 Gators head north to Grande Prairie following a 42-35 loss to the Parkland Panthers July 12. The Drillers also head into Saturday’s match off a loss to the Panthers, having been topped by Parkland 44-22 last weekend. Grande Prairie (2-2) looks to snap a two-game losing streak that dates back to July 5 when they were downed 52-10 by the Lloydminster Vandals in Lloydminster. The Drillers and Gators sit in a tie for fifth in the Alberta Football League standings. The Vandals, Calgary Wolfpack and Edmonton Stallions (all 3-1) sit in a three-way tie for second place. The Panthers have sole possession of first place at 4-1. Heading into the weekend the Drillers have scored 138 points for, and surrendered the same amount.In five games the Gators have put up 111 points, but have only given up 90. Game time is 7 p.m. –Herald-Tribune sports staff

Monday, July 21
Bucs begin playoff push (Advocate)
By Advocate staff - July 21, 2008

Vandals 41 Buccaneers 0 The Red Deer Buccaneers were ‘Vandal-ized’ during the weekend, but can still win the turtle race for the final playoff berth in the Alberta Football League. Despite falling 41-0 to the host Lloydminster Vandals on Saturday afternoon, the 1-4 Bucs are a mere two points behind the Calgary Gators who currently hold down the last playoff position. If Red Deer and Calgary finish with identical win-loss records, the Bucs will slip into the post-season due to beating the Gators in the opening game of the season. The Gators have the Grande Prairie Drillers and Calgary Wolfpack remaining on their regular-season schedule, while the Bucs will close out with home games versus the last-place Edmonton Seahawks and the Drillers. But based on their performance in Lloydminster, the Bucs won’t go far in the playoffs if indeed they do qualify. There were few bright spots for Red Deer in the one-sided setback. While the Bucs racked up 250 yards of offence, they were unable to set up office in the red zone. Quarterback Greg Thompson completed 15 of 31 passes for 134 yards. He also coughed up a pick and was sacked once. Meanwhile, tailback Kenton Poelzer had 12 carries for 79 yards and fullback Brad Smith had one two-yard carry and hauled in four passes for 46 yards. Andrew Stannix replaced Thompson late in the contest and was one-for-three passing for 24 yards. Defensively, strong safety Darren Strohschein turned in his best game of the season with four solo tackles and one assisted tackle, as well as two interceptions. Cornerback Shaun Jardin also played well with three solo tackles. The Bucs will host the Seahawks and Drillers on Aug. 9 and 16 at Great Chief Park. The Wolfpack will host the Edmonton Stallions at Great Chief on Saturday at 6 p.m.


Monday, July 21
Another one bites the dust (Meridian Booster)

Vandals manhandle Buccaneers in blowout victory

Larry Fisher
Monday July 21, 2008

Week in and week out, the Lloydminster Vandals are proving to be the team to beat in the Alberta Football League.
Granted the defending AFL champion Edmonton Stallions accomplished that feat by the narrowest of margins in Week 1 – escaping with a 25-23 decision in a game the Vandals arguably lost more than the Stallions won – but since then the Vandals have been an unstoppable force.
Week 2 saw the Vandals knock off last year’s other finalist – the Calgary Gators – 14-13 on the road; Week 4 acted as the real coming out party with the Vandals demolishing the previously undefeated Grande Prairie Drillers 52-10 in their home opener; and Week 6 produced more of the same as the Vandals made the Red Deer Buccaneers their latest victim in a 41-0 beatdown Saturday afternoon at Armstrong Field.
“All facets of our game were good … we played really well,” said Vandals coach Chris McKenna, whose club improved to 3-1 on the season – pulling into a three-way tie for second place with the Stallions and the Calgary Wolfpack, trailing only the expansion Parkland Panthers (4-1) who the Vandals will host in Week 7. “We are a team to be reckoned with. We play a good team next week in Parkland, they have really done well, and then we got the Wolfpack after that, so we got two big games coming up, but I think we are peaking when we should be.”
Once again the Vandals employed a balanced attack against Red Deer – dominating the Buccaneers in every way, shape, and form with no weak link whatsoever.
After getting out to a sluggish start by their standards – only leading the Buccaneers 17-0 at the break – the Vandals ran away with the game in the second half.
Carried by their triple-threat run game in the first half, the Vandals built up a 17-0 advantage on the back of two rushing touchdowns from Curtis Vetter – punching the ball in from six yards out and later displaying his newfound breakaway speed in bolting 39 yards untouched to the end zone.
Vetter finished the game with 112 yards on 11 carries, while his partner in crime – fullback Travis Levitsky – rumbled 59 yards on nine carries and also caught his first pass of the season for three yards.
Starting quarterback Jared Valleau was another effective option on the ground – gaining 78 yards on six carries, including a 31-yard individual effort to set up Vetter’s first score.

Valleau wasn’t as efficient through the air, however, only completing five of 13 passes for 44 yards and no touchdowns with one interception before being replaced by Trevor Townend in the second half.
The quarterback swap – a common occurrence with this year’s Vandals – paid immediate dividends, as Townend made his presence felt in picking apart the Buccaneers’ secondary. Cutting back on the long-bomb attempts, Townend moved the sticks slowly but surely – completing six of his eight passes for 65 yards, including two short touchdown strikes to Jess Valleau and Ken Fisher to round out the scoring in the fourth quarter.
“Things kind of came together, we got a couple completions and got some confidence,” said Townend, who’s been relegated to the back-up role this season after starting for years with the now folded Wainwright Longhorns. “It was good to have a chance to get in there again and I had some personal success, but the biggest thing is the team success.
“The O-line deserves a lot of credit for that – they were giving us excellent pass protection and lots of time to throw the ball.”
The Vandals’ defence also deserves their due in keeping the Buccaneers’ offence off the scoreboard and off the field for the most part.
Red Deer went two-and-out on a regular basis and rarely crossed mid-field – missing their lone field-goal attempt and having their only red-zone appearance come to an abrupt halt with Vandals defensive back Grayson Wells sacking relief quarterback Andrew Stannix on a third-down gamble late in the contest.
Earning additional props, the Vandals’ defence had a helping hand in the offence, as fellow defensive back Dirk Treptow scored his second touchdown in as many games – scooping up an incomplete lateral pass and returning the ball 57 yards to paydirt in putting the Vandals ahead 27-0.
Red Deer unsuccessfully protested Treptow’s touchdown on the grounds that the play should have been ruled an incomplete forward pass rather than a live ball, but that decision certainly wasn’t the difference.
Vandals kicker Brad Ollen added a pair of field goals from 29 and 45 yards respectively.
Still, the Buccaneers put up a better fight than the final score shows, and considering the Vandals’ first-half struggles, the hosts could have had their hands full had they underestimated the visiting Red Deer squad.
“We talked about that a lot,” said McKenna, adding overconfidence was never really a concern. “Even in practice on Tuesday night, it was a monsoon and we were out there hitting the sled and rolling in the dirt.
“The guys were focused and I knew Tuesday night we were going to do well, just based on that practice.”
The Vandals intend to continue doing their talking on the field in Week 7, as the top-ranked Panthers are expected to present their biggest challenge to date – coming off a convincing 44-22 road win in Grande Prairie.
“That’s going to be our major test,” said Levitsky. “We haven’t seen them, but we know we have to play solid – good passing, good running, good everything.”
That first-place showdown is set for Saturday at 3 p.m. at Armstrong Field.



