Calgary Wolfpack Football Club: Press Clippings

Tuesday, September 20
Third time's the charm

Tri-City Outlaws win their first Canadian Major Football League title at Warrior Field

 By Bob Vrbanac, Chronicle Staff

The Tri-City Outlaws’ Jon Nedeljkovic figures he’s played for 38 football teams in his 38 years, sometimes for more than one a season.

But it was his 38 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns on Saturday night at Waterloo’s Warrior Field that might have been the most important numbers he’s put up in his career, helping the Outlaws to a 31-14 win and a national championship.

It was the Outlaws first Canadian Major Football League championship in three cracks at the national title, with their opponent, the Calgary Wolfpack, coming out on top in the teams’ two previous meetings.

Not bad for an Outlaws’ club that had serious concerns whether they would have enough players to even field a team this season, and were considered a spent force when the Northern Football Conference’s postseason rolled around.

But they surprised the defending NFC champions the Sault Ste. Marie Steelers, their traditional league rivals, in the semifinals and eked out a one-point victory over the Ottawa Invaders in the title game.

That set up Saturday’s rematch, and Nedeljkovic said the Outlaws’ mantra going into the contest was they weren’t going to go 0-3 against the Wolfpack.

 “We’ve been a second half team all year long, we get stronger the more that we’re on the field,” said the powerful running back who helped grind down the Wolfpack’s defence. “Coming out of the half we said we’re going to wear them down and that’s exactly what we did.”

The win looked like it might be in doubt for a while.

With the Outlaws leading 10-8 at the half, the Wolfpack marched the ball 80 yards down the field on their first possession of the third quarter to go up 14-10.

But it was all Outlaws after that. Tri-City pounded the ball with Nedeljkovic plunging in for a five-yard major before capping it off with a 25-yard screen pass for a touchdown to put the Outlaws up 23-14 late in the contest.

“I got a sense that it was the one,” said Nedeljkovic about his second major. “I told the offence it’s going to be over once we get this TD.”

That sense of urgency was heightened by the fact that it might be the last game a lot of the Outlaws players, including Nedeljkovic ever will play.

“I’m 38 and that was the last game of my career,” he said. “What a way to retire.”

Another player considering retirement was Brian Adams, whose fumble recovery on the one-yard line at the end of the first half preserved the lead for the Outlaws and gave the team some momentum going into the break.

An original member of the Outlaws since they were formed in 2003, he told head coach Chris Newsome that he would get the ball back with the Wolfpack driving for their first lead of the game. He backed those words up on the field.

 “At the end of the day you have to make a play,” said Adams. “I told him that I’m going to get that ball back for him.”

The defence was also the difference in the second half. After the initial drive, they shut down the Wolfpack’s high-powered offence and kept the Western Canadian champs off the field.

“We just buckled down and played simple, basic football the way we did all year,” said Adams.

With his two-year old daughter patrolling the sidelines in a Pittsburg Steelers jersey and pink high tops, the defensive back said it was time to spend a little more time with his family and the win helped him do it by going out on top.

“This win means closure,” said Adams. “I’ve been with this team since it started, I can go out on a high note.

“We finally did it, and I told coach (Newsome) we’re not losing three times.”

Newsome said the second half was all about catching the bus.

“Our offensive line call themselves the Grand River Transit, and they proved it tonight,” said Newsome. “This is what we all wanted.”

Monday, September 19
Outlaws: Canadian Champs

By Christine Rivet, Record staff

Mon Sep 19 2011

Outlaws: Canadian champs

Jon Nedeljkovic ran like there was no tomorrow as his Tri-City Outlaws captured their first Canadian Major Football League’s title with a 31-14 victory over the Calgary Wolfpack.

Indeed, Saturday night’s championship before 600 fans at Warrior Field was the 38-year-old running back’s final game.

“I said the only reason I was coming back was to win a national championship. And it worked out,” said Nedeljkovic after a spectacular farewell performance.

On Saturday night, the former Divison II player at Chowan University in North Carolina slashed his way to 197-all purpose yards, including a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns.

The Waterloo-based Outlaws scored the game’s final 21 points to erase Calgary’s third-quarter four-point lead and any doubt.

The Outlaws fell in their two previous appearances at the national final, in 2005 and in 2008, both times to the Wolfpack.

“The original Outlaws (from 2003) have been waiting a long time for this,” said head coach Chris Newsome. “I’m so happy for them.”

About a dozen players remain from Tri-City’s inaugural season, including perennial conference all-star offensive tackle Lee Becker.

“For us, we’ve been a fourth-quarter team all year. Our O-line trains hard and we just wear teams out. That’s what happened,” said Becker, one of about 10 Outlaws expected to hang ’em up.

Tri-City quarterback Bryan Rosekat ran in a three-yard score and found receiver Aron Froese and Nedeljkovic with TD strikes of five and 17 yards.

David Sevigny, one of many former University of Waterloo Warriors on the Outlaws’ roster, kicked four converts and a 49-yard field goal.

For the Wolfpack, Darryl Leason passed for 247 yards, including a pair of touchdowns to Mike Leason. “It’s been a long, long hard season for this team,” said Nedeljkovic. “There was a real sense of urgency.”

“It was the perfect season for us,” said Becker.

Thursday, September 15
Outlaws hope third time is the charm

By Christine Rivet, Record staff

Thu Sep 15 2011

Outlaws hope third time is the charm

WATERLOO — Three is the loveliest number for the Tri-City Outlaws.

The three-time Northern Football Conference champs take their third run at the senior national crown on the third Saturday of September.

And for the third time in their Canadian final history, the Waterloo-based, never-before-national champs, meet the Calgary Wolfpack.

As for the three most important things the Outlaws will focus on Saturday night at the University of Waterloo’s Warrior Field, let’s just say they are defence, defence and defence.

“It will come down to stopping Darryl Leason,” said Outlaws assistant coach Pat DeLay.

The Wolfpack quarterback, DeLay noted, is perhaps the most prolific signal caller in Canadian amateur football history.

Leason, a six-foot-four, 230-pounder, was Canadian university football’s passing leader in 2000, taking the Regina Rams to the Vanier Cup game.

The ageless 37-year-old averaged about 330 passing yards and four touchdowns per game in the Alberta Football League this season for the four-time Canadian champs.

“He’s the best quarterback we will ever see,” said Outlaws defensive line coach Gary Hudson.

“If we cannot pressure him, we might as well be fans and sit back and watch the show,” added DeLay.

And so, that responsibility falls to a trio (what else?) of Outlaws.

They are: linebacker Shane Everest; defensive tackle Ryan Viby; and Tri-City’s man for all positions, defensive end Jeff Nosal, should the Outlaws line up their sometimes quarterback/slotback there.

Saturday marks the first time the Outlaws will play host to the national championship.

In previous national finals, the Outlaws succumbed to the Wolfpack 20-14 in Hamilton in 2005, before falling 35-7 to the hosts in Calgary in 2008.

Three years later, these same combatants meet again for Round 3.

“Third time lucky,” said DeLay.

The Outlaws are requesting fans bring with them five non-perishable food items per customer to receive a discounted $10 ticket at the gate.

Wolfpack vs. Outlaws

The kickoff: Warrior Field, Saturday, 7 p.m.

The prize: The Canadian Major Football League championship

Monday, August 22
Wolfpack celebrate 14th league championship

Wolfpack celebrate 14th league championship


Herald-Tribune staff Posted

4 hours ago

All that was missing was the music, seriously.

As Calgary Wolfpack head coach Art Walker watched his team celebrate its Alberta Football League's championship victory over the Grande Prairie Drillers on Saturday, Queen's 'We Are the Champions' was blaring away in his mind.

"I play it every freaking day," said Walker, a look of intensity glaring from his eyes as he spoke about his squad's 38-14 win over the Drillers. "Everybody else in this league wants to beat us and if they do, sometimes they let their guard down and that's when we come back.

"We've lost to Grande Prairie (four) times in the regular season but we've never lost in the playoffs. We've always had close games in the regular season and then we always solidify in the playoffs."

Walker's excitement was overly visible, and why not? The Wolfpack had just captured their 14th league championship, 10 more than any other AFL team, and they are now off to compete for a fifth national championship title.

The Wolfpack last captured the AFL crown in 2008, the same year they won their last national championship.

The victory also reinforced the Wolfpack's status as the top team in the Alberta Football League as they defeated the up-and-coming Drillers that are currently second-in-line.

"It's always a tough road and every year you get one year older and it gets tougher and everyone else gets hungrier, and they put up a big fight," said Wolfpack quarterback Darryl Leason. "You know, hats off to Grande Prairie, they had a tremendous season, they fought hard all season long, but you know everything was on the line (on Saturday) and we played balls to the wall… and that just speaks tremendous of all the guys."

While humbled in the defeat, the loss only reinforced the Drillers desire to get back to this stage next season and prove to the Wolfpack they are on the same level.

"It's been brought up lots, they have 63 (AFL) championship rings and the thing is we are going to get there," said Drillers head coach Trevor Prichard. "We have a core of 25- to 28-years-olds with over 10 years of football left that are very hungry.

"Not one guy on that bench (Saturday night) said 'Well, I don't know if I'm playing next year.' All I could hear in the fourth quarter was that they want to get in the gym, they want to get better, and they want to go get these guys."

The Wolfpack will now battle the Tri-City (Waterloo) Outlaws of the Northern Football Conference in Ontario for the Canadian Major Football League title. The Outlaws defeated the Ottawa Invaders 12-11 on Saturday.

"Each year, when we start out, and I do my recruiting to get the players that I need, our only thought is to get to the nationals, nothing but the nationals," Walker said. "Once you've been there, you only have to go once, and then all you want to do is go back. When you've been back a couple of times, you set your sights high, really high.

"A lot of these guys haven't won a championship and right now they are in seventh heaven. If we go down there and win, they will then understand what it's all about."

The national championship game takes place on Sept. 17 at the University of Waterloo's Warrior Field in Waterloo, Ontario.

Monday, August 22
Drillers no match for Wolfpack

Drillers no match for Wolfpack


Herald-Tribune staff

Posted 2 hours ago

The finish was almost anti-climatic.

A few loud cheers erupted from the Calgary Wolfpack bench as the final whistle blew. The celebration was echoed by their small congregation of fans in the stands as the team gathered to celebrate its 38-14 championship victory over the Grande Prairie Drillers on Saturday night at Legion Field.

When a championship game has been decided with a full quarter left on the clock, the celebrations have long since played out and the emotions have run flat.

"It wasn't clicking for us today… and the Wolfpack played awesome, so kudos to them," said Drillers quarterback Nate Aldred.

For anyone watching the game Saturday night, the difference between the two teams was the Wolfpack's offence. Riding a perfect mixture of a short passing game and a smash-and-drive running game, the Wolfpack offence never seemed to leave the field throughout the first three quarters.

Every time they needed a first down, Wolfpack quarterback Darryl Leason was there to complete a five or 10 yard pass for a fresh set of downs.

"We ran high-percentage plays and we were successful," Leason said. "Lets face it, in this league, second down is critical. If you only get two or three yards on your first down, then you have to complete that pass on second down, otherwise you're punting. But we made some smart calls."

For every minute the Wolfpack's offence was on the field, it meant that Aldred and the Drillers offence was sitting, watching, and ultimately cooling off.

"Their offence just chews the clock up every time we play them and it just kills our defence, wears them down, and our offence just doesn't get clicking," Aldred said. "There were too many two-and-outs in the first half and that can't happen in a championship game. We have to score when we can."

While the Wolfpack did a great job keeping the Drillers' offence off the field, penalties hampered the Drillers on the field. Every time the Drillers made a big play or secured a first down, the flags flew and the team was forced to try bigger-yardage plays that came up short.

Speaking in his most diplomatic tone, Drillers head coach Trevor Prichard had a tough time talking about the penalties after the game.

"I know that there were a lot of people saying, 'Why did you take so many penalties?'," Prichard said.

"Well when (the refs) are throwing them on us… it makes it difficult to build momentum and it makes it difficult to get things going, because every time you do something right, you keep getting knocked down.

"I don't know why it was always that we're getting them, but it is what it is. We lost the game, nobody lost the game for us, but us… it is very frustrating."