Monday, July 7
Drilled (Meridian Booster)

Vandals hammer Grande Prairie in home opener

Larry Fisher
Monday July 07, 2008

It was more than a homecoming for the Lloydminster Vandals Saturday evening at Armstrong Field – it was a coming out party.
After kicking off their fifth Alberta Football League campaign with a pair of impressive road efforts – falling 25-23 to the defending champion Edmonton Stallions in Week 1 and edging last year’s runner-up Calgary Gators 14-13 in Week 2 – the Vandals were dominant on both sides of the ball in demolishing the previously undefeated Grande Prairie Drillers 52-10 during Saturday’s home opener.
“I think the message is, ‘we’re the top team in the league,’” said Vandals coach Chris McKenna of knocking off the top-ranked Drillers in convincing fashion – pulling into a four-way tie for second place at 2-1, trailing only the Calgary Wolfpack at 3-1. “It does send a message because every team looks at that AFL website and they are going to go ‘52-10, holy,’ because face it Grande Prairie went into Calgary and beat the Wolfpack and got 44 points on them.”
The blowout victory left the Vandals with plenty to celebrate. For the first time in franchise history, the Vandals broke the 50-point barrier. Their offence proved to be two, three, or even four dimensional – putting up points on the ground, through the air, off special teams, and via turnovers. Their defence stopped the Drillers dead in their tracks – holding the visitor’s high-octane offence to one touchdown and forcing a handful of interceptions and fumbles.
In complete control from start to finish, there wasn’t much the Vandals didn’t do right.
“We usually have pretty tight games against these guys, so we weren’t expecting something like that,” said Vandals cornerback Matt Loveseth, who along with safety Brad Ollen had two interceptions each – Loveseth also returned a punt 72 yards for a major in the third quarter, stretching the Vandals lead to 38-10. “It’s nice to come out and see our offence play strong and our defence strong as usual.
“We have been known predominantly as a defensive team, so to have balance like that where our defence gets a break and we can rely on our offence is a huge step forward for our franchise.”


The Vandals’ offensive explosion took a lot of pressure off the defence. Quarterback Jared Valleau had a breakout game in his third start since joining the Vandals from the folded Wainwright Longhorns.
Valleau completed eight-of-15 passes for 196 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 46 yards and two touchdowns.
Although Valleau was mixing it up and using all of his options, veteran receiver Ken Fisher emerged as a favourite target in catching three passes for 108 yards – including a 43-yard touchdown toss.
Jordan Priebe was also on the receiving end of a nine-yard touchdown strike from Valleau, while back-up quarterback Trevor Townend came on in relief and connected with Andrew Herrick from six yards out for another tally.
Running back Curtis Vetter was a catalyst in setting up the club’s first two scores, and led the Vandals in all-purpose yards with six carries for 100 yards and one reception for 40 yards.
Ollen kicked a lone field goal from 12 yards and split the uprights with all seven convert attempts, while defensive back Dirk Treptow rounded out the scoring by taking a fumble recovery 105 yards to the house after linebacker Travis Levitsky caused the turnover.
“We had a good team game all around – the defence played incredible and the offence finally clicked,” said Fisher. “Against a good team is key too, against a team that was Number 1 in the league at this point, that says something right there.”
In the Drillers’ defence, they were without starting quarterback Nathan Aldred – one of the league’s elite pivots – but Grande Prairie coach Doug Stenberg wasn’t about to use Aldred’s absence as an excuse, knowing full well one player wasn’t going to make up 42 points.
“We missed Nate … but we win as a team and we lose as a team and today we got thumped,” said Stenberg, adding the lopsided loss will serve as a wake-up call, reminding his squad and the rest of the league that the Vandals are in fact for real this season. “I was a little surprised, I thought we would put up a better fight than that. We knew they were going to be super tough, they are always tough, but they showed up to play and we didn’t and that’s what happens when you aren’t ready to play.
“Guys were starting to let things get to their heads a little bit after beating the Wolfpack in Calgary, so this is probably the best thing that could have happened to us at this time.”
The Vandals have been steadily improving from week to week, and they remain confident their best is still to come. The Vandals have a bye this week and will return to action in hosting the Red Deer Buccaneers (1-3) on July 19 at 3 p.m. at Armstrong Field, as they look to cement their status as the team to beat.
“We just have to keep an even keel here,” said Loveseth. “We can’t get too high on ourselves because a lot of times in the past we have had very good starts and come playoff time we have dropped right off and disappeared from the radar.
“We hope to keep building, keep coming strong, and we want to be heading into that last week (Aug. 9) with the Wolfpack on a high.”



Friday, July 4
Ready for some football?

Carl Carter

Meridian Booster
Friday July 04, 2008

After a few weeks off the Lloydminster Vandals are pumped for their home opener against the Grande Prairie Drillers this weekend.


The Vandals last game was three weeks ago when the beat the Calgary Gators by a single point. After such a long period of time between games Vandals coach Chris McKenna admitted that he was a little worried about his team getting back into the grind.


“We’ve been practicing every week trying to stay honed, but it’s tough having a three-week layoff,” said McKenna.
Brad Ollen isn’t too worried about the time off being a factor during this weekend’s game, and said it provided a good break that let some of their players heal some bruises, and bond closer together as teammates.


“We tried to practice hard during those two weeks off, but the guys came together and we fooled around a little bit,” said Ollen. “The focus was on team building rather than on improving our play, but this week we came back together for practice, and the focus was definitely on business, and there wasn’t too much fooling around.”


This weekend’s will be a very tough match, but the Vandals should be used to that by now. In their first week the Vandals had to face last year’s champions the Edmonton Stallions, and then they met up with the Gators – last year’s second-place finisher. Both those games were fierce battles where the margin of victory was very close – first the Vandals lost 25-23 to Edmonton, and then beat Calgary 14-13.


“Things have gone pretty good considering who we’ve had to go up against in our first couple games,” said Ollen. “We came out 1-1 and we really feel we deserve to be 2-0 after those two games.”


This week will prove to be no less of a challenge either, as Grande Prairie sits on top of the standings with a perfect 2-0 record to start the season.


“Grande Prairie is going to come in, and obviously they are one of the best teams,” said Ollen about the Drillers, who finished last season with an impressive 7-1 record. “They have only improved in the off-season, and they had a big win last weekend over the Calgary Wolfpack, so they’re going to be flying this weekend.”
One of the reasons for Grande Prairie’s great start has been their offence. They have scored 106 points so far this season, and that is second only to the Calgary Wolfpack.


To battle that offence McKenna said they have been tinkering with things during their practices to help prepare for a potential offensive onslaught, but the main factor will be how much pressure the Vandals defence can put on the Drillers quarterback.


“We’ve been working on a few little things to tweak our defence to try and stop what they’re doing,” said McKenna. “We’ve got to put a lot of pressure on their quarterback because he’s pretty good, a good passer, so that’s our plan – to try to get right to him as fast as we can.”


While the Drillers’ offence is very potent, Ollen thinks the Vandals’ defence will prove to be a great match against Grande Prairie, and thinks they have what it will take to stop the Drillers from moving the chains.


“I think we match up pretty well against them. They’re a passing team, and our strength on defence is definitely against the pass, so we’re looking forward to the match up,” said Ollen. “We’re going to have to hold them. We can’t be giving up 40, 50, 60 points.


“We as a defence can’t be happy with giving up more than three touchdowns, I think that’s a number to shoot for against this high-powered offence. If we can do that we are going to win.”


The Vandals are anxious to find out how those three weeks off have affected them, and they won’t have to wait long to find out with the kick-off scheduled for 6 P.M. on Saturday at Armstrong Field.


Whatever the result is this weekend, McKenna knows that it will be a very intense match up for their home opener, but one he knows the Vandals have the ability to win.


“We’ll have a great crowd, and we are always entertaining,” said McKenna. “It will be a good game, and I am confident that if we do things correctly we will win.”



Friday, July 4
Drillers ready to go to Warr in Lloydminster

Posted By DALE WOODARD - Herald-Tribune sportswriter

The Grande Prairie Drillers are going to Warr.

That’s literally and figuratively. With a history of tough battles in the trenches against the Lloydminster Vandals – a team the Drillers are 2-2 against in past years – it’s a given this Saturday’s Alberta Football League tilt between the two will be another grudge-fest.

As the Drillers look to start the season at 3-0 after a high-scoring 44-42 victory over the Calgary Wolfpack two weekends ago, they will hand the ball to backup quarterback John Warr. With starting quarterback Nathan Aldred unavailable for this weekend’s road trip, due to a family commitment, Warr will lead offence into the Border City.

It’s like revisiting the past for Warr. It’s been just around this time each of the past few seasons that Warr has taken over the reigns of the club, as Aldred left the Drillers to return to his junior team, the Edmonton Huskies. While this one is more of a one-off deal, it’s a theme with which Warr is familiar. Still, Warr admitted to some jitters in regard to his season debut. “I’m excited and nervous,” said Warr Thursday night at team practice at Kateri Mission Field. “It’s exciting because I get to play, but nervous because I have to play.”

Driller head coach Doug Stenberg, however, didn’t even flinch at the prospect of Warr taking over for Aldred this weekend. “We have no problem with that. We also have Stuart Schollaardt who was a quarterback before as well, so we’ll be OK.” Schollaardt proved his pivot skills during his high school years with the Sexsmith Sabres. After handing the Calgary Wolfpack their first loss of the season June 21, the Drillers took a breather over the Canada Day long weekend. “Most of them went on holidays,” said Stenberg. “There were a few (players) here for the Tuesday practice just to get loosened up. But hopefully they’ll all be ready to roll Saturday night.”

There’s still a whole season of football left to be played, but last month’s victory over the perennial powerhouse Wolfpack can only serve as a shot of adrenaline to the Drillers as they get ready to hit the road again this weekend. “It’s super, especially since we were missing a number of starters,” said Stenberg of the victory in Calgary. “I think we were missing 10 people who had started the game before. And doing that in their park is key. But they’ll reload and come back. We’ll meet them again somewhere.”

Now the key is to ride that momentum right into Lloydminster, said Warr. “It’s a big motivational booster and with the bye (weekend) it might have died down a bit. But hopefully we got enough left that we’re riding on a high for this game.” Considering the gruelling gridiron history between the two teams, the Drillers will need it. The Vandals have played in a pair of close games to start the season. They lost a by a pair of points, 25-23, to the 2-0 Edmonton Stallions back on June 8, but came out on the winning end of a one-point win when they edged the Calgary Gators (1-2) June 14.

Stenberg said his charges are well aware of the challenge that lies ahead this weekend. The folding of Wainwright’s franchise this season also opened the door for the Vandals to pluck a player or two off their neighbour’s roster. “They’re going to be tough,” he said. “Half of Wainwright’s team went to Lloydminster. With the offence that Lloydminster had and the defence Wainwright had they’re going to be pretty strong.”

A Drillers win, combined with a Stallions loss against the Calgary Gators, will put Grande Prairie in sole possession of first in the early stages of the season. But no matter what happens between the Stallions and the Gators, Warr expects a battle in the Border City when the pigskin flies Saturday night. “We can expect a very good match-up. They’re the same team as we are, so whoever brings their game is going to win,” said Warr.



Friday, July 4
Buccaneers set for Wolfpack

The Red Deer Buccaneers are officially in survival mode.

After shipwrecking a two weeks ago in a 50-0 loss in Edmonton against the Stallions, the Buccaneers line up with the Calgary Wolfpack this Saturday (6 p.m. at Great Chief Park).

The Wolfpack have feasted on their fellow Albert Football League competition for the better part of this decade — taking particular delight in chewing up the Bucs. It’s not the most desirable position the Buccaneers find themselves as another loss will drop them to 1-3 on the season, which would practically force them to win out to make the playoffs. “They hammered us pretty good last year 59-0 at home and they like to play at Great Chief Park,” said Buccaneers coach Dave Hanni. “They put the ball up 60 times a game . . . so we’re looking for them to come out and pass.

They’ve got a decent defence, but you can actually pass on their defence so we’re going to come out passing as well.” Shutting down the Wolfpack (2-1) is much easier said than done. They’ve average 42.7 points a game this season and boast the most lethal passing combination in the league with quarterback Darryl Leason and his brother, slotback Mike Leason. And they are coming off a heartbreaking 44-42 loss to the Grade Prairie Drillers last weekend, so they will be more than motivated to keep it from happening again.

“The last couple of years we have shut the Leason combination completely down, but then (Darryl) just goes to some one else,” said Hanni. “I think this year we’re not as good at stopping the run, but teams can’t really pass on us that bad, and it’s kind if by design. “Our defensive coordinator Aaron Sheppard said he didn’t want the big play coming against us this year and he’s pretty much done that.” That being said, Hanni likes what he has seen from his team so far, even in getting blown out by the defending league champs in their last contest. He knows they are better than what they showed.

“The Stallions really didn’t do anything we didn’t expect them to do and we game planned for everything they did . . . it was mostly mental breakdowns,” said Hanni. “We watched the tape, we evaluated the tape, we broke down the tape, and we burned the tape. We know what we did wrong and we know who did what wrong and they know better. It was a bad game all the way around. It was a perfect storm of everyone screwing up in the same game. But (the Stallions) are no where near 50 points better than we are.”

Hanni sees the Bucs as a team that will get better the more used to the offensive system they get. But this week their is one more hurdle for them to overcome. Quarterback Josh Achtemichuk injured his ribs in the game against the Parkland Panthers on June 14 and is still unlikely to play on Saturday. Drawing in under centre will be veteran slotback Greg Thompson in his second AFL start at quarterback. If Thompson does struggle he will be backed up by rookie pivot Andrew Stannix who was 2-4 for 40 yards against the Stallions. Hanni, however, is encouraged by the way Thompson played against the Stallions in going 8-18 for 75 yards and two interceptions. “He moved the ball well when he had the chance and he made some pretty good decisions, he just had two big mistakes,” said Hanni of Thompson throwing two interceptions for touchdowns. “He’s never been the starting guy before, and he made way fewer mistakes than would thought he would make. The team has total confidence in him.”

Thompson says they need to click right away to have a real chance, especially against a Wolfpack offence that won’t come up empty too many times. “We’ve got to show up from the start, we can’t take time to get into the game, from the time the whistle blows on the first play of the first possession, you’ve got to go,” said Thompson. “There’s a little more pressure (as the starting quarterback). You’ve still got to prove yourself. The guys around you are used to one guy and you have got to come in and equal his potential to where he was before to.”

One big thing on the Buccaneers side on Saturday will be playing at home. This will be just their second game at Great Chief Park, and first since their season opening 23-16 win over the Calgary Gators in a virtual monsoon. Conditions should be much better this time around with clear skies and warm temperatures in the Saturday forecast.

Contact Josh Aldrich at jaldrich@reddeeradvocate.com



Friday, June 27
Drillers Tame Wolfpack in Calgary

Grande Prairie scores 26 in second half for 44-42 victory

Posted By DALE WOODARD - Herald-Tribune sportswriter

It was their first big test of the year and the Grande Prairie Drillers passed. Then they rushed, then they passed and then they rushed some more. Thanks to that mixed attack the senior men’s football team erased a 10-point halftime deficit with 20 unanswered points in the third quarter as they clashed with the Calgary Wolfpack Saturday night at McMahon Stadium in Calgary. The end result was a 44-42 victory for the Drillers, to start their Alberta Football League season off at 2-0, while the Wolfpack falls to 3-1.

“We had lots of rushing touchdowns, but our team has always had a pretty balanced offence. We marched the ball down between passing and rushing,” said Driller James Kostuk. “To get us downfield and into the red zone there were a lot of fantastic passes. Nathan (quarterback Nathan Aldred) was laying the ball in there nicely. We had a complimentary running game to go with it, so it worked out fantastic.”

The Wolfpack – led by QB Darryl Leason’s intense aerial assault – were licking their chops at the thought of a 3-0 start to the season as they opened up a 28-18 lead heading into the break. In a game dubbed as a showdown between the top two quarterbacks in the AFL, both contributed on the scoresheet.

While Leason was commanding the Wolfpack’s potent passing, Aldred was getting it done on the ground, calling his own number for a 30-yard romp in the opening quarter to get the visitors on the board. Running back Kevin Winnicky also legged out a 44-yard carry in the opening half, while Tyler Fulmek kicked a field goal and a single. But that wasn’t enough to get Grande Prairie out of a 10-point hole at halftime.