The Drillers record drops to 0-4 against the Wolfpack in the playoffs, surrendering 184 points over the four games while scoring 38.

While the Drillers went on to lose the game, they were the stronger team coming out of the gate. Staying with tradition, the Drillers started with a short kick that they recovered.

A few plays later they were in scoring distance. After failing to get another first down, the Drillers attempted a field goal, which was hit wide by kicker Tyler Fulmek for a single point.

On the Wolfpack's ensuing possession, they capped of a lengthy drive when fullback Matt Squires ran it in for the major and a 7-1 lead at 4:12 of the first quarter.

Squires struck again in the second quarter on another short-yardage touchdown run to lift the score to 14-1 at 8:19.

The Drillers' offence began to flare up after the three-minute warning and at 1:45, Driller Symon Pfau scored a 105-yard touchdown close the score to 14-8.

The Wolfpack lifted the score to 15-8 on a missed field goal attempt just before half time.

In the third quarter, the Wolfpack's kicking game came through and they scored a field goal at 11:55 to lift the score to 18-8.

To seal the game, Wolfpack's wide receiver Tim Johnson scored two touchdowns in the third quarter, at 9:35 and 3:42, to lift the score 32-8. Wolfpack running back Sean Ahronson put the game out of reach when he scored a touchdown at 10:12 of the fourth quarter that bumped the score to 38-8 when the conversion was missed.

Drillers running back Wisam Azooz scored late in the fourth quarter to close the score to 38-14.

Friday, August 19
Wolfpack wary of Drillers' dynamic duo

By TERRY FARRELL Herald-Tribune staff

Posted 1 hour ago

Calgary Wolfpack president and offensive lineman Jim Lightfoot said there are two main concerns for the Wolfpack as they prepare to meet the Grande Prairie Drillers in the Alberta Football League championship game.

"Nathan Aldred and Symon Pfau," he said without hesitation, of the Drillers' quarterback and receiver. "Obviously they both had tremendous years and with a guy like Symon, we were talking about it in practice, that you don't really, you can't stop a guy like that. I was telling the guys in practice, look, expect that he is going to score three touchdowns against us. That is almost automatic with the way his has been playing this year. What our task is, is to accept that... and (focus on) shutting down the other guys, because they have some pretty decent weapons outside of that. So it's those (other) guys that we need to shut down, and accept the fact that Symon is going to score his points and make his big plays."

Aldred and Pfau have been lethal to oppositions all season. Aldred finished the season as the league's top quarterback in passing yards (2,378), touchdown passes (28) and QB rating (71.7%). Pfau led the league in almost every receiving category. With 1,207 receiving yards, he was not only the league's sole 1,000-yard receiver, but also had 400 more than second-ranked Jess Valleau of Lloydminster. He and Valleau were tied for the league lead with 53 receptions apiece. His 18 TDs in seven regular season games was 50% higher than anyone else (Wolfpack receiver Mike Leason had 12). And he was only surpassed in yards per catch (22.8) by teammate John Warr (24.0), among all players with at least 10 catches this season.

That said, the Wolfpack have weapons of their own, not the least of which is quarterback Darryl Leason who, with 2,295 passing yards, 24 majors and a 68.4% efficiency rating, sits second to Aldred in all categories. In short, this championship game should be every bit as close as the 50-49 Drillers victory in the regular season, July 9 at Legion Field. "Based on that last game, it could very well end up being whoever has the ball in their hands on the last drive that could end up being the winners, for sure," Lightfoot said. "I certainly don't see one team running away with this. I can't see either team winning by more than seven."

Lightfoot said the keys to victory are simple and typical. "I suppose everyone always answers this (this way) but you know, hopefully avoid turnovers – that's a big one; don't get too high when we score and don't get too low when we give up one and keep battling to the end. I think it's going to come down to the team that makes the fewest mistakes and we are hoping that maybe that's where our experience kicks in," he said. And experience they have. Make no mistake, the Wolfpack are the more experienced of the two clubs and that alone can support the argument that the visitors should be considered favourites.

The Wolfpack locker room is bursting with big-game experience. Seventeen Calgary players combine for a total of 63 AFL championships in the visitors' dressing room. The Drillers have none, but that's not to say they have no big-game experience. Aldred, Pfau, Tyler Desjarlais, James Watson and Wisam Azooz were all members of the 2004 Edmonton Huskies team that won the Canadian junior football championship. But the edge, in numbers, goes to the Wolfpack. In a lot of ways, this game reflects a "Legends vs. Heirs Apparent" angle and the Wolfpack are hoping the experience is the x-factor. "For those of us who have been there before and have a few (championships), I suppose we don't get as wound up as before," said Lightfoot. "So I suppose if there is an advantage in experience, then I guess that advantage would probably go to us, especially on offence. We have a lot of guys that have sort of been there and done that. So we do have our fingers crossed a bit that maybe a little of the 'first-time jitters' will get to the Drillers and help us out a bit." "But a good half of our team hasn't been around since we won our last one in 2008. So we have some young guys and you just never know how they are going to react in tough situations. We (veterans) just try to dial them (newcomers) down a bit because you can get yourself overly worked up and that usually works against you."

That one-point difference in the July 9 victory was what earned the Drillers home field advantage for Saturday's game. Lightfoot expects another game just like that one. From his team's standpoint, nothing changes from the July 9 encounter. "Not a thing," he said. "We do our thing and that's been pretty successful for us in the past. We're just going to go with it and play the game and see what happens."

Tuesday, August 16
Vandals fall inches short against Calgary

Posted: Monday, August 15, 2011 3:15 pm

Vandals fall inches short against Calgary

Rod Oracheski Star News Inc

After the first half of Saturday’s Alberta Football League (AFL) semi-final, the Calgary Wolfpack believed they had the game in the bag. Calgary was up 27-3 at the end of the first half, then scored on the first drive of the second half to open up a 34-3 lead.

Down 31 points, the Vandals chose to fight back instead of pack it in, and dominated the second half. Lloydminster closed the gap steadily, scoring 15 points to trail 34-18 at the 12-minute mark of the fourth quarter. Lloydminster intercepted the ball at their own 45 to start a drive, completing twice in third-and-six situations, the first for a 40 yard gain and the second for the touchdown. The two-point convert made it 34-26 with 8:35 left on the clock as the defence took the field.

A two-and-out by the Wolfpack led to a third-down kick and Lloydminster regaining the ball for a last drive, starting from their 40 yard line. After gaining five yards on the first drive, the Vandals had a dropped pass on the second attempt that set up a third and five decision: keep it or kick it? Quarterback Jared Valleau elected to stay on the field, calling his own number on a 30 yard scramble for a fresh set of downs on the Wolfpack’s 31-yard line.

The Vandals managed just a four-yard completion in the next two plays, setting up a third-and-six. Once again the Vandals left kicker Brad Ollen on the bench, with Valleau completing a 20 yard pass for the first down on Calgary’s 11-yard line with 4:05 left on the clock. Valleau’s first pass was to the endzone, with the receiver just out of bounds. Another pass on second-and-10 was nearly intercepted, setting up the third third-down of the drive.

Once again, Valleau called his own number and battled to the vicinity of the one-yard line. Officials hauled out the flags for a measurement, which showed the Vandals drive came up short by inches. The Wolfpack marched down the field, hitting a third-and-one with 23 seconds left that they successfully gambled on for the first down to seal the victory.

Wide receiver Jordan Priebe said the finish was an exciting one to take part in. “Jared was just inches short,” he said. “I was in the endzone and saw him diving for it. I really thought he got in. It was a great game once we got into it. It was the most involved in a game that I’ve ever felt.”

The ‘Wolfpack curse’ continues, with the Vandals having never beaten their Calgary rivals. Priebe said that being close at the end made the loss even more aggravating. “It’s frustrating, but you come away thinking ‘next time is the one’ because it’s so close,” he said, then laughed. “We always think that after every loss against them though.”

This was the first time the Wolfpack showed real concern late in the game, however, going for the first down on a third-and-one with 23 seconds left on the clock instead of kicking the ball deep. “They weren’t risking anything there at the end,” Priebe noted. “They were worried about what we might do. The second half was a complete reversal of the first. We could do no wrong in the second half on offence or defence, and that wasn’t the case in the first half at all.”

Vandals kicker Brad Ollen, following Saturday’s loss, said he’s played his last game. Priebe said he’s not sure whether that will last longer than Ollen’s past retirements, which began in 2009. “Anyone can say they’re quitting now, it’s harder to stick to it when the season comes around again,” he laughed.

Tuesday, July 12
Drillers win a nail-biter

With the game—their play-off hopes—on the line, the Grande Prairie Drillers didn't disappoint on a rainy Saturday night in Grande Prairie. With 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Drillers trailed the Wolfpack 49-48 after just scoring a touchdown.

Stepping up to take the convert, Drillers Tyler Fulmek easily kicked the football through the uprights as penalty flags flew left and right; off-setting penalties to both teams forced another convert attempt. Not second-guessing a gut-feeling, Drillers head coach Trevor Prichard called for a two-point convert. Snapping the ball, Drillers quarterback Nate Aldred rolled out to the left, tracked down a receiver and launched the ball. Coolly collecting the ball, Drillers Brent Fulmek stepped over the endzone line for the game-winning conversion as the Drillers won a nail-biter 50-49 at Legion Field.

While the Drillers continued to celebrate long after the final whistle, Prichard broke down the decision to go for two points. "I looked at Nate and said, 'What do you want to do?,'" Prichard said. "He said, 'Let's go for the win,' and I said, 'If you want to do it then so do I.' We set up that play action and I told Nate that he gets one read and if he sees one that he likes, take it; otherwise run it in. "He's athletic enough that when they pressed him, he had the perfect pass to Brent."

Knowing the game was in his hands, Aldred didn't think twice when executing the game-winning play. "I felt with the way it was going, the excitement on the side-lines, we had held the momentum throughout the whole fourth quarter, yeah I felt we had it," Aldred said. "The defence didn't want to go out there and get the ball back, they wanted the win out of (the offence). "It was on our shoulders."

While built-up as a battle between two of the top quarterbacks in the league, the rain turned the game into a battle on the ground. While Holden Lorentz led the way for the Wolfpack, Brent was the go-to guy for the Drillers. "Coming in with all that rain, I figured it would be a running game from the get-go," Brent said. "We came out and we tried to throw the ball and it worked here and there, but it stalled out on some drives. "Coach just said we have to get down and play some dirty football, start running the ball, owning the clock, and that's what we did."

In Saturday night's game, Brent ran for 144 yards and scored three touchdowns on 22 carries compared to Lorentz's 96 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Brent took little recognition for his performance against the Wolfpack, instead he gave all the credit to the Driller's offensive line. "I don't think I led the way, it really started at the o-line," Brent said. "I wouldn't have been able to get the yards I got without the o-line making the blocks and having Travis Miller, the fullback, in front of me."

While Drillers receivers usually own the stat-sheet, Prichard was quick to point out the team's runningbacks have played a huge role in the success of the team throughout the year. "What people don't see is that our runningbacks have pretty much had hundred-yard rushing games all season and we've done it with four different runners," he said. With the win, the Drillers move to 5-0 in the seven-game season, while the Wolfpack fall to 4-1.

Prichard said that while team had already earned a playoff spot heading into Saturday's tilt, the win moves them closer to clinching home-field throughout the entire post-season. "We don't just want to have home-field advantage, we want to have playoff control and that means home-field for the entire playoffs," he said. "That means other teams have to come here. Calgary and Lloydminster are not fun places to travel to."

The Drillers are back in action against the Central Alberta Buccaneers this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Legion Field.

Friday, August 26
Vandals trounced by Wolfpack

Vandals trounced by Wolfpack

Calgary Wolfpack sends the defending champs packing in the AFL semi–finals

By Carl Carter

Posted 10 days ago

The Lloydminster Vandals bid to repeat as Alberta Football League champions came to a halt on Sunday as the team fell to the Calgary Wolfpack in the semi–finals.

A lackluster opening half had the Vandals trailing the Wolfpack by a wide margin at half time, and despite a huge surge in the second half the team couldn't battle back as their season came to a close with the 34–26 loss.