“I think in the first half the new players had a little bit of fear inside of them because they had never played in a high-calibre football game,” said Kostuk. “So they were a little tentative. A lot of guys had bus legs as well. It was a long trip and a hot, sunny day so we came out a little bit slack. We were having success, but we weren’t capitalizing on all our opportunities. We had a little bit of penalty trouble again.”

In the third quarter all of those troubles seemed to evaporate. Winnicky (10 yards), Aldred (one yard) and running back Brendan Urness (11 yards) all scored second-half rushing majors, Aldred connected with Brent Fulmek for one through the air and Tyler Fulmek converted two of the four TDs for the 26-point outburst. “In the second half we dominated the game. The score was maybe a little bit closer than what it should have been,” said Kostuk. “We were telling the guys that this is exactly what we play for, a nice tight football game. You don’t want an easy game. You could see the excitement in the veterans’ eyes, knowing it was still anyone’s game because we were slugging it out back and forth. We were confident we could come out on top in the end.”

Up 44-35 in the dying minutes of the game, the Drillers thought they had their insurance major when Brent Fulmek hauled in a pass from Aldred in the Wolfpack end zone. Instead, it was ruled a no-catch and the Drillers’ lead stayed at nine points. “It was a bit of burn there because it was pretty obvious (it was a catch),” said Kostuk. The Wolfpack marched right back downfield and cut the lead to two with a late touchdown, but the Drillers hung on for the win. “I think everybody started believing in one another and started doing their jobs,” said Kostuk. “I don’t think there was one weak spot on our team. Everyone stepped up to the plate. It was a good team effort.”

The line on the Wolfpack heading into the game was the same as always – expect to defend against the pass. “With the Wolfpack it was pretty one-sided. It was probably 95 per cent passing where we were closer to 60 per cent pass and 40 per cent run,” said Kostuk. “If you look at the stats from the (Edmonton) Seahawks game (a 62-0 Drillers win), Nathan had 24 (pass) attempts. I think Darryl had something like 40 (Saturday night). You can see how often we threw in the game and he doubled Nathan’s passing attempts. That shows you how much they throw the ball.” The Drillers tweaked their defensive schemes to adapt. “We threw in a new defence preparing for that because we know they like to throw the ball,” said Kostuk. “We used it in the first half and we did have success, but then in the second half we went back to our base defence. That’s something we did a little different for the game. We went with the dime defence.” That dime defence and balanced offence has cashed in on a big win. “Any time you win against a powerhouse like the Wolfpack in their back yard, it’s fantastic,” said Kostuk. “We’ll see how the rest of our season goes, but I would say that’s going to be our TSN turning point right there. It shows we have a competitive team.”

The Drillers take the coming weekend off before gearing up for the Lloydminster Vandals July 5 in Lloydminster.



Wednesday, June 18
Too close for comfort...Punt single seals first win for Vandals

 Lloydminster Meridian Booster

Larry Fisher
Wednesday June 18, 2008

From a heartbreaking defeat to a nailbiting victory, the Lloydminster Vandals have kept things suspenseful to start their Alberta Football League season.
It was far from a flawless outing, however. The defences dominated a scoreless first quarter before the Gators got their ground game going in generating a field goal followed closely by a touchdown to stake the home side to a 10-0 lead. With the Vandals’ new-look offence struggling to move the ball, McKenna swapped quarterbacks in replacing Week 1 starter Jared Valleau with veteran Trevor Townend. That change didn’t pay immediate dividends as Townend was picked off on his initial series, but he made up for that miscue on the Vandals’ next possession – hooking up with Ken Fisher for a 55-yard pass and run play, and then hitting Andrew Herrick in the end zone on the ensuing set of downs to close the gap to 10-7.
It was the lift the Vandals were looking for, and with their defence suddenly finding an answer to the Gators’ running attack, momentum appeared to be shifting as the second quarter ran down. That was until a late turnover handed the Gators the ball back in prime scoring position, resulting in another field goal to restore a 13-7 advantage at the break.
“Turnovers hurt us,” said McKenna. “If it wasn’t one thing, it was something else – we threw a few interceptions, we fumbled the ball a couple times, we had snaps go over the head, we had some blocked kicks … we kind of helped them out in the first half.”
Kind of is an understatement, but the Vandals shaped up in the second half. With Jared Valleau back under centre, the Vandals clawed their way into contention by playing safe, smart football. Ollen kicked his first of two field goals – splitting the uprights from 35 yards out – in the third quarter to make it 13-10, setting the stage for an entertaining final 15 minutes.


Time now the enemy, the Vandals didn’t panic and instead executed patient play calling in marching the ball the length of the field. Soon enough, they found themselves in an all-too familiar situation – third-and-goal on the one-yard line.
Flashing back to Week 1, the Vandals elected to gamble and go for the gusto rather than kick the sure field goal – that decision backfired as they were stopped short on the last play of the first half. In hindsight, opting for the conservative approach may well have flip-flopped their fate, but the Vandals lived and learned. Given a second crack under similar circumstances in Week 2, McKenna sent Ollen in for an eight-yard chip shot to even the score 13-13 with 1:37 remaining.
From there, the onus was on the Vandals’ defence to deliver a big stand, as the Gators controlled their destiny in taking over at their own 35-yard line. But as has been the case more often than not over the past four seasons, the Vandals’ defence rose to the occasion in stuffing the Gators and forcing a two-and-out punt predicament.
The improbable comeback was made more likely with Jess Valleau returning the ball across mid-field, and then after his older brother Jared engineered another drive into the red zone, the Vandals once again called on Ollen’s foot for the finishing touches.
“The defence stepped up and got us the ball back, and Ollen came through in the clutch. He kicked it perfectly,” said McKenna, noting the Vandals punted the single point on second down with 10 seconds to go – guarding against a bad snap or other mishap. “There was some talk that we should have let the clock wind down to one second, but I wanted that extra down because you never know what happens. The risk was we gave them one last play with four seconds, but they tried the long-bomb pass and Ollen intercepted it to end the game.”
Granted Ollen and the Vandals managed to get the job done in Week 2, but they were quick to admit there is still plenty of room for improvement going forward – specifically on offence and special teams.
Entering a two-week layoff, the Vandals will attempt to iron out those wrinkles in time for their home opener on July 5 when the Grande Prairie Drillers come to town.
“We have some things to tune-up between now and then,” said Ollen. “Our offence has seen a couple games and seen what defences are going to throw at them, so it will definitely be good practice for them. They are getting better every game, but when they really get clicking look out … we are going to be a force to be reckoned with.”



Friday, June 13
Wolfpack not as tough on Panthers as crossbar

Gord Montogomery
Sports Editor
Friday June 13, 2008

Given the size of a football field, 110 yards long by 55 yards wide, the crossbar on the goal posts is a rather insignificant chunk of steel - about a foot in diameter.

Yet that was a large enough quantity for the Calgary Wolfpack to use as their largest defensive weapon in a 25-23 win over the first-year Parkland Panthers.

A 46-yard field goal try by Panthers place kicker Steve Wozimirsky struck the bar and bounded back into the field of play on the final play of the first half. Had the kick gone through, it would have possibly been enough to give the Panthers the upset win, in a game where they showed they're not going to be out of place in the AFL this year.

What made the miss even more frustrating in the end was the fact the Panthers had originally lined up to attempt the kick about 11 yards closer in on a second-down play as the clock wound down, but a bad snap moved them back, resulting in the missed attempt on the next play.

For a while it looked as though the Panthers may be in over their heads this year, as Calgary, considered by everyone to be the flagship club of the AFL, stopped them on three downs on their first possession. The Wolfpack then marched 65 yards, mixing running plays and passes, to score the first-ever major at the new West District Park fields. They then added another point to the 7-0 lead when the ensuing kickoff sailed into the end zone and wasn't returned.

The Panthers refused to wilt however and went on a drive of their own, also mixing passing and running plays. The drive was capped off by a five-yard burst by 260-pound running back Josh Myshak, who scored the Panthers' first-ever major, closing the gap to 8-7.

After stopping Calgary on their next possession, the Panthers drove downfield for a 15-yard field goal by Wozimirsky to go up 10-8.

The Parkland defence then came up big, stopping Calgary on a third-and-one gamble in their own end. From there, former Parkland Predator player Sean Van der Linden took the ball and on three straight carries, totaling 35 yards, put the Panthers up by nine, 17-8.

The running back said the AFL was all it was cracked up to be, and maybe even more.

“This league is amazing,” he said after the game. “This really shows you our potential though. We've got guys that are ready to play ball. We're just a young team and we made young team mistakes.”


The Wolfpack took advantage of those mistakes, coming back just before halftime to score on a 70-yard pass and run play to close within two, 17-15.

The Panthers took the following kick and marched quickly into field goal range, but that was when what could have been the biggest play of the night took place. With the on-field clock not working correctly, the Panthers lined up for the field goal try on second down. The snap sailed past the holder, and was recovered, but 11 yards further downfield. That distance, plus the width of the crossbar, spelled the difference between winning and losing in this game.

Last half

In the final 30 minutes things settled down a bit, with points suddenly at a premium for both clubs. Calgary converted on an early field goal attempt and then early in the fourth quarter went up 25-17 on a 24-yard pass play.

That set the stage for some final minute drama, as Van der Linden took the ensuing kick back 69 yards to the Calgary 34. Shaun Blanchette then hauled down a Jordie Holton pass to move the ball to the six, where Myshak powered it in, to close the gap to 25-23. The PAT by Wozimirsky was then blocked.

After an exchange of possessions, the Panthers had one shot left with 47 seconds remaining. Holton hit Blanchette and Jason Weatherald with passes to move into Calgary's end but the drive was snuffed on a muffed snap and then an incomplete pass as time ran out.

“That happened a couple of times actually,” Holton said of the snap that he couldn't handle while in the shotgun formation, noting the ball came back to him a bit quicker than he was prepared for. “I wasn't quite ready for it, that's all. When we iron out those kinks, we'll be fine.”

Coach Lyle Culham agreed with that assessment.

“I thought we played an awesome game,” he said after the final whistle.

“Everybody makes mistakes and perhaps I should have gone for two points after the touchdown (by Myshak in the fourth quarter, making the score 25-23). Other guys dropped passes, fumbled balls. But we were there hitting-wise and in all aspects. We were there to play and we could have easily won.”

Culham said the mistakes and penalties the Panthers endured on this night were simply due to the team's youth.

“We don't hold anyone responsible for this game. It was a wonderful game. It's just the wrong team won.”

Even though his team came up short, Holton said he felt the Panthers could hold their heads high.

“We definitely showed well. A lot of teams in the league will be a little bit surprised with this score. We definitely could have beaten these guys. At the same time, the first game of the year, there's nothing better to learn from than a loss. We might have been a little too cocky if we had pulled that out.”

The quarterback noted it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what needed to be improved upon from this outing.

“It was quite evident. I don't know how many penalties we had and there were a lot of key offensive mistakes that resulted in penalties that lost us big yards. We knew we'd have trouble with penalties but we've got to crack down on that a bit more. A whole bunch of our offence we haven't put in yet. We've got some fine-tuning to do. We have a lot of weapons and we didn't show much at all this game. Our first few offensive plays were working, so we just stuck with them.”

So even though they came up short, the Panthers walked off their new home field with their heads high, ready to work on a few things to get their game straightened out, perhaps including letters to the makers of the goalposts asking if they could be manufactured just slightly lower, or thinner, in the future.

The Panthers are back in action at WDP Saturday night (June 14) when they host the Red Deer Bucs at 7 p.m.



Friday, June 13
The Longhorns Show

 Lloydminster Meridian Booster

Larry Fisher
Friday June 13, 2008
The Lloydminster Vandals came close to knocking off the defending Alberta Football League champion Edmonton Stallions this past weekend – closer than the Wainwright Longhorns ever came in their four-year AFL existence.
The Longhorns-turned-Vandals, however, more than made their presence felt in the season-opening 25-23 defeat, and showed potential for bigger and better.
“That was gut-wrenching,” said Winston Ford, one of 13 former Longhorns making their Vandals’ debut. “We came out firing, just a couple of bounces didn’t go our way. It’s a team game and we lost as a team, but we came freaking close to pulling it off as a team.”
With Wainwright’s franchise folding in the weeks prior to the season, the Longhorns joined forces with the Vandals, and – while it was a match made in football heaven with Wainwright’s offence complimenting Lloydminster’s defence – it was the Wainwright boys who carried the load on both sides of the ball in Week 1.
Going through the list of ex-Longhorns, almost all of them made significant contributions in a losing cause.
On defence, cornerback Brock Preibe picked off three passes and returned his third interception of the day 62 yards for a touchdown, while linebacker Winston Ford led the Vandals with six-and-a-half tackles, including four solo jobs. Ford’s younger brother Laython also got in on the act by wrapping up the Stallions elusive quarterback Kelly McBryan for one of the Vandals’ three sacks on Sunday afternoon – to go along with two-and-a-half tackles from the rush-end position.
“The add-ons that Wainwright has brought to our defence are unreal,” said Vandals veteran linebacker Travis Levitsky. “Now we are more cushioned and more even throughout the field – we went from having four or five all-stars to having almost 10 all-stars on our defence.”

Although Wainwright has long been hailed an offensive powerhouse, the Longhorns’ defensive efforts shouldn’t come as any surprise. Preibe led the entire AFL in interceptions last season with nine and Winston Ford recorded a league-best 54.5 tackles. Still, this was a coming out party – a statement game of sorts – for both players, proving they belong on the field in Vandals’ green.
“You wouldn’t believe how much I love it,” said Winston Ford of finding greener pastures in Lloydminster. “I’m playing on a defence here where I trust every guy I’m playing with. It’s reassuring to know the guy next to you is going to do his part and play for you, whereas sometimes in Wainwright we lacked that.
“(Preibe) stole my thunder, but Brock’s been an all-star for years and it’s for a reason. I thought I fit in good with Travis and Matt (Fisher) at linebacker, and my brother is a heck of a ball player too, so he’s going to do great things for us as the season goes on.”
As for the offence, it was more a sign of things to come. Outside of Lloyd Comp Barons all-time leading rusher Curtis Vetter taking a hand-off 65 yards for a touchdown, the Vandals moved the ball slowly but surely on the back of former Longhorn Jared Valleau.
Balancing a pass-and-run attack, Valleau marched the ball the length of the field on the Vandals’ opening drive – finding fellow Longhorns alum Kurt Caron to get the sticks moving and later connecting with younger brother Jess Valleau on a 24-yard play that landed the Vandals in the red zone.
But as was the case more often than not, field position failed to translate into points for the Vandals, as Jared Valleau was sacked on the ensuing set of downs causing a fumble and subsequent turnover. That was the story against the Stallions – so close, yet so far away – but Jared Valleau was effective to say the least in going 13-of-28 for 185 yards through the air with one interception, while running the ball five times for 24 yards and one touchdown on the ground.
Jared Valleau’s favourite target on the day was another former Longhorn in 6’4” receiver Jordan Preibe, who hauled in four catches for 90 yards – including a 51-yard bomb – to lead the Vandals in all-purpose yards. Jess Valleau was not far behind, finishing third in all-purpose yards with 77 – thanks to two punt returns for 48 yards, one carry for five yards, and his lone reception.
Despite displaying plenty of promise, the new-look Vandals’ offence didn’t live up to their own expectations in Week 1 and have once again raised the bar for Week 2 against last year’s runner-up Calgary Gators.
“We definitely had chances where we could have beat the (Stallions). Our defence really held us in there and got us the ball a lot, but we just couldn’t move the ball consistently,” said Jared Valleau. “Once we get more comfortable with each other and start gelling, we will be able to make those precision plays.
“Hopefully next game we can put some more points on the board and execute those red-zone plays.”



Friday, June 13
Buccaneers off to a good start at home


06/11/08

BY TREENA MIELKE
Red Deer Express

It was pouring rain Saturday, but the sun was shining for the Red Deer Buccaneers after winning their home opener 23-16 against Calgary Gators.