"We just didn't come to play in the first half and left ourselves too big of a hole," said received Jess Valleau. "We played really well in the second half and made the score really close. I even had the chance to tie it up with a few minutes left but we were just in too big of a hole."

A slow start would be the Vandals' downfall, as the Wolfpack took a 27–3 lead into half time and scored their final major of the game early in the third quarter. The Vandals did find their game in the second half, as the team scored 23–unanswered points, but the comeback was too little, too late.

"It was two totally different halves as far as how the teams played. In the first half we had a lot of trouble stopping their offence, and our offence was turning the ball over and not protecting the ball," said team president Glen Dembicki. "We made a few adjustments in the second half and came out and managed to shut down their offence, and then our offence got rolling, and we just came up about a yard and a half short in the end.

"I totally believe that if we had come out and even played a half–decent first half we would have definitely won the game."

The loss brought the season to an abrupt end for the defending champs – who believed they once again had the team win it all.

"It's disappointing. When you really believe that you have the best team is when it's tough," said Valleau. "If you know the other team is better than you can live with it, but we really believe that we were the best team in the league, but we just didn't show up and play like we can."

What made the loss even tougher to take was the fact the Vandals dominated the game in the second half. If the Vandals had played even a little better during the first half than they might be going back to the finals.

"It definitely leaves a sour taste in your mouth, but we also know we played a dominating second half against the Wolfpack," said Dembicki. "If that game goes a few minutes longer we definitely felt like we were going to win that game, but now we'll just have to wait until next year."

After winning the team's first title last season, the Vandals had the goal of defending their title. While the team did fall short, Dembicki knows that doesn't mean the players didn't have the same hunger or drive to win as they did last year.

"It was great to win the championship last year but it's always tougher to defend it," said Dembicki. "It's hard to say if the guys weren't quite as hungry as Grande Prairie or the Wolfpack might have been since we had already won a championship, and it's also been a couple years since either of those teams were in the championship game."

The Grande Prairie Drillers beat the Central–Alberta Buccaneers, 40–18, in the other AFL semi–final. The Wolfpack will now play the Drillers for the AFL championship.

Friday, July 8
Battle for top spot


Herald-Tribune staff

Posted 10 hours ago

This Saturday is the ultimate battle for the top spot in the Alberta Football League. Both the Grande Prairie Drillers and the Calgary Wolfpack enter Saturday's game at Legion Field tied for first place with a perfect 4-0 record. "If you look at the history of the Wolfpack versus the Drillers, every single game that's been played has been a barn-burner," said Drillers head coach Trevor Prichard. "I've put more time into this game than I have into any other game up to this point. I've spent a lot of time with their film and scouting and pre-scouting, and making sure that our guys are going to be prepared for this game. "We know how important this is. Really if we win this one, there are only two more roadblocks and we'll have set ourselves up with where we need to be."

If last season's game is any indication, both team's offences will rule the day. Last year, the Drillers won 54-49 in a thriller. "We have to make sure on offence that we have a good running game that compliments our passing game," Prichard said.

A lot of focus between these teams has been on their quarterbacks, with Nathan Aldred leading the Drillers and Darryl Leason leading the Wolfpack. This season, Aldred holds the edge on the stats sheet, throwing 15 touchdowns to Leason's 13, and holding a quarterback rating of 150.3% to Leason's 106.5%. The one area Leason does lead in is interceptions, throwing seven this season to Aldred's one.

"It's great to have a head-to-head match up between the top two quarterbacks in the league," Prichard said. "But really, Nate's cool and calm, nothing's going to ruffle his feathers. He just does his business, he's not about stats, he's not about looking good in the paper. "What matters most to Nathan is wins and losses and unfortunately for us we don't have the wins when it counts and Darryl does."

The Wolfpack have won eight AFL championships since Leason joined the team in 1999 after playing for the University of Calgary Dinos.

With all the focus on the offence, it will likely come down to the defences to determine who wins the day. "We'll need to come up with a few different defensive coverages and be able to confuse Leason," Prichard said. "When you're scoring 49 points per game, which has been typical of every single one between the two teams, it really puts a lot of stress on the defence. "Defences can panic when there are lots of points being scored on the board, so I would say that any fan that's coming out this weekend is probably in for a great game because I don't think there's been a game where there has been under 70 or 80 points scored between the two teams."

Friday, July 8
Vandals close, but not quite there
Posted: Wednesday, July 6, 2011 12:42 pm

Conditions seemed perfect for the Lloydminster Vandals to finally shake their one final demon, Saturday, June 25th.

Lloydminster has never beaten the Calgary Wolfpack, an 0-8 string that extends back to the Vandals first season in the Alberta Football League (AFL) and a victory is a goalpost the team has set for itself.

The path to victory seemed open, with Calgary struggling in the early part of the season despite coming to Lloyd with a perfect 3-0 record. In the end however, it was the Wolfpack who ran away with the game late en route to a 41-24 victory.

Vandals quarterback Jared Valleau said the offence just couldn’t get on track in the second half after ending the first deadlocked 14-14 with Calgary.

“I’m just really disappointed,” Valleau said following the loss. “The defence gave us a chance to win and we screwed it up.

“They come up with the big plays they need. We had a chance, but with throwing picks and bad throws, it wasn’t a good day for us.”

A battle of two offences that rely heavily on the air for most of their yards, the expected shootout was hampered by wet conditions that made the ball slippery and footing uncertain.

After drizzling off and on all game, heavy rain broke out as the game came to a close. Valleau said it was the ending the game deserved.

“It sums it up,” he sighed.

The team has a week away from the field to rebound from their first loss of the season, returning July 9th when they’ll travel to Edmonton to face the Renegades.

Valleau said the still winless Renegades are in trouble.

“We won’t face anyone that tough again,” he said. “We have an easier game in two weeks and we beat up on them, I guess. We have to get back on track.”

With Jase Bouchard sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Vandals looked to Sean Brown to run the ball. Kicker Brad Ollen said that Brown, who was injured the previous week when the team played in Wainwright, gave the team a boost with his willingness to battle.

“Brown’s a heck of a guy,” Ollen said. “He used to be an offensive lineman and now he’s running the ball and playing special teams. I know he was really banged up after last game and to see him come out and run the ball like that was fantastic. It gave us that boost on defence.

“You see a guy out there giving it that kind of effort on offence, you want to do the same thing.”

Ollen’s own contribution came late in the game when he picked off a Darryl Leason pass through the middle, juking his way into the endzone. It was a touchdown that would have gotten the Vandals back into the game, but was called back due to a penalty.

He said looking back to see the flag on the field was crushing.

“That was the worst. I felt old and depressed,” he said, then laughed.

Ollen said that despite their struggles, the Wolfpack still have experience and confidence on their side.

“Just that experience of Darryl Leason is huge,” he said. “Not to take anything away from Jared but Darryl’s been in those situations for 20 years now for crying out loud. Jared’s a heck of a ball player, but without a running game, we weren’t able to sustain a drive. Without a run to guard against, they were able to play two safeties and that helps shut down the passing.

“They just seem to be able to click and pull things out in the second half. We go in there tied into the second half and they just have the confidence to throw those deep balls and Darryl knows where to put that ball. We got beat on three deep plays on defence today and it cost us touchdowns. We just didn’t have that on our side of the ball.”

Ollen said rebounding from the loss is as simple as getting players back and getting back to work.

“We had a heck of a game shorthanded today,” he said. “We get a running game going, couple of receivers and a running back into the lineup again and we’re just as good as them,” he said. “We’ll be playing them again in a month or so.”

Sunday, June 26
History repeats itself

By Carl Carter

 The Lloydminster Vandals were hoping to buck a long losing streak on Saturday, but instead fell victim to the Calgary Wolfpack once again. The Vandals had never beaten the beaten the Wolfpack heading into Saturday's game at Armstrong Field, and that didn't change as Calgary scored three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to take the 41–28 victory.

"I think there was a little adversity there that we've never come across over the last couple years," said cornerback Matt Loveseth. "We've had a couple deep benches the last couple years and in this one it kind of bit us in the butt in the fourth quarter, so it's just something we're just going to have to work through."

The Vandals were missing two receivers during Saturday's game, but the team's offence was still able to move the ball. The team couldn't cash in when it mattered most, however, as the Vandals only scored one touchdown in the second half, and none in the fourth quarter.

"We only had two of our regular (receivers) but he (quarterback Jared Valleau) still found a way to get them the ball, and they moved it and they did well," said Loveseth. "Even our running backs who were banged up and barely played this game, they moved the ball and did what they could for us."

The Vandals' defence stood strong against one of the highest–scoring teams in the league, and even earned a couple interceptions – including Loveseth who returned his pick for a major.The Vandals' offence knows it has to play better, however, and especially if they meet the Wolfpack in the playoffs. "We definitely didn't play our best game, and they just came out and beat us straight out I think," said receiver Jordan Preibe.

"The breaks just started to go the other way and we just didn't capitalize on the chances we had, and that's just the way it goes sometimes."

With the win the Wolfpack stays on top of the AFL standings with a 4–0 record. The loss was the Vandals' first of the season, and it drops the team to third in the league with a 3–1 record. The AFL takes a break this week for Canada Day, but the Vandals have a tough schedule down the stretch.

The team has no more home games, and the team still has a date with the second–place Grande Prairie Drillers to end the regular season – a game that could determine home–field advantage in the playoffs. "We were really geared up for this game and it's going to sting for a little bit, but now we got a couple of easy games and then a big game up in Grande Prairie, so we've got to be ready," said Loveseth. "We're going to have to travel well, we can't let anything slide and we're going to have to build and build and build all the way to that Grande Prairie game. That's going to be a big one."

There are no games in the AFL this weekend, but the Vandals will return to action on July 9 when the team heads to Edmonton to take on the Renegades.

Monday, June 28
Wolfpack comeback bites Vandals

Carl Carter

Posted 4 days ago

The Lloydminster Vandals couldn't keep the wolves at bay and have suffered their first loss. The Vandals let a 19-18 lead at halftime slip away as the Calgary Wolfpack scored 22 points in the second half to win Saturday's game, 41-25.

"We came out strong and then we just kind of faltered in the fourth quarter," said Vandals linebacker Matt Fisher. "We were happy with the first first-half results and at halftime we were all ready to keep going, but we just kind of faltered after the first half."

The players were left scratching their heads after Saturday's game in Calgary as they had no idea what changed during halftime.

"I'm not too sure (what changed), but basically we just stopped executing on offence and defence," said Fisher. "We were pumped and ready for them in the second half, but we just didn't come through in the fourth quarter."

Despite the results, the Vandals could still leave with their heads held high – and confident they can get positive results given a second chance.

"Everybody knows they're the best team in the league so when you go up against them you have to bring your 'A' game," said Fisher. "We know we're confident we can beat them. We just have to pull four quarters together to pull out the 'W' and I guess we'll just have to wait until playoffs now."

The timing of their loss couldn't have been worse as the team now enters two bye-weeks and has a lot of time to mull over their defeat. "It definitely leaves a bad taste in your mouth," said Fisher. "You want to get right back out there and get another win but now we have to wait to get back out there and get another one in the win column."

The time off does give the Vandals some time to regroup and focus on the second half of the season, as they still have plenty of tough opponents they will have to face to close out the regular season.

"It's not an ideal situation, having one or two weekends off," said Fisher. "It's good to get some people who are banged up some time off, but three weeks is almost too long, but there's nothing you can do about it."We're just going to prepare like we have one bye-week and we're going to keep practicing from there."

The Vandals return to action July 17 when they host the Red Deer Buccaneers.

Tuesday, August 25
Injuries finally catch up to Drillers in 31-12 loss.

 PETE LUCAROTTI – Herald-Tribune staff


The Grande Prairie Drillers didn’t show up until the second half of Sunday’s Alberta Football League semifinal match against the visiting Calgary Wolfpack.


By that time it was already too late.


The Wolfpack scored on the game’s opening drive and led 21-0 at halftime on the way to a 31-12 win.


John Warr was given medical clearance to start the game at quarterback for the Drillers despite two broken fingers in his non-throwing hand. Unfortunately for the Drillers, Warr, like the rest of the team, got off to a slow start, throwing two interceptions with one leading to an eventual Wolfpack touchdown.