Head coach Dave Hanni said the win was a total team effort.

“We just keep preaching do your job and we can’t lose and that’s what they did.”

Hanni said Buccaneers rookie running back Kenton Poelzer had a fantastic night with 14 carries for 155 yards and a 75 yard touch down run. He also returned a punt 69 yards for a touchdown.

“He’s made the impact we expected him to. For not playing football ever before he’s really picking up the game well and quickly.”

The Buccaneers continued to dominate the game and late in the fourth quarter wide receiver Adam Donovan caught a 38-yard touch down pass from quarterback Josh Achtemichuk.

“It was the winning score and clinched the game for us,” said Hanni.

Defensively, linebaker Curtis Dreger had four solo tackles and seven assisted tackles and Riley Quance had one solo tackle and 12 assisted tackles.

“Both linebackers were making plays all night. Where the ball was, that’s where they were.”

The defense played well by contributing with an interception and a fumble recovery, he said.

The win has left the Buccaneers head coach cautiously optimistic.

“We’re already tied for first,” he joked. “We did make mistakes, but we did enough to win the game and that’s what counts. We are off to a good start. The team we beat were runners up for the championship last year, so they are a good team.”

The Red Deer Buccaneers take on Parkland Panthers in Spruce Grove, Saturday.

The Buccaneers are part of the Alberta Football League.



Tuesday, June 10
Bucs chew up Gators

 Red Deer Advocate

By The Advocate Staff - June 09, 2008 Buccaneers 23 Gators 16 The Red Deer Buccaneers were anything but all wet during their Alberta Football League season-opener Saturday evening at a soggy Great Chief Park. The Bucs posted their first home victory in three years, 23-16 over the Calgary Gators, as first-year tailback Kenton Poelzer rushed for 168 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries and added 87 yards and scored another major on four punt returns. “Kenton did his job,” said Red Deer head coach Dave Hanni, who was hardly surprised by the dominance of the former Red Deer Titans rugby player. “He showed us what kind of an athlete he is.” Buccaneers quarterback Josh Achtemichuk completed seven of 11 passes for 66 yards and one touchdown against the Gators, who lost the league championship game to the Edmonton Stallions last year. Adam Donovan hauled in Achtemicuk’s touchdown pass — a 38-yard offering — while Chris Harden booted a 27-yard field goal and one convert, and Achtemichuk contributed a punt single to complete the Red Deer scoring in a rain-soaked contest. “We had some hiccups and a few bumps along the way on special teams, but the guys plowed their way through,” said Hanni. “It was a great way to start the season and kudos to the fans who came out to support us on such a wet night.” Defensively, Hanni was particularly impressed with linebackers Curtis Dreger and Riley Quance. Dreger made four solo tackles and was in on seven others, and Quance had one solo and 12 assisted tackles to his credit. “That says that Riley was pretty much in on everything,” said the Bucs sideline boss. The Buccaneers return to action this Saturday versus the expansion Parkland Panthers at West District Park in Spruce Grove. The Panthers lost 25-23 to the visiting Calgary Wolfpack in their first-ever AFL game this weekend. Red Deer’s next home contest is July 5 against the Wolfpack


Saturday, June 7
Are you ready for some football?

Drillers open 2008 AFL season Saturday night at Legion Field

Posted By DALE WOODARD - Herald-Tribune sportswriter

This time, Nathan Aldred is here for the long haul. It’s not that the veteran quarterback’s dedication to his Grande Prairie Drillers teammates has ever been called into question. It’s just that in years past, Aldred has had to spread that dedication between two teams. And when it came time to turn his attention to his second team in past years, it was right smack-dab in the middle of July, just when the Drillers’ schedule was heating up and heading toward the playoff stretch drive. That team, of course, was the Edmonton Huskies of the Prairie Football Conference, whose season always started when the Drillers needed their quarterback most. But having finished five memorable years with the Huskies last season, Aldred is here to stay all season long, as the Drillers head into their 2008 Alberta Football League season.That starts Saturday night as the Drillers host the Edmonton Seahawks at Legion Field. “I’m very excited to be here all year,” said Aldred at team practice Tuesday night at Kateri Mission field. “It helps me keep all my focus on the Drillers and not having to think about going to the Huskies.” While backup quarterback John Warr filled in admirably following Aldred’s departure to the Huskies last year, having their number-one pivot around all season was a prospect that was sitting well with veteran defensive back James Kostuk. “Nathan is a huge part of this team and every time he leaves in the mid-season we really feel the crunch,” said Kostuk. “We have a very capable backup in John, but Nathan brings something to the table. He’s probably one of the best quarterbacks in Canada and junior football. He’s definitely a power force in the league when he stays with us.” Now, there is no more dividing of his attention toward two different teams. It’s all Drillers, all the time this season. However, the veteran pivot said dividing his time between two teams wasn’t too difficult. In fact, he applied one situation to the other. “It’s not that bad because I run the offence here and I pretty much based it on what we run in Edmonton with the Huskies,” said Aldred. “It wasn’t that difficult. It was difficult going from these (Drillers) kinds of practices where there’s not really a coach telling you what to do, to two practices (a day) where they’re sort of like boot camp practices. It’s a change that way, but playbook and play-wise it’s pretty much similar.” His last season with the Huskies was a roller-coaster ride for Aldred. The Huskies went a 3-5 and lost in the first round of the playoffs. But that prevent Aldred from earning the most valuable player award for the Prairie Football Conference, a fitting way to cap off his junior career. The past five years have been memorable ones for Aldred, who joined the team as the rookie out of high school, holding the backup quarterback’s clipboard, to the league MVP in his final year. “In year one I never started, getting into the quarterback position out of high school,” he said. “From then until now it’s a pretty drastic change. The game has slowed down a lot for me and I’ve grown a lot as a player. I’ve won two national championships with the Huskies (2004 and 2005), so that was a big opportunity for us.” Now, it’s Driller time. “We have a lot of returning guys and a lot of new guys we’ve never seen before,” said Aldred of this year’s squad. “We have Kevin Winnicky at running back and Shane Morin is back at fullback. Brent Fulmek is back at wide receiver, so we have a lot of guys like that. So we’re looking at the same squad as last year with a little bit of extra talent.” Some of that extra talent has been injected into the team’s offence, said Kostuk. “The biggest key that’s going to really help Nathan is that we have some really young, fast receivers and running backs that are coming out this year.” That includes the brother tandem of former Grande Prairie Composite high school Warriors Nolan and Holdyn Lorenz. “They both have a lot of good speed,” said Kostuk. “So it’s players like that that are going to be a really nice addition to our existing team.” The returning veterans from last year know all too well how the Drillers season ended, and the memories likely aren’t too pleasant. After going 7-1 in the regular season – dropping their final regular season game in Calgary against the Gators – an injury-depleted Drillers squad limped into the AFL semifinals against the Edmonton Stallions. With the numbers game having eaten away at their roster, the Drillers fell to the Stallions 30-10, ending a strong season on a not-so-memorable note. But with player numbers soaring to almost 50 players to start the season, Kostuk was hopeful his team wouldn’t meet that same fate that was handed to them at the end of last season. “We know year-to-year what our weakness is and it’s bodies at the end of the season,” he said. “We have a pretty deep roster right now. We have almost 50 players, that’s the most we’ve had in a few years. So that’s going to carry us forward right through to the end of the season. In addition to having Nathan as the starting quarterback to lead the offence, those are the things that are going to make us successful right through to the end of the season.” Game time is 7 p.m.


Friday, June 6
Bring on the Stallions

Lloydminster Meridian Booster

Larry Fisher
Friday June 06, 2008

To be the best, you have to beat the best.
The Lloydminster Vandals will get that opportunity this Sunday when they open their 2008 season on the road against the defending Alberta Football League champion Edmonton Stallions.
It’s been a long off-season for the Vandals – who hosted the franchise’s first-ever playoff game last year, dropping an 11-9 heartbreaker to the Stallions on Aug. 18 – but the Vandals are looking better than ever on paper after recently joining forces with the folded Wainwright Longhorns, and they plan on using Sunday’s showdown to send the message that they are the team to beat this year.
“I haven’t heard anything at all (about the Stallions), but I still remember them beating us in the playoffs with three seconds left on the clock,” said Vandals coach Chris McKenna, flashing back to Grant Shaw’s 37-yard field goal that flip-flopped the fate of two teams. “We want to avenge that and I think we have the team to do it.”
“It’s my third year with this team and it’s the best I’ve seen our offence in pre-season, so I’m expecting big things,” said McKenna. “I think our defence will pick up where they left off and keep doing good, and our offence is going to really surprise people.”
The Vandals proved they were for real last year by going 6-2 en route to a fourth-place finish in the regular season, but – despite emerging as legitimate contenders – their success came almost solely on the back of the old adage, ‘the best offence is a good defence.’

The Longhorns, on the other hand, lived and died by their offence and while Wainwright didn’t struggle to score – racking up 230 total points to Lloydminster’s 198 – the Longhorns defence left a lot to be desired in finishing the regular season in sixth spot with a 3-5 record before bowing out to the eventual runner-up Calgary Gators 36-15 in the quarterfinals.
But that was then and this is now. With the Longhorns onboard, the Vandals will enter their fifth campaign boasting a balanced attack for the first time in team history.
“This will be better than any Longhorns team we’ve had and any Vandals team they’ve had – both the defence and the offence are going to be really strong,” said former Longhorns receiver Jordan Priebe, who was third in the AFL with 39 catches for 657 yards in 2007. “We had a pretty good offence last year – one of the tops in the league for sure – and their defence was probably the best in the league, so it’s going to be pretty potent if we can put it together properly.”
Practicing head-to-head over the past few weeks has provided plenty of healthy competition and brought the best out of the Vandals on both sides of the ball. Priebe and the rest of the overhauled offence – headed up by the quarterback tandem of Jared Valleau and Trevor Townend – has kept the Vandals’ stingy secondary on their toes and has even had them searching for their jockstraps on occasion. At the same time, those defenders have kept the offence honest by picking off the odd pass and plugging potential running lanes with regularity.
As for who’s been getting the upper hand in the intrasquad scrimmages, the two parties pleaded their case and resorted to friendly ribbing before finding common ground in the fact the offence is firing on all cylinders.
“This is the best offence we have been able to field in five years, and as long as we can hold serve on defence and execute on special teams we will be a force for sure,” said Brad Ollen, Vandals safety and reigning AFL Special Teams MVP. “We had a good run last year, but our one weak spot was we weren’t able to score enough points and that caught up with us in the end. I think that is going to be a big change this year.
“With the (Wainwright) additions it should put us over the top, but the rest of the league is improving too. Every other team has top guys coming in bolstering their rosters, but if we can limit our mistakes and a few bounces go our way I think we have a good chance of ending up top two.”
The bar is evidently set high for a squad that has yet to set foot on the field as a collective unit, but the reality is the Vandals can’t wait to kick things off in knowing Week 1 will be very telling of where they stand.
“The Stallions are definitely going to be a good team again, but we’re improved all the way around the board, so it’s going to be a good battle on Sunday,” said Ollen. “They were the league champs, but this is a new season and we are coming to take the crown.”


Friday, June 6
Fresh start for Bucs
By Greg Meachem - Red Deer Advocate - June 06, 2008

 As first-year head coach Dave Hanni pointed out Thursday, the Red Deer Buccaneers can only improve during the 2008 Alberta Football League season. “We can’t do much worse than we have the last couple of years. Obviously, we want to do better,” said Hanni, in reference to the Bucs’ failure to qualify for the AFL playoffs in either of the past two seasons. The Red Deer squad is slated to open this year’s campaign Saturday at 6 p.m. at Great Chief Park against the Calgary Gators. With extensive rain in the forecast, the game will be moved to Lindsay Thurber high school if the Great Chief field is too wet. Either way, Hanni will be looking for a quick start in order to help evade the pitfalls of the 2006 and ‘07 seasons, when the Bucs fell well short of expectations with a talented cast. “For whatever reason we didn’t click the last couple of years, and there was some dissension building in the ranks,” said Hanni, who served as defensive co-ordinator before replacing Jim Claggett as head coach during the off-season. “You lose one game, and then a couple more and suddenly you’re in quicksand, where the harder you work the further behind you get. Guys were kind of imploding when we were down by just a bit and we lost a lot of games by just a few points.” The Bucs’ defence led the AFL in turnovers last year, but the offence struggled. “Basically, we didn’t score enough points,” said Hanni. “We held teams, but we just couldn’t get into the other end zone when we needed to. Then we’d give up a pick (interception) or a fumble and our defence would be stuck deep.” Hanni, who added that the Bucs are also focusing on improving their return game, will be aided by a coaching staff that includes Claggett (running backs, special teams) and Daryl Zamko (line), and offensive and defensive coordinators Greg Esteves and Aaron Sheppard. “Basically, I told the guys (coaches/coordinators) what I want to see this year . . . how I want to defend and attack teams, and got them to devise the plans,” said Hanni, who will draw up the team’s practice schemes. Veteran quarterback Josh Achtemichuk will be a key cog in the Bucs’ attack if he can get through the season. “Hopefully he’ll make it through a healthy year,” said Hanni, who has witnessed the Bucs’ signal-caller suffer serious leg injuries in the last two years. Other clutch offensive returnees include wide receivers Adam Donovan and Jamie Blinkhorn, and slotback Mark Bartolf. In addition, tailback Russ Hart is back with the Bucs after sitting out last season. Hanni is particularly high on the potential of six-foot-one, 192-pound former Red Deer Titans rugby star Kenton Poelzer, who will line up at tailback. “He’s a guy to watch for, you can circle his name,” said the Bucs’ sideline boss. On the other side of the ball, perennial all-star end Dave Henderson is back to anchor the line, which will also feature 2007 all-star tackle Darrin Lang. Riley Quance, the Bucs’ reigning defensive player of the year, and Curtis Dreger are stalwarts at linebacker, while cornerback Devon Hand is another defensive key. With the Wainwright Longhorns and Calgary Thunder folding their respective operations, Red Deer will play seven games this season. “Realistically, we can probably go 4-3, but we’re shooting for the stars,” said Hanni. Contact Greg Meachem at sports@reddeeradvocate.com2 


New-look Vandals spring into camp

Lloydminster Meridian Booster 

Larry Fisher
Monday May 05, 2008

The Lloydminster Vandals are going to great lengths to ensure they have a balanced attack heading into the 2008 Alberta Football League season.
That much was evident on Day 1 of this past weekend’s training camp, as the word ‘balance’ was on the tip of everyone’s tongue and the initial scrimmage sessions showed promise with the Vandals’ overhauled offence executing at an unprecedented rate against arguably the AFL’s top defence.
“When we talked in the off-season the big thing we wanted to address was balance – to be just as good offensively as defensively,” said Vandals receiver Ken Fisher, who has since assumed the offensive coordinator duties. “In the past defence has kind of carried us, but that’s not going to be the case this year. We needed to move a couple guys around to bring some balance, but now our offence is going to be a strength too.”
The biggest move – literally and figuratively – will see all-star middle linebacker Travis Levitsky shift to offence where he will start at fullback. A valuable asset wherever he lines up, Levitsky was a standout on defence last season, but his services are more in demand on offence as the Vandals will rely on him primarily for pass protection, run blocking, and short-yardage situations.