“It was difficult because of the broken hand. I had to go shotgun and it just didn’t give us enough options,” Warr said.


“The run wasn’t there or anything so that’s what the slow start was for. We switched it up in the second half.”

Warr moved closer to centre and his running backs lined up directly behind him in the new formation. While that did eventually bring the Drillers some success, they had first tried subbing in backup quarterback Shane Simms in the second quarter.


Simms barely threw a pass during his stint and the Wolfpack was able to stop the run to keep the Drillers off the scoreboard.


“Let’s be honest, we had a really good quarterback in Johnny who couldn’t take the efficient snaps. Poor Shane was thrown into a dog pit without much of a chance here,” said Drillers coach Tim Skene.


“With the wind picking up and with Calgary’s defence playing the way that they do, he was in a tough spot. But he did what we asked him to do and opened some stuff for us in the fourth quarter.”


While the Drillers offence struggled, Wolfpack quarterback Darryl Leason was picking the Grande Prairie defence apart using the short passing game.


“They were preventing us from throwing the ball deep. We tried a couple of times and it didn’t work out,” said Wolfpack offensive lineman and AFL president Jim Lightfoot.


“It was probably good. This wind was playing havoc with the ball. They were giving us the short passes and we were taking them all day long.”


Leason completed 27 of 43 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns. Receivers Theon James and Terry Eldridge caught TD passes. Running backs Miguel Ceja and Rod Bailey each had rushing majors.


The Drillers finally got on the scoreboard late in the third quarter when Warr completed a play-action pass to running back Holdyn Lorentz. The Drillers missed the convert. Shane Morin rushed the ball in from the Wolfpack one early in the fourth quarter, which was followed by an unsuccessful two-point conversion.


The Drillers continued to move the ball well throughout the fourth quarter, but each drive faltered before reaching the Wolfpack end zone.


“We had a good drive, we were down in the end zone, and then we never finished like all our drives,” Simms said.


Sunday’s defeat marks the second year in a row the Drillers have lost in the AFL semifinals. Last year the team allowed 28 points in the final 15 minutes against the Lloydminster Vandals.


The Wolfpack will play the Edmonton Stallions this weekend for their second straight provincial championship. The Stallions upset the first-place Vandals 27-23 on Saturday. The championship game is slated for 3 p.m. Sunday at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.


As for the Drillers, there’s always next year.


“It’s all about heart and passion and every one of these guys are going to have the same itch at Christmas (this) year,” Skene said.


“I’m confident we’ll be 90-95% of the same guys and we’ll give ’er another go.”

Monday, August 10
Wolfpack beat Buccaneers in final minute

 By Danny Rode - Red Deer Advocate

The Red Deer Buccaneers saw their playoff hopes slip away late in their Alberta Football League encounter with the Calgary Wolfpack Saturday at Great Chief Park, but it certainly wasn’t because of a lack of effort.

The Bucs turned in their best offensive performance of the season, but the Wolfpack broke a 49-49 tie with 55.5 seconds remaining in the game to pull out a 56-49 victory.

The loss left the Bucs with a 1-6-1 record and one point back of the Calgary Gators, who grabbed the sixth and final playoff spot.

But while there was disappointment, there were more smiles than frowns.

“What a way to go out, scoring 49 against the Wolfpack,” said Bucs quarterback Josh Achtemichuk.

The Buccaneers and Wolfpack went back and forth all evening in the highly entertaining affair with Red Deer tying the game at 49-49 with 3:37 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 31-yard pass from Achtemichuk to Randy Lawrence. It was the third time the pair hooked up to find the end zone. Jay Pike kicked his seventh convert and all the Bucs needed was one defensive stand.

However, the Wolfpack, behind outstanding quarterback Darryl Leason, marched the length of the field and took the lead for good when running back Sean Ahronson went in from the one.

The Bucs were able to move the ball, but simply ran out of time.

Achtemichuk, behind a strong offensive line, was the story of the game as he connected on 24 of 33 passes for 541 yards and six touchdowns. He also rushed four times for 27 yards and one major.

“We watched game film over and over and over again and picked apart what they gave us last time and it worked perfectly,” said Achtemichuk. “And it would have kept working, we just needed more time.”

Kenton Poelzer grabbed seven passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns and rushed nine times for 43 yards. Josh Sorensen had six catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.

Bucs head coach Dave Hanni agreed.

“I’m so happy and proud of these guys,” he said. “They (Wolfpack) were trash talking all week on their website and in the media and saying we wouldn’t get 50 yards rushing and 100 yards passing, but we torched them tonight. What we didn’t want to do was get into a shoot out, a heavyweight fight, but that’s the way it went and they were smiling at the end, because they knew they got away with one.”

But overall the Bucs couldn’t handle Leason, who tossed five touchdowns, a two-point convert and ran in for a major. Former Ottawa Rough Rider Tom Dixon had five converts and two field goals.

Leason threw a pair of touchdowns to Scott Sargent and one each to Ahronson, Hughes Audet and Mike Leason.

“We knew coming in they had their backs to the wall and would be ready for us,” said Darryl Leason. “Josh played a heck-of-a game for them and he gave their receivers a chance to make plays and they did just that.

“That’s a good up and coming team and they’ll be that much better next year. They’ll get more wins and be in the playoffs. Unfortunately they’re not there this year because they’d give some teams problems.

“We came in today a bit banged up but that’s no excuse,” added Leason. “They made the plays and if not for that fumble (on the Calgary one) they may have tied this.”

Achtemichuk, who fumbled after a 10-yard run, felt he may have been down before the fumble.

“Who knows, but we got the ball back and scored right away anyway, so that didn’t determine the outcome,” he said.

Experience played a big role in deciding the game as the Wolfpack are coming off of winning the national championship last year.

“You could see their experience. They made the plays when they had to and have an outstanding quarterback who puts the ball where it has to be,” said Hanni.

“Next year we’ll have more of that. This year we had 25 rookies with 12 to 15 of them starting. And our rookies mainly come out of high school. We may have six guys who played beyond high school while we’re up against ex-pros and a lot of guys out of university and junior.

“If we keep this team together next year we’ll definitely move up.”

Monday, August 10
Bucs season ends in thriller

 By Advocate staff

Wolfpack 56 Buccaneers 49

The Red Deer Buccaneers promised they wouldn’t bow out of the Alberta Football League playoffs without a fight.

And fight they did before dropping a thrilling 56-49 decision to the defending national champion Calgary Wolfpack at Great Chief Park Saturday.

The Bucs, who finished at 1-6-1, needed a win and a Calgary Gators loss in Grande Prairie to grab sixth place.

“We gave it a run,” said Bucs head coach Dave Hanni. “I couldn’t be prouder of our guys. They (Wolfpack) came in here expecting to blow us out and we ran out of time against them.”

And that’s exactly what happened.

The Wolfpack, behind their outstanding quarterback Darryl Leason, marched the ball down field to score the winning touchdown on a one-yard run by Sean Ahronson with 55.5 seconds remaining in the game.

The Bucs were able to move the ball, as they did all game, against the Wolfpack defence, but simply ran out of time when quarterback Josh Achtemichuk’s final toss fell to the ground at the Calgary five.

Achtemichuk was the story of the game as he connected on 24 of 33 passes for 541 yards and six touchdowns — three to Randy Lawrence, two to Kenton Poelzer and one to Josh Sorensen.

Lawrence had 11 receptions for 230 yards while Poelzer grabbed seven passes for 89 yards and rushed nine times for 43 yards. Sorensen had six catches for 94 yards.

Achtemichuk also ran four times for 27 yards and a touchdown. Jay Pike kicked seven converts.

Meanwhile Leason threw for five touchdowns and a two-point convert and also rushed for one major. Tom Dixon had six converts and a pair of field goals.

Red Deer led 14-0 after the first quarter with the teams tied 28-28 at the half. The Bucs led 42-34 after three quarters.


Wednesday, July 29
Buccaneers prepare for crucial must-win


The scene is a familiar one for the Red Deer Buccaneers football squad.

With one game to go in the Alberta Football League’s regular season, the Buc’s face a one-game, must-win test with a playoff berth on the line for a second consecutive season.

It’s win and they’re in, and head coach Dave Hanni wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Basically it’s the same thing as last year,” says Hanni. “Grande Prairie came in the last home game of the regular season, win and we were in. We had things well in control too.”

Red Deer couldn’t hold on one year ago, and as a result, missed the AFL playoffs for the third consecutive year.

This season the team faces an even tougher test in their final game (Aug. 8), against the defending National Champion Calgary Wolfpack, who laid a 39-6 licking on the Bucs less than three weeks ago.

After saving their season on the weekend with a 24-24 tie against the Parkland (Spruce Grove) Panthers, Hanni says they’ll take the same mentality into next Saturday’s tilt.

“We impressed upon the guys that there is no tomorrow if we lose. We did that this past weekend and it worked out,” says Hanni. “The Wolfpack are a bit tougher of an opponent. However, we’ve played them before this season. We know who they have and what they do. We know they’re going to pass a lot so we’re going to try and load up and make them beat us on the run, which I don’t think they can do.”

The Bucs recent resurgence into playoff contention has gone hand in hand with the return of veteran Josh Achtemichuk to the quarterback position.

After playing on the defensive side of the ball, number 16 has been back under center in recent weeks, and says he’s glad that they at least have a shot.

“We needed that point (with Parkland) and we’re still alive for the playoffs,” says Achtemichuk. “We wouldn’t have it any other way. What a way to try and make the playoffs.”

Hanni says it can be taxing on the heart watching the notorious high-risk, high-reward quarterback do his thing, but Achtemichuk will also pay dividends. “He threw a couple of good balls and made a couple of crazy interception mistakes, but he’s a gunslinger, and you live and die with your gunslinger. He looked pretty good.”

Another key next weekend will be running back Kenton Poelzer. The second-year Buc has arguably been the club’s MVP this season,

He is currently leads the AFL in rushing yards and carries.

“Kenton is definitely our go-to-guy” says Achtemichuk. “The league knows that, so it will be nice to spread things around and show everyone what our weapons are.”

Confidence and momentum are certainly on Red Deer’s side as they prepare for their biggest game of the season, but the Wolfpack is the immovable object standing in the way.

The four-time National Champion squad, led by quarterback Daryl Leason, has been tearing up the league over the past month, and certainly won’t be mailing it in at Great Chief Park. Achtemichuk says stranger things have certainly happened.

“They’re definitely a beatable team. They’ve had a couple of losses already this season. Spruce Grove beat them and we just showed we can beat Spruce Grove, so I think we definitely have a chance.”

Monday, July 20
Familiar foe snaps Vandals' streak

Vandals’ perfect season snuffed as Wolfpack hold on to win a wild one

Carl Carter Lloydminster Meridian Booster

A timely interception and some unlucky bounces brought the Lloydminster Vandals’ unbeaten season to a screeching halt at Armstrong Field on Saturday.

The Vandals were hoping for some redemption as they battled the Calgary Wolfpack in a rematch of last season’s Alberta Football League championship game – which the Wolfpack went on to win, 43-21. Unfortunately for the home side the result was still the same this time around as the Wolfpack walked away with the 21-20 win in a wild game that saw the Vandals put together an amazing second half.

“It’s the first loss of the season but there’s a lot to learn from it,” said Vandals rookie linebacker Jama Njoku. “We came out really slow in the first half, made a couple mistakes, we made some adjustments. In the second half we played miraculous football though.”

Slow starts have been a thorn in the Vandals’ side for most of the season, and this game was no different as the Wolfpack went into halftime with an 18-0 lead and all the momentum.

“We got to play a full 60 minutes. We didn’t play. We started playing at halftime,” said receiver Andrew Herrick. “Our defence can only stay on the field for so long, so I think if we put in a full 60 minutes, a complete game, I think we’re good to go.”

The Vandals woke up in the third quarter as quarterback Jared Valleau caught his brother Jess in the end zone with a pass to put them on the board. The Vandals also raised their game on defence and special teams as they held the Wolfpack scoreless in the third quarter, and then turned the tide in the fourth quarter when the Vandals Regan Schell recovered a punt that was misplayed by the Wolfpack. The Vandals didn’t waste any time cashing in on the turnover, as Valleau hooked up with Herrick on the very next play, and Herrick ran it in for his first of two touchdowns on the day.

He just finds me. I get open and he gets me the ball, and then I do my thing,” said Herrick, adding they made some changes during halftime that really improved their play on the field. “We made some adjustments and brought in a little extra blocking to give Jared some time, and (if) Jared has time – he’s a great athlete – he finds us open and lets his receivers make some plays.”

Luck seemed to play a big role in Saturday’s outcome as the Vandals couldn’t convert on the point after on Herrick’s score. The Wolfpack also caught a couple lucky bounces in the fourth, as their receiver caught a pass that was tipped and juggled in the air by a Vandals defender. That catch set up what proved to be the game-winning field goal, as Wolfpack kicker Tom Dixon placed a kick that hit the bottom goal post and just bounced in between the up rights.

“There was a couple tough breaks, a couple lucky catches, miracle catches, but other than that we learn from it, move on,” said Njoku, as the Wolfpack seemed to catch all the breaks in Saturday’s game.

The Vandals would not go away, however, and seemed poised to take their first lead after Valleau hit receiver Jordan Preibe for a 36-yard pass that put them within the Wolfpack’s 30-yard line. The Wolfpack caught another break, however, as Valleau coughed up an interception that allowed Calgary to run down the clock.

“It hurts right now but in the long run we’ll work a little bit harder, go back to practice, and hope to see them in the final,” said Herrick. “I think we showed we belong, we just got off to a slow start.”

Up next the Vandals will head to Grande Prairie to face the Drillers.

Monday, July 20
Win streak snapped at five

 Rodney Oracheski

Wainwright Star News

The clouds hanging over Armstrong field at the end of Saturday’s game were both figurative and literal.

 After three quarters of falling behind to the defending champion Calgary Wolfpack under clear blue skies, the Lloydminster Vandals offense broke out as clouds obscured the sun for the first time all afternoon.

Down 18-0, the Vandals hit the endzone for the first time with 4:42 remaining in the third quarter. Jared Valleau connected first with Jordan Priebe to drive down the field, then hit brother Jess Valleau in the endzone for seven.

After forcing Calgary to punt the ball away, Lloydminster pushed back into the endzone with Valleau finding receiver Andrew Herrick open for a lengthy catch and run for a touchdown.

Down 18-13 before the convert, the Vandals failed on a two-point conversion that would have moved them to within a field goal.

With five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Lloydminster defense stood tall once again, forcing a Calgary turnover and bringing the Vandals offense back onto the field.

Late in the fourth quarter, Valleau once again found Herrick for a touchdown. The speedy receiver caught the ball on the Lloydminster side of the center line, shaking off one defender and outrunning two others to the endzone.

Jordan Priebe kicked the point after, booting the ball off the upright and through for a single point, leaving Lloydminster up 20-18 with 4:34 left on the clock.

The Wolfpack powered the ball down the field, stopped short at the 35 yard line by the Vandals defense on consecutive attempts and forced into a third-and-long.

With former CFL player Tom Dixon, holder of the CFL regular season all-time record for Most Singles, in the lineup, the Wolfpack opted to go for the field goal.

Dixon put the ball high into the air and through the uprights from 42 yards out, bouncing it off the crossbar and in.

“That was just about the max I could do,” Dixon laughed after the game. “That was a close one.”

Down 21-20, the Vandals took possession of the ball and began a final march down the field.

 Valleau connected with Priebe one last time, finding him at the 25 yard line to get a new set of downs.

With time left on the clock, the Vandals offense decided to keep driving and run down time instead of going for the field goal.

Valleau scrambled on the first down, throwing off a pair of would-be tacklers before being brought down after a short gain. On the next series, his pass was intercepted by Robb Sherman, allowing the Wolfpack to run down the clock and finish the game on top.

The loss drops Lloydminster back into a tie with the Grande Prairie Drillers for first place. The two teams will break that tie next weekend when they meet in Grande Prairie.

Friday, July 17
Vandals set to defend perfect record

 Rod Oracheski

Wainwright Star Chronicle

It’s become a trend for the Lloydminster Vandals, with every week offering up a new challenge that’s their biggest of the season.This weekend is no exception, as they’ll take on the Calgary Wolfpack Saturday afternoon.

Calgary, the defending Alberta Football League (AFL) and Canadian National champions, hits town with a 3-2 record that belies the strength the team possesses.With the return of slotback Mike Leason, along with a handful of other offensive weapons, the Wolfpack are on a two game winning streak and coming off a 39-6 win over the Red Deer Buccaneers that saw them put up 584 yards on offence.

The Wolfpack continue to rely heavily on an aerial game, with quarterback Daryl Leason responsible for 527 of those yards. Leason went 28 of 46 with five touchdowns in the game, connecting with 11 different receivers.

Despite the slow start to the season, the Wolfpack have been strong offensively - currently second in the league in Points For with 172. The Grande Prairie Drillers, who sit at 4-1 after a loss to the Edmonton Stallions last weekend, hold a three-point lead in that category.

The Vandals defence will prove a greater test than the Buccaneers did, however.Lloydminster operates the stingiest defence in the league, allowing a league-best 48 Points Against over the five games played and posting the only shutout game so far this season.

In addition, the Vandals had three names in the top five for Interceptions stat last season, and they’ll be looking to shut down Calgary’s passing game from the opening series.“They’re a pretty one-dimensional team,” Glen Dembicki, Vandals president and player, remarked. “If you let them throw the ball, that’s all they’ll do all game long. They can run the ball, but it’s not their strength. If we can force them into a ground game, then I think we’ll win it. If we can’t shut down their passing game, it gets a whole lot more difficult to win.”

Dembicki said that shutting down Calgary’s high-powered offence will require the entire defence to bring its ‘A’ game.“Obviously we want to get in on Leason and put him on the ground, but they’ve got a good line that’ll make that tough,” he said. “We’re going to be relying on guys like [Brock] Priebe, [Dirk] Treptow, and [Cole] Payne to leave him nobody to throw to and give the other guys time to get in there and get a hand on him.”

The two teams meet Saturday, July 18 on Lloydminster’s Armstrong Field. Kickoff is slated for 3 p.m.

Tuesday, July 14
Wolfpack pick apart Bucs


Wolfpack pick apart Bucs

By Danny Rode - Red Deer Advocate

Published: July 13, 2009 7:43 AM

Wolfpack 39

Buccaneers 6

The Red Deer Buccaneers have one of the youngest defensive backfields in the Alberta Men’s Football League and the Calgary Wolfpack took full advantage of it Saturday.

Wolfpack quarterback Darryl Leason threw for 527 yards and five touchdowns as the defending national champions rolled to a 39-6 victory at Great Chief Park.

“We have a bunch of young guys back there and they’re just missing a bit both mentally and physically,” said Buccaneers head coach Dave Hanni. “We have three or four rookies back there all the time. We’re missing Devon Hand our best cover guy, who has a broken hand, and Keegan Poelzer is only in his second year. Darren Stroschein is the only one with extended experience and he can only do so much.

“So we’re young but that’s what we have. We throw them in there and they learn from their mistakes. “Overall it was disappointing today, but not surprising, we were up against one of the premier passers in the league,” added Hanni. But the Bucs did show some bright spots on defence as they limited the Wolfpack to 60 yards rushing and both Keegan and Kenton Poelzer had interceptions.

In fact the Poelzer brothers both had busy days. Offensively Kenton finished with seven carries for 25 yards and caught three passes for 41 yards while defensively he had three solo tackles and three assisted tackles to go with one pass knocked down and the interception. Keegan finished with four solo and one assisted tackle to go with the 36-yard return on his interception.

Offensively the Bucs managed only a pair of field goals — 35 and 21 yards — by Jamie Blinkhorn, but overall they moved the ball as well as they have all season. They finished with 260 yards passing and 56 rushing. “We’ve been improving offensively all season, today it was over 300 yards, but we’re still a play or two away and letting games get away from us,” said Hanni.

“Today Kenton dropped a ball when he had a chance to go all the way. Better teams hit those and better teams rebound from those. But we don’t seem to.” Backup quarterback Andrew Stannix played the second half and turned in a solid performance, hitting on 14 of 25 passes for 206 yards. He did have one interception in the end zone. Stannix will be the only quarterback on hand Saturday in Edmonton against the Seahawks.

“Andrew played in a mop-up roll last season and most of this year, but we wanted to get him in there today against some live bullets as he’ll have to go the distance next weekend,” said Hanni. Greg Thompson played the first half, hitting three of nine for 26 yards. Blinkhorn connected on one pass for 28 yards.

the teams finished with four turnovers each. The Buccaneers threw three interceptions and turned the ball over on downs once while the ’Pack tossed a pair of interceptions and lost two fumbles.

 Darryl Leason tossed a pair of touchdown passes to Matt Squires and singles to Mike Leason, Evan Katula and Scott Sargent. Former Ottawa Rough Rider Tom Dixon had five converts, an 18-yard field goal and a single on a wide field goal attempt.

 Blinkhorn finished with five catches for 83 yards, returned two punts for 14 yards and a kickoff 47 yards . . . Corey Pusey had four catches for 38 yards while Ryan Otto grabbed three passes for 30 yards, Adam Donovan two for 42 and Alex Rinehart two for 26 . . . Stroschein finished with four solo tackles and six assisted tackles . . .

The Bucs saw their record drop to 0-5 while the Wolfpack sit at 3-2 . . . The Bucs next home action is July 25 against the Parkland Panthers, at 6 p.m.

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.”

Tuesday, September 30
Wolfpack rolls over favoured Outlaws

Herald News Services

Published: Monday, September 29, 2008

- Football - It wasn't the game the Wolfpack were expecting against the Tri-City Outlaws, but a 35-7 victory is something they would gladly take.

Quarterback Darryl Leason was as efficient as ever throwing for one TD and rushing for another. Leason completed 23/37 for 296 yards and threw one interception as well.

The Outlaws were the favourites heading into the game, with former CFL talent like Northern Football Conference MVP Ian Ford and Jon Netkovic who led his league in rushing.

But the 'Pack's defence proved too much for them when they had to adapt their game to three down football as opposed to their league in Ontario where they play four downs.

Monday, September 29
Outlaws devoured by powerful Wolfpack

September 29, 2008



The Tri-City Outlaws first defeat of the season didn't come down to one play, one mistake, one glaring weakness.

Instead, the team struggled in almost every offensive category on Saturday, losing to the Calgary Wolfpack 35-7 in the Canadian Major Football League championship.

"Every time something positive happened, something bad followed," said Outlaws president and assistant coach Patrick DeLay. "It was just one of those nights. Maybe it was the mountain air."

In existence since 2002, the Outlaws have never won a national title in the major football league, Canada's highest level of amateur football. The team played in the 2005 finals, losing to the Wolfpack 20-14.

The team entered Saturday's game with a 10-0 won-lost record, but the Northern Football Conference champs struggled on offence.

DeLay said the team underestimated the difficulty of adjusting from the NFC's four-down football to the three-down system played in Alberta. Alberta's rules makes the game faster and can reward teams for gambling on third down.

Neither team played exceptionally well in the first half Saturday, but Calgary was able to capitalize on Tri-City turnovers to enter halftime ahead 17-0.

In the third quarter, the Outlaws attempted to mount a comeback, with quarterback Jeff Nosal throwing a 32-yard touchdown to Jon Nedeljkovic.

But on the next series, Calgary responded as Finals MVP Jeff Williams beat a tackle and then exploded for a 50-yard major that put the Wolfpack ahead 25-7.

The score killed Tri-City's momentum, but the real Outlaws killer was Calgary quarterback Darryl Leason. The veteran pivot threw for 296 yards, passed for a touchdown and ran in another.

"Leason was a real field general out there," DeLay said. "In our league, we don't run into anyone like that."

Nosal passed for 215 yards in the defeat, throwing one touchdown against three interceptions. The normally-steady Nosal also fumbled once as he struggled against Calgary's large, veteran-laden defence.

"He's a 'make things happen' quarterback and they seemed to be ready for that," DeLay said. "But you have to give credit -- that's a good football team.

"Despite the score, Tri-City's defense and special teams played well, said defensive co-ordinator Mike Milner. Linebacker Mark Armstrong made 15 tackles on route to winning the game's defensive MVP.

"Obviously you want to win, but I don't think we have anything to hang our heads about," Milner said. "We had a great season, won an Ontario title and are already looking forward to next year."

Saturday, September 27
Wolfpack hunt another crown

Herald News Services

Published: Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Alberta Football League champion Calgary Wolfpack will battle theTri-City Outlaws from Ontario's Northern Football Conference for the national championship tonight at McMahon Stadium.

Former Regina Rams all-star Darryl Leason will lead the Wolfpack. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The last time the two teams met, the Wolfpack won 20-14 in Hamilton.

The Wolfpack are bidding for the national crown for the sixth time in seven years and the first since losing to the Oshawa Hawkeyes in the 2006 final.

Monday, September 15
Vandals dream season snapped by Calgary

Wolfpack quarterback has the game of his life and leads his team to the AFL title

Carl Carter- Meridian Booster
Monday September 15, 2008

The Lloydminster Vandals gave it a valiant effort but could not compete with the Calgary Wolfpack and their all-star quarterback as the two teams clashed under the bright lights of McMahon Stadium with the Alberta Football League championship on the line.
The Wolfpack took the lead early on in the first quarter and did not look back, as quarterback Darryl Leason led his squad to the 43-21 win and an AFL championship for the second year in a row this past Saturday.
“They’re passing was incredible, and a perfect pass beats a perfect defence and that happened a lot,” said Vandals coach Chris McKenna. “We were hoping to win but we got beat by a good team.
“It was a good, clean football game and they came out on top and played better, but their quarterback was definitely the difference.”
While it was not the outcome the Vandals were hoping for there was not much they could do to contain Leason that day, as receiver Ken Fisher said “Leason showed why he’s the best player in the league.”

“He was dead on in his passing, and when you have defensive backs that are right on their receivers and the ball is thrown completely perfectly to a guy it’s hard to stop,” said Fisher. “We moved the ball fairly well as an offence considering the level of their defence, but when it came down to it Leason was just incredible.
“They moved the ball 10 or 12 yards at a time with precision passing, and it was just pretty hard to stop that.”
While the Vandals’ offence wasn’t stymied, they just could not put up enough points to keep the score close on Saturday as they were stopped up numerous times in the red zone. The Wolfpack on the other hand had no trouble getting their offence going, and Leason was just too good – which should come to no surprise as he led the league with 2482 passing yards and 20 touchdown passes in the regular season.
Vandals quarterback Jared Valleau had a decent game – throwing three touchdowns to Jordan Priebe, Andrew Herrick, and Curtis Vetter – but his opposition on the Wolfpack was just on fire that day.
“Jared played really good, he made some nice passes, and ran the ball well when he could, but we were up against the league champions and they’re a good team,” said McKenna. “We had some long passes and some good drives that we put together, but it was just too bad that we couldn’t put more together.”
While the way the season ended was a bit disappointing, the Vandals know that this was their best year in the AFL and hope they can use this benchmark as a stepping stone towards bigger and better things next season.
“It was a good year, definitely the best year we’ve had as a club,” said Fisher. “Hopefully we can get most of our core guys back out next year and build off of this.”
The outlook at the start of the season was optimistic, with players from the defunct Wainwright Longhorns joining the Vandals the team new expectations were high, but there were some growing pains along the way. The players have now had a whole season to get used to each other and learn to be a team in the truest sense of the word, and next year they hope their efforts will lead to a championship.
“When Wainwright came in we said we were going to win the championship,” said McKenna. “It is the first time we were in the championship game, and now maybe we’ll take that next step next year.”

Sunday, July 6
Wolfpack avoid Buccaneer upset

By Danny Rode - Red Deer Advocate - July 05, 2008


Wolfpack 20 Buccaneers 9

The Red Deer Buccaneers saw their record slip to 1-3 in the Alberta Football League Saturday, but there were more positives than negatives in a 20-9 loss to the Calgary Wolfpack at Great Chief Park. “Obviously I’m disappointed, but that was a gutsy performance, probably our best in the last year and a half,” said Buccaneers head coach Dave Hanni. “We’ve never defeated that team in seven years. We feel they’re still the best team in the league and we were right with them.”

The Bucs actually held a 9-7 lead after three quarters thanks to a one-yard run by quarterback Greg Thompson. However, the Wolfpack dominated the fourth quarter to run their record to 3-1. “It was a game we could have won,” added Hanni. “We were right there, but made a few mistakes, dropped a couple of passes and that did us in.” But the Wolfpack were also given full marks for the win as quarterback Darryl Leason was able to move the ball when needed in the final 15 minutes.

Place kicker Tom Dixon, who played for the Ottawa Roughriders, kicked a 28-yard field goal at 4:28 of the fourth quarter to put the Wolfpack up for good. Leason then hooked up with his brother Mike on a nine-yard touchdown toss at 10:58 to all but put the game away. Dixon added the convert and kicked a 41-yard field goal at 14:30 to salt away the victory.

After a scoreless opening quarter the Leason brothers hooked up for the game’s first major early in the second quarter with Mike hauling in the pass from Darryl. Jamie Blinkhorn kicked a field goal for the Buccaneers and the Calgary crew led 7-3 at the half. Red Deer then put together their most impressive series of plays in the game late in the third quarter. First they got a piece of a Dixon field goal attempt and Blinkhorn was able to return the ball out of the end zone putting it on the Red Deer 20. Thompson then connected with Jordan White on a an 85 yard pass and run play, putting the ball on the Calgary five. Two plays later Thompson went around end for the score.

Overall Red Deer special teams were solid, blocking a pair of field goals and proving blanket coverage on punts.

The Red Deer running game was anything but impressive as they finished with 51 yards — 33 by Brad Smith on seven carries.

Thompson hit on 10 of 27 pass attempts for 209 yards. Blinkhorn grabbed four passes for 49 yards and also returned a pair of punts for 95 yards.

Defensively Curtis Dreger finished with nine tackles while Riley Quance had seven and Kerry Lynch and Clayton McAreavy six each.

The Bucs travel to Lloydminster on July 19 to face the Vandals and host the Edmonton Seahawks Aug. 9 and Grande Prairie Aug. 16 to finish their schedule.

Contact Danny Rode at

Friday, July 4
Buccaneers set for Wolfpack
By Josh Aldrich - Red Deer Advocate - July 04, 2008


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

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.

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

Grove Examiner

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.

Wednesday, July 4
Marauders join the Pack: Fieldberg and Donnelly decide to play for powerhouse AFL club in Calgary
NEWS FILE PHOT0: Matt Donnelly of the then Medicine Hat Marauders drags down a Calgary Wolfpack player during Alberta Football League action at the Methanex Bowl last season. This year, Donnelly is dressing in Wolfpack colours along with former Marauder cornerback Allen Fieldberg.

Jul 3, 2007, 23:32

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The Medicine Hat Marauders may be gone, but defensive backs Allen Fieldberg and Matt Donnelly found a new senior football home.
Shortly after the Marauders folded, the pair were contacted by the powerhouse team in the Alberta Football League in the Calgary Wolfpack. The Wolfpack offered them starting spots in their defensive secondary.

“When the team folded here, I really expected not to play anywhere this year,” said Fieldberg. “It is nice to still be out running around doing what we like to do.”
“It feels real good to hit someone again,” said Donnelly. “To be able to strap the pads on and take a run at someone and get that good pop or have them pop you, it feels really good. I can’t even explain it.”

During the week, the pair are left to train on their own. They drive together to meet the Calgary squad at whatever centre they may be playing in that week. So far, they have made three out of the Wolfpack’s four games.

In Week 1 of the season, they found they fit in right away. During a 67-7 blowout win of the Calgary Thunder, Fieldberg returned a punt 21 yards for a touchdown. Donnelly had an interception return for 45 yards.

During his time with the Marauders, Fieldberg was known for his blazing speed, and it was common for him to have a lot longer kick return touchdowns.
Donnelly was more known for his positional play, and having a long run back after a pick is not his forte.
“I was looking around for someone to pitch that ball off to,” said Donnelly. “Their quarterback had good speed.
“I was hoping at the end after the pick was made we would be able to contain the quarterback. He was able to catch me on the ankle and bring me out of bounds.”

The pairs' experience with the Wolfpack has been just as fun off the field as it has been on the field. Both Fieldberg and Donnelly admitted they were concerned they might be joining a team that had a number of players with big egos. That thought was generated due to the Wolfpack’s success over the years.
When they attended a practice before the first game, they realized this thought was a misconception.
“Everyone’s egos are checked at the door,” said Donnelly, who also played a big part helping to organize the Marauders last year. “It is a great group of guys. It was very surprising.”
There was also a fear the Wolfpack might be as serious as a CFL team, when it comes to playing the game. That was also a misconception.
“It is not super serious like people would like to believe,” said Fieldberg. “It is just a group of good guys playing ball that enjoy doing what we do.”

During his time with the Marauders and those that know him around Medicine Hat, Donnelly is also known to be a character. It was not uncommon for him to do something different like wear a pink tinged fur coat to a game.
He makes a lot of jokes, but he admits he has kept his character side under wraps with the Wolfpack.
“Actually if you can believe it or not, Al is doing most of the talking off the field,” said Donnelly. “It is weird.
“I am thinking I get a few more games going here I won’t shut up on or off the field.”

After having a bye week on the Canada Day weekend, the Wolfpack return to action Saturday as they face the Calgary Gators at McMahon Stadium. The Wolfpack, who are 3-1, are looking to give the 3-0 Gators their first loss.
Fieldberg and Donnelly hope this game will be another step towards a championship season with their new team.
“There are some good teams that we still have to play and win,” said Fieldberg. “We should be right there at the end.”

Monday, June 25
Now that's big
Grande Prairie Driller Shane Morin thunders through a maze of players during Alberta Football League action against the Calgary Wolfpack Saturday night at Legion Field.

Photo: Dale Woodard

Drillers beat perennial league powerhouse in Alberta Football League

Herald-Tribune sportswriter
Monday June 25, 2007

If his Grande Prairie Drillers teammates called him Stone Hands Seely before, they probably won’t anymore.

The imposing linebacker is more apt to rattle an opponent’s skull with a thundering tackle than he is to haul in a pass, but the one catch Todd Seely made late in the second quarter Saturday night was a bona fide tide-turner and the Drillers now have a 26-20 win over the reigning Alberta Football League champs to show for it.

Leading the Calgary Wolfpack 19-13 with just under a minute to go in the second quarter of Saturday’s showdown, Seely stepped up on a Wolfpack third-and-three gamble and picked off Calgary quarterback Darryl Leason’s pass at midfield to give the ball back to the Drillers.

Pumped up by the timely pick, the Drillers pounded the ball into Wolfpack territory and, with time winding down, pivot Nathan Aldred faded back and found Brent Fulmek in the end zone for a major that gave the Drillers a 25-13 lead at the half.

That would prove to be all the offence the Drillers needed as they shrugged off a late Calgary major to hang on for the win to remain undefeated at 3-0 and hand the Wolfpack their first loss of the season.

“Todd always complains that he doesn’t have any hands. So we told him he’s going to have to start playing some receiver now, I guess,” joked Drillers coach Doug Stenberg.

Seely, though, apparently doesn’t agree with his coach’s assessment that he should join the offensive ranks.

“Ummm, no,” he said with a smirk.

The Drillers drew first blood in the showdown when Aldred aired out a pass that found Tyler Fulmek in the end zone for a 6-0 lead with 9:29 to go in the first quarter.

“It got us really fired up. We just kept driving hard after that,” said Fulmek of hitting the scoreboard first.

“The offence and defence played well. It was a good effort by everybody.”

But the Wolfpack - brandishing their renowned aerial attack led by Leason and his brother Mike – came gunning right back.

Leason went to the air and found running back Sean Ingram with 6:31 to in the opening quarter as the Wolfpack grabbed a 7-6 lead.

The lead didn’t last long as the Drillers pounced on a Wolfpack fumbled ball and capped off the ensuing drive with a field goal that gave the home squad a 9-7 lead late in the first quarter.

But the Wolfpack struck early in the second quarter as the Leason found his brother in the corner of the Drillers’ end zone and aired out a strike that Mike tucked and rolled to grab for a 13-9 lead a little under two minutes into the second quarter.

The Drillers thought they had the go-ahead touchdown when Aldred hit Stuart Schoolaardt with a chest-high pass and Schoolaardt found some real estate down the sidelines and rumbled in for a major, only to have the play called back when the Drillers were whistled down on a holding call.

Though they were denied the major, Tyler Fulmek pulled the Drillers within one when the wide receiver/kicker booted a 37-yard field goal to make it 13-12 Calgary with 10:43 left in the half.

The Drillers dodged a bullet in the late stages of the first half when Wolfpack linebacker Lazar Veley jumped on a fumble deep in Grande Prairie territory and romped to paydirt while a minor melee between the two sides erupted as flags flew.

When everything was sorted out, both sides were assessed unnecessary roughness penalties and Veley was called for illegal interference on a loose ball, negating the touchdown and keeping the Drillers within one.

That’s when the hosts took the lead they wouldn’t give back.

Showing his aerial game was just as sharp as his counterpart’s, Aldred found running back Trevor Prichard in the end zone as Grande Prairie once again snagged the upper hand with an 18-13 lead with 2:49 to go in the half.

But with Calgary pressing in the final minute and gambling on a third-and-three, Seely made his move.

“It was third and short and we knew they wanted to just get a quick out,” he said. “The running back didn’t come out, he just stayed with the block so I just decided I would try and get my hands on the ball. It just worked out, I tipped it right into my own hands.”

A little over 20 seconds later the Drillers made the pick count as Aldred hit Fulmek in the corner of the Wolfpack’s end zone.

“It really helped out and it was even better than the offence went and put ’er in. It made it a little more worthwhile,” said Seely.

After a scoreless third quarter - with the exception of a Drillers’ safety that paced them to a 26-13 lead - the Wolfpack made a game of it with one more major to pull within six, but the Drillers were able to run out the clock and hold on for the win.

That gave them the distinction of being the first team to beat the defending champs this year, holding a team that had averaged 57 points a game heading into the weekend to a mere 20 points.

“We knew coming into the game that the quarterback liked to throw the short passes in and out. Getting our hands up and getting pressure on the quarterback (was key). We struggled a bit in the coverage, but we came through and it worked out,” said defensive end Gladyn Badger.

Chalk it up to everybody showing up, said Stenberg.

“It was just a full effort by everybody. We do have some players from last year that has really solidified things. There’s no way on God’s green earth that you’re going to stop the Leason/Leason combination forever. But we did about as good a job as can be done.”

Friday, June 22
Big test
Drillers facing powerhouse Wolfpack in home-opener

Herald-Tribune sportswriter
Friday June 22, 2007

As if home-openers aren’t exciting enough.

The Grande Prairie Drillers – in conjunction with the Alberta Football League – just went and kicked that excitement up a notch.

Following an perfect 2-0 start to their 2007 AFL season that included road wins over the Edmonton Stallions two weekends ago and the Calgary Thunder last weekend, the Drillers return to their Legion Field stomping grounds for their home-opener Saturday night.

Their opponent? None other than the reigning champion and perennial AFL powerhouse Calgary Wolfpack, featuring pivot Darryl Leason and his cannon of an arm renowned for chewing up and spitting out opposing team’s secondaries with an overpowering aerial assault.

Ease into games in front of the hometown faithful? Forget that. Just jump from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.

But Saturday’s trial is one Drillers running back Trevor Prichard and his teammates are looking forward to facing when the pigskin sails Saturday.

“I think (better) sooner than later,” said Prichard of the prospect of facing the league champs so early in the season. “We don’t want them at the end of the year when maybe we’re a little depleted with some of our guys. But like I’ve said before, this is probably the best year we’ve had with our roster and with guys coming back and staying. We’ve got a very experienced roster and I think it’s proven well over the last two weeks. Playing the Wolfpack in our third game of the year and first game at home, what better way to get the crowd out and get a big matchup going?
“We’re not scared of anybody in this league and I think when we go in this weekend it’s a good test and a good way to see where we’re going to be.”

The Wolfpack head into the weekend with a perfect 3-0 record that has seen the Cowtown crew post a stunning 171 points over the course of those three games, surrendering only seven points and posting two shutouts along the way.

Following their unblemished 2-0 road swing through Edmonton and Calgary, the Drillers head into Saturday in a three-way tie with the Calgary Gators (2-0) and the Lloydminster Vandals (2-1) - having posted 74 points for and 18 against.

With the Wolfpack’s penchant for unleashing an overpowering aerial assault, getting to Leason will be key, said Prichard.

“He’s got that experience and the guy can throw. That’s what they’re going to do. They’re going to beat you to death with the throw and if you can’t stop it you’re in a lot of trouble. They’re not claiming to be able to go out there and be able to run the ball down your throat, but if you don’t know how to stop their throwing game or get some pressure on them and try and make him hurry up and force some mistakes he’s going to make you look pretty bad. I think that has to be the focus against them every time you play them. For the last seven years or however many years he’s played with them, that’s what he does. It’s fun to watch, (but) unfortunately when you’re playing in the field it’s not fun to be part of.”

But middle linebacker Amos Aldred said he and his D-line teammates have done their homework.

“We’ve been really focusing on different coverage sets. We’ve put in a dime defence and everything we can do for coverage. We’ve been practising our one-on-one coverage and getting our zone drops proper,” said Aldred, who is also the captain of the defensive line. “We have everybody here, everybody is healthy, so hopefully we’re going to come out on top. They’re always a tough team every time we play them. We’re just going to be gunning.”

While this weekend’s match serves as the home opener for the Drillers, it doubles as the season-opener for returning veteran Shane Morin, who missed the first two games due to prior commitments.

“I recently started my own company so I was really concentrating on that at the beginning of this year so I didn’t get much practice time,” said Morin, who echoed Prichard’s sentiments that the team’s home opener might as well be against the reigning powerhouse team from the south. “I agree fully. I think it’s a good game for me to get back into it too. Getting hit by them is always a wakeup and I think it’ll be a good tone for the rest of the year for me.”

Though it’s Morin’s first game of the season, it’s not the Driller veteran’s first look at the Wolfpack, unlike some of his first-year teammates who will get their first glimpse of the league champs this weekend.

Come game time, Morin said he preferred to to use his usual “follow my lead” routine on the field than dispense any words of wisdom to his younger teammates.

“I’m kind of a lead-by-example (player) and if there any words of wisdom that I can give it’s just make sure when you go out there and get hit the first time you pay attention. Usually that’s enough to wake a guy up and be ready,” said Morin.

It’s a given the Drillers will have their hands full when the Wolfpack pull into Grande Prairie Saturday, but Prichard stressed putting the numbers and stats aside and just playing a little football.

“Their offence is high-flying, but their defence is amazing. They’ve got three stud linebackers and a great D-line,” said Prichard. “But you know what? If we believe the hype and we bow down this isn’t going to be much of a game. So we have to go in there and swing and try and put them away and take it to them early.”

The kickoff goes at 7 p.m. at Legion Field.

Thursday, June 21
Bucs take it on the chin
Red Deer Buccaneers Jon Blocksom grabs the leg of Calgary Wolfpack’s Sean Ingram in an effort to bring him down during the Buccaneers home opener at Great Chief Park. The Wolfpack pounded the Buccaneers 59-0.
Chad Hipolito/Red Deer Express

Red Deer Express

It was a Saturday the Red Deer Buccaneers would like to forget.

The Bucs welcomed the Calgary Wolfpack to the confines of Great Chief Park last Saturday for their home opener but the Pack were hardly gracious visitors as they proceeded to dismantle the Buccaneer defence on their way to a 59-0 win.

Numerous blown coverages and defensive confusion allowed Calgary QB Darryl Leason to put up some massive numbers, throwing for just under 500 yards and seven touchdowns.

Player/coach Dave Hanni knew they were going up againist a great football team but knows they aren’t 59 points better and his Buccaneers have to be better from here on in.

“Obviously the Wolfpack is a good team and they’re defending national champs but we made it easy for them,” said Hanni.

“We had some mix ups on coverages and that opened some things up for them down field. We had some chances to stop some drives but we dropped four sure interceptions which could’ve realty changed the outcome but overall we just need to be better.”

As a coaching staff, it was disappointing to see 59 points go up against them but it was just as disappointing seeing the offence sputtering and putting up no points.

“It was one of those games where it just seemed like we couldn’t take advantage of our opportunities and they did the exact opposite,” said Hanni.

“We looked at the film and saw some things we need to change on both sides of the ball and then we burned the film. We can’t think about this game for too long because we have another tough test in few days.”

That test will be in the form of the Edmonton Stallions who the Buccaneers have developed a healthy rivalry with and are hoping to break through with their first win over the Edmonton squad.

“We’re both coming into this game at 1-2 so it’s a huge game for both teams,” said Hanni.

“From what I hear their offensive line isn’t very strong and our defensive line is among the best in the league so we’ll be putting a lot of pressure on their QB this weekend.”

The Buccaneers will have to gel as a team quickly if they hope to avoid the same fate as last year by missing the playoffs but Hanni knows this is a team that can play with anyone and the Wolfpack game could be the eye opener the Bucs needed to get them going.

“I think a lot of guys realized we have to work harder and be prepared if we’re going to be competitive against the best teams in the league,” said Hanni.

“It’s one thing to be beat physically but making mental mistakes just can’t happen and I think our entire team will be much better prepared as the season goes on.”

The Stallions will visit Great Chief Park this Saturday at 6 p.m.

Wednesday, June 20
Calgary clobbers Red Deer 59-0
Photo by JEFF STOKOE/Advocate staff
Red Deer Buccaneers Kirk Kroschinski leaps over a Calgary Wolfpack player before being tackled by Todd Rickbeil, left, during senior men?s football action at Great Chief Park on Saturday. The Bucs were humbled 59-0.

Jun 18 2007

The Red Deer Buccaneers? defence, so impressive in a previous weekend victory over the Edmonton Seahawks, was worked over big time on Saturday night at Great Chief Park.

Calgary Wolfpack quarterback Darryl Leason threw for nearly 500 yards and seven touchdowns as the visitors romped past the Bucs 59-0 in an Alberta Football League contest.

The Red Deer secondary not only gave up a ton of yardage, but also dropped what appeared to be certain interceptions. Still, two members of the pass defence stood out, with safety Darren Stroshchein recording six solo and four assisted tackles, a knockdown and a 18-yard interception return, and cornerback Shaun Jardine racking up five solo and three assisted tackles, plus one knockdown.

The Bucs struggled offensively, as quarterback Josh Achtemichuk completed 15 of 28 passes for 172 yards. He also served up four interceptions.
Tailback Kirk Kroschinski led the Buccaneers with 42 yards rushing and 53 yards receiving, while wide receiver Jamie Blinkhorn turned in an electrifying 65-yard kickoff return.

The Buccaneers, 1-2 in AFL action this season, will host the Edmonton Stallions Saturday at 6 p.m. at Great Chief Park.

Monday, June 11
Vandals learn lesson from Leason
Larry Fisher
Monday June 11, 2007

The Calgary Wolfpack was out to make a statement, and in the process, gave the Lloydminster Vandals a reality check – hammering the home side 45-0 Saturday afternoon at Armstrong Field.
The five-time defending AFL champion Wolfpack, led by reigning league MVP Darryl Leason, were at the top of their game, dominating in every aspect. Leason put on a quarterbacking clinic, picking apart the Vandals stingy secondary for five touchdowns through the air to four different receivers and also calling his own number from short yardage to round out the scoring.
“We finally came up here and played almost mistake-free football,” said Leason, who completed 29 of 40 passes for more than 350 yards.
The Vandals, meanwhile, failed to follow up on last week’s impressive debut – a 28-22 win over the Edmonton Stallions. Their usually stellar defence left a lot to be desired against the Wolfpack, missing assignments and finding themselves a step behind more often than not, especially in the second half. The first half was fine – only trailing 14-0 at the midway point – but a combination of fatigue and frustration eventually caused the wheels to fall off.

“Calgary really stepped it up in the second half. Our defence had been on the field a long time and you could tell we were tiring out, and they just piled it on,” said defensive back Jeremy Tomlinson, who accounted for both Vandals interceptions. “They exposed all our weaknesses. A couple mistakes against a team of that calibre, they score a few easy touchdowns here and there, and all of the sudden it is a runaway.”
The Vandals’ new-look offence also struggled from start to finish, as quarterback Justin Kelly was under constant pressure, completing only a handful of short passes. The lone bright spot was running back Curtis Vetter, who rushed for roughly 230 all-purpose yards, including a 79-yard kick return following the Wolfpack’s first touchdown. The Vandals were unable to convert Vetter’s efforts into points, however, with Brad Ollen missing one of his two field-goal attempts.
“This is just one of those games where we realize we aren’t the king of the mountain,” said Vetter. “You have to keep putting the work in at practice because nothing is for granted in this league. There is a lot of good competition and you have to just keep plugging away.”
As disappointing as the lopsided loss was, the Vandals are trying not to lose any sleep over it, knowing they will live to play another day. It is back to the drawing board, however, as the Vandals prepare to butt heads with the rival Wainwright Longhorns Saturday at 4 p.m. at Armstrong Field.
“I’m already looking forward to that because I hate losing,” said Vandals coach Chris McKenna. “We aren’t really going to change a whole lot, we are just going to play better.
“It should be one heck of a football game.”

Friday, September 22
Calgary’s Wolfpack faces strong Hawkeyes in CMFL championship

By GREG MEACHEM Advocate sports editor

The Oshawa Hawkeyes are not front and centre in the Northern Football Conference individual statistics for the 2006 season.
But a perusal of the NFC team stats reveals the overall strength of the Hawkeyes, who will meet the Calgary Wolfpack in the Canadian senior men’s championship Saturday at 5 p.m. at Great Chief Park.“None of our guys are at the top of the league stats, but as a team we were No. 1 in both offence and defence,” Hawkeyes general manager Ian Bunting said Thursday. “A lot of our starters only play half the game. We have a lot of depth, we can rotate guys in and out.”

Oshawa finished third in the 11-team Ontario league. However, the Hawkeyes record of 6-2 and their placement in the regular-season standings was misleading.
“We should have been in first place but the city canceled one of our home games, which meant we had to forfeit that game,” said Bunting.

According to the GM, the Oshawa squad is adept at attacking both on the ground and through the air.“We like to mix it up,” he said. “We have several good running backs and receivers.”
Among the favourite targets of quarterback Chris Foster are Dave Beauleau and Phil Dixon, while fullback Rick Moore and halfbacks Derwin Phillips, Dave Dinnall and Evan Davis are productive runners.The Hawkeyes defence is anchored by linebacker Darren Fleming, the NFC defensive player of the year.
Experience is another strength of the NFC champs, who have only two rookies on their roster.

The Hawkeyes are in their sixth year of operation and are representing the NFC in the national championship contest for the first time.
“It’s been a building process,” said Bunting. “We had no wins during our first season and we made the playoffs before losing out in the opening round each of the last two years.“This is the first opportunity for our players to play for a Canadian championship and everyone is excited.”

The Wolfpack, meanwhile, know all about playing in the national final. The ‘Pack captured their fifth consecutive Alberta Football League title Sept. 10 with a 31-7 win over the Calgary Gators.

The Wolfpack were 11-0 during the 2006 season (including playoffs) and have captured two of the last three Canadian crowns, including last year.
The powerhouse squad is led by quarterback Darryl Leason, who was a standout at both the University of Calgary and U of Regina, and features a long list of players who have university experience and a defensive back — Brock Balog — who toiled with the B. C. Lions.

The Hawkeyes flew into Calgary Thursday morning and boarded a bus for Red Deer. The team was scheduled to practise at Great Chief Park today from noon to 3 p.m.
Notes: Tickets for the game are $5 apiece. Red Deer minor football players wearing their team jerseys will be admitted free of charge . . . A post-game cabaret will start at 9 p.m. at Festival Hall. Tickets are $15.

Tuesday, September 19
Hawkeyes search for gridiron glory
Oshawa ready for Canadian football final against Calgary Wolfpack

Sep 19, 2006
By Brian McNair

OSHAWA -- The Oshawa Hawkeyes began preparing for a showdown with the Calgary Wolfpack long before the teams won their respective league titles.

So says Ian Bunting, a key figure in creating the Oshawa senior football team in 2001 and the current general manager.

Bunting was confident right from the get-go this season that he had finally assembled the roster and coaching staff that would get the job done. The Hawkeyes did just that, finishing off a Northern Football Conference championship with a 20-17 road win over the Milton Marauders on Aug. 19.

As for the Wolfpack, their championship was never really in doubt, as they reeled off 11 straight convincing wins and claimed their fifth consecutive Alberta Football League championship. In the final, quarterback Darryl Leason threw for 353 yards and three touchdowns in a 31-7 victory over the Calgary Gators.

So, for Bunting anyway, this Saturday's national championship game in Red Deer is exactly as anticipated.

The question is: Can the Hawkeyes beat such a strong opponent on their own soil and under their own league rules (the Alberta league plays CFL-style three down rules as opposed to the NFC's four-down rules)?

To which Bunting would reply: why not?

"We've seen the things they can do and they're going to be formidable, but we've seen some things we think will help us," says Bunting, who saw the Wolfpack win the national championship in Hamilton last year. "I think we've got younger guys, better athletes and we're faster."

Addressing the specific challenges of playing away from home and under different rules, Bunting says the Hawkeyes will be ready.

"Home! What's home? Home's a practice field," Bunting joked, referring to the fact the Hawkeyes played only two games at Civic Stadium this season. "We're used to being on the road, so that doesn't bother us."

As for the rules, Bunting says his coaching staff, led by head coach Donovan Wright, have years of CFL experience and have been working hard in practice preparing. In fact, many of their offensive schemes are CFL-based.

On offence, the Hawkeyes are led by quarterback Chris Foster, who had an NFC-leading 103.6 rating, running backs Derwin Phillips and Evan Davies, who averaged 9.4 and 10.6 yards per carry respectively, and receiver Dave Beaulieu.

But, while this offence was the best Oshawa has ever had, it's the defence that has always made Hawkeye teams tick.

They'll have their hands full, too, with Leason, who put up eye-popping numbers in the Alberta league. He completed 267 of 431 passes (61.9%) for 3,824 yards and 49 touchdowns.

While respecting Leason's ability, Bunting says the Alberta league is nowhere near as deep as the NFC, and believes that the Hawkeyes' tough defence can contain him.

"He does tend to lob the ball a little bit on the longer passes," says Bunting. "I don't think they're going to beat us deep."

The team leaves for Red Deer Thursday morning and plays the big game on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Great Chief Park.

Winning a championship would be very gratifying for Bunting, who has made steady improvements to the team since 2001, but still hadn't experience the thrill of a playoff victory until this year.

"It took me two weeks to get over winning the (NFC) championship," he says. "Now to think that we have a shot at a Canadian championship, it's just phenomenal"

Tuesday, September 12
Wolfpack win league final
The Calgary Wolfpack captured a fifth consecutive Alberta Football League championship Sunday by whipping the Calgary Gators 31-7.
Led by quarterback Darryl Leason, the Wolfpack racked up 470 yards in offence. Leason completed 27 of 47 passes for 353 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Wolfpack will meet the Ontario champion Oshawa Hawkeyes in the Canadian title game Sept. 23 at 5 p.m. at Great Chief Park.

Wednesday, August 30
Wolfpack puts end to Driller gridiron season


Herald-Tribune sportswriter

The Grande Prairie Drillers 2006 Alberta Football League season came to a crashing halt Sunday in Calgary.

Taking on the first-place Calgary Wolfpack in the semifinal, a depleted Drillers squad withered under the scorching heat and was buried 61-6 at McMahon Stadium.

With merely 20 players making the trip south, the outcome, while disappointing, was to be expected, Drillers slotback/DB James Kostuk said Monday.

"It was pretty much exactly what we were expecting. The biggest downfall we had this weekend was numbers. We went down with a very short roster," said Kostuk, adding that the team was further hindered by the loss of two players - one being mainstay runningback Shane Morin - early on in the contest.

The Wolfpack meanwhile, had 40-plus players at their disposal.

The teams exchanged touchdowns early in the first quarter, then the wheels simply fell off as six Drillers had to play the game both ways.

The Drillers managed their only points when defensive lineman Tim Shamehorn scooped up a Wolfpack onside kick attempt and rumbled roughly 50 yards to make the score 7-6 in Calgary's favour.

"It makes it tough when you are playing a game that is so important and you have to exert yourself that hard," said Kostuk.

The Wolfpack will now look to win their fifth consecutive provincial senior men's football title Sept. 10, when they face the Calgary Gators in the AFL championship clash.

The Gators earned a berth in the final by downing the Edmonton Stallions 30-14 in the other semifinal Saturday in Edmonton.

With the temperature reaching 28C in Calgary Sunday, the Wolfpack burned the Drillers through the air, as pivot Darryl Leason connected on 16 of 23 passes for 332 yards and four touchdown strikes.

Three of those were caught by inside receiver Mike Leason, who finished with six receptions for 114 yards.

Wide receiver Hughes Audet also caught a TD, while runningback Rod Bailey and backup QB Hoan Mac each chipped in with rushing scores.

While the Wolfpack did not commit a turnover, the Drillers' offence coughed the ball up six times on four interceptions and a pair of fumbles.

Two of the picks thrown were returned for touchdowns, with Calgary linebacker Lazar Velev scoring on a 55-yard return, and defensive end Jim Lapointe scampering for a 70-yard return.

Calgary's ground game accounted for only 55 yards; the Wolfpack ran the ball just 12 times.

The Wolfpack also got a 26-yard field goal and a pair of singles from kicker Tom Dixon.

The lopsided loss aside, the Drillers have plenty of reasons to view their third AFL campaign as a whole as a success. They finished the regular season with a winning record (5-4) and played in their second-consecutive semi-final, after winning their first ever playoff game in Wainwright the previous weekend. (The Drillers got into last year's semi by earning a bye with a second-place record).

The focus will now shift to player recruitment and retention for 2007, Kostuk said.

"Overall, it was an unbelievable season," he said. "We made the semifinal and we had a huge quarter-final win and that was great for team morale. It's unfortunate how we ended.

"Next season, we just need to keep building on what we have. We really want to start recruiting and getting more guys to come out, because when it comes down to it, we have the talent in Grande Prairie and area and as long as we can get a little bit deeper bench ... we are going to continue to be a very successful football program."

Friday, August 25
Wolf tamers?
Drillers believe the unbeaten Wolfpack are beatable


Herald-Tribune sports editor

Unbeaten? Yes.

Unbeatable? Not in the eyes of the Grande Prairie Drillers.

Fresh off a first-round victory over the Wainwright Longhorns, it's deja-vu all over again for the senior men's football team as the Drillers head south to battle the Calgary Wolfpack - the same team that ended the Drillers' playoff run last year in the semifinals - at McMahon Stadium on Saturday.

And while the Wolfpack's unblemished 9-0 record that vaulted them to the top of the regular-season standings looks impressive, Drillers player/coach James Kostuk said he and his teammates aren't flinching in the face of those daunting stats.

"This is a 9-0 football team, but they don't scare us," said Kostuk. "Every time we've played them we've had success and it has come down to one or two errors that made the difference. That being said, they are a very fundamentally strong football, but we can beat them if we play old-fashioned Drillers' football."

Still, the Wolfpack have earned their perfect record.

The Cow Town crew racked up a whopping 401 points over nine regular season games - an average of 44 points a game. The next closest were the 7-1-1 Edmonton Stallions, who put up 355 points and gave up a league-low 84.

The Drillers had 198 points in nine games, an average of 33 per game, while surrendering 215.

The Drillers managed to score some payback on the Longhorns after Wainwright defeated them in the final regular-season game two weekends ago to steal away fourth place and home-field advantage for the opening round, but last Saturday's win came with hefty physical price tag.

"It was a physical game. It was hard-fought right to the very end," said Kostuk. "We know the Wolfpack are very physical. They're a strong team and we need to be playing our best football. Hopefully we'll have time to rest up and heal and be ready to play this weekend."

While banged up and bruised, Kostuk was confident the Drillers