“He’s being a good team man. He would rather play defence I’m sure, but he’s going to do a hell of a job for us at fullback,” said Vandals coach Chris McKenna during Saturday’s workout. “Earlier today in some of the drills he was just running over everybody. He will get 15 to 20 carries a game and be a real force to contend with, and when he isn’t carrying the ball he will be a big-time blocker.”
Another area the Vandals will look to balance out is their run-to-pass ratio on offence. With Lloyd Comp Barons all-time leading rusher Curtis Vetter and Holy Rosary Raiders all-time leading rusher Austin Kappel joining Levitsky in the backfield, the hand-off options will undoubtedly be better than ever, but the Vandals’ aerial attack also stands to be much improved and could very well become the weapon of choice.
The Vandals passing game got a drastic boost with Wainwright’s AFL franchise recently folding, leaving as many as 17 former Longhorns to latch on in Lloydminster, including the dynamic quarterback-receiver trio of Trevor Townend and the Valleau brothers – Jared and Jess.
“Air it out – that is the Wainwright mentality. It’s always been like that, just throw as much as possible,” said Jess Valleau, who will be making his AFL debut after graduating from the Wainwright Commandos high school program with Wheatland Football League Offensive Player of the Year honours. “From playing against Lloyd in the past, I think we compliment each other really well. Lloyd has always had a strong defence and running game, and we are just hoping to bring a balance of passing to that.”
Fisher is actively tweaking the playbook to incorporate the best of both worlds in anticipation of the Vandals season-opener on the road – a June 8 rematch against the defending AFL champion Edmonton Stallions, who knocked the Vandals out of last year’s playoffs in the first round with an 11-9 heartbreaker.
The Vandals will have to hit the ground running as things won’t get any easier in Week 2 when they travel to Calgary to take on the AFL runner-up Gators on June 14.
“We are trying to mesh two offences and really kind of change them both at the same time. It’s going to take some time, but I think it’s going to be designed to work well in this league,” said Fisher, adding the Vandals may catch other teams underestimating the diversity of their offence. “They are going to be so focused on stopping the run, but when we bring these new receivers in it is going to open that up, and they won’t know what hit them.”


Thursday, June 5
Vandals, Longhorns join forces

 Lloydminster Meridian Booster

Larry Fisher
Friday April 25, 2008

Rivals no more.
The Lloydminster Vandals and the Wainwright Longhorns have had their share of heated battles on the gridiron over the past four seasons in the Alberta Football League, but with the Wainwright franchise recently folding due to lack of player commitment, the former Midwest adversaries will be going to war together this year.
With as many as 17 ex-Longhorns looking to join the Lloydminster fold, the Vandals should be a force to be reckoned with in their fifth season – fresh off hosting their first-ever home playoff game last year, a heartbreaking 11-9 defeat at the hands of the eventual champion Edmonton Stallions.
“It’s definitely a positive because they are going to bring some skill guys to the offensive side of the ball, particularly at positions where we have been lacking the necessary depth,” said Brad Ollen, Vandals safety and reigning AFL Special Teams MVP. “From a league standpoint it’s too bad. It’s kind of a step back on that front, because we gained one team (expansion Parkland Panthers playing out of Spruce Grove) to get back up to 10, but now losing Wainwright we are back down to nine.
“From a Vandals standpoint, though, it is another step in the right direction because gaining those guys is going to boost our offence and really help solidify our roster.”
The Vandals couldn’t have hand-picked a better team to combine with. Already boasting arguably the league’s best defence, the Vandals’ Achilles heel has long been an inability to move the sticks and put points on the board offensively. To the contrary, the Longhorns historically had little trouble finding the end zone, but they lived and died by their run-and-gun offence and often had to out-score the opposition to offset a mediocre defence corps.

The merger of sorts should solve those respective problems and ensure the Vandals pack some serious punch on both sides of the ball this season.
Topping the list of Longhorns expected to make the biggest impact is veteran quarterback Trevor Townend, who finished fourth in the AFL in passing yards (1,282) and touchdowns (12) last year. Townend will be replacing departed pivot Justin Kelly, who threw for 413 yards and three touchdowns during the 2007 campaign.
Complimenting Townend will be the brother tandem of Jared and Jess Valleau. Jared is currently playing junior football in Calgary as a receiver, but he too has experience at quarterback, having split duties with Townend last year in passing for 804 yards and four touchdowns with the Longhorns. Jess, meanwhile, is another accomplished quarterback, who will be making his AFL debut after graduating from the Wainwright Commandos high school program with Wheatland Football League Offensive Player of the Year honours this past season.
“Those two Valleau brothers are just dynamite, they can take over a game,” said Ollen. “We are looking at a couple all-star offensive linemen coming in as well, so their presence will further strengthen us on the offensive side of things.”
Whoever steps in under centre will have some quality options to hand the ball off to at the running back position. Curtis Vetter, the Lloyd Comp Barons all-time leading rusher, is returning to the Vandals in between suiting up for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. Vetter will have company in the backfield with the anticipated addition of Holy Rosary Raiders all-time leading rusher Austin Kappel, who likewise stars for the University of Regina Rams.
“(Kappel’s) looking to come into the mix too, so our offence is definitely looking up,” said Ollen. “On defence, as far as we know everybody is still in place from last year except for Louis Watt, who had to pack it in because of concussion problems. That’s a big loss, he was a (second team) all star defensive tackle and will leave a big hole, but hopefully we can find somebody to fill in there.”
The Vandals will likely get that answer and more during next weekend’s three-day training camp, running May 2 to 4 at the Lloyd Comp practice field. The Vandals held two outdoor sessions last week prior to the snow and are hoping to hit the field again next week with open workouts set for Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. as a prelude to training camp.
“I’m excited, can’t wait. I’m expecting a pretty intense camp, just a bunch of real good, healthy competition,” said Vandals coach Chris McKenna. “Every position is up for grabs every year, nobody is guaranteed anything. We are always looking to upgrade all the time and at the end of the day, the best guys are going to play – regardless of where they are from or where they played last year.
“Bottom line is we want to put a winning team on the field each and every week with the ultimate goal of winning an AFL championship.”
That quest will begin June 8 with the Vandals opening their 2008 season on the road against the Stallions.


Thursday, June 5
Time to Buc’ up for football

 Red Deer Advocate

By Jim Sutherland - Special to the Advocate - May 09, 2008

 

The Red Deer Buccaneers are ready to begin another season in the Alberta Football League. They started indoor practice several weeks ago and now the outdoor practices mean things are getting real serious for the players. I am still a few weeks away from my regular football contribution to the Advocate, but this week I would like to discuss this community and personal angle of the Red Deer Buccaneers. The Bucs play in a senior men’s football league with a province-wide array of teams from Grande Prairie to Calgary. The league players range from former high school stars to former pros from the CFL and NFL. In between are former and future junior stars, university stars and guys who always wanted to play football. The common bond is the fact that all of the players have a deep affection for the game of football. Football is warfare with civilized rules and these guys love the ultimate thrill of collision and conquest in this game of strategy and violence. Every Red Deer Buccaneer pays several hundred dollars of their hard-earned cash to get a chance to play on the team. These guys earn their job by sacrificing their free time to practice, games and travel. You hold onto a starter’s job by perseverance and talent. Football is the ultimate team game and requires precision that gets 12 guys to do exactly the right thing on every play. This kind of precision means that practice does indeed make perfect for successful football teams. Practice for the Buccaneers also means that a cloudless July evening will not mean barbecues, water-skiing or a round of golf. It will be another night of practice for a weekend game with one of their arch rivals. It makes a tough choice in view of our short summer season, but the best of the Bucs readily accept that practice is an essential and crucial part of football. I’ve gotten to know the Buccaneers on a personal level as one of the team sponsors, and I have nothing but admiration for these guys as athletes and quality human beings. They play the game for the purest of reasons — they love the game of football. Over the years I’ve noticed that it might be -30 degrees in the dark of winter, but these guys still talk football. They discuss last year’s games and strategize the next season that might be several months in the future. It is impossible to avoid a personal, physical price that must be paid in football. It is an inherently violent game with built-in risks, but the upside is the addictive glory of the big play, the big hit and the big win. You live and die on the same hill as a team and these guys live for these moments. These guys could use much more corporate sponsorship here in Red Deer. They have a large annual team budget which will take a major jump this year with extra travel costs. Right now is a good time for you or your company to support one of Red Deer’s highest-profile sports teams. Contact team president Dave Hanni at Z-99 (343-1303) to back the Bucs. Tell him Jim and Jer sent you. Jim Sutherland is a regular contributor to the Red Deer Advocate. Watch for his weekly CFL column starting in June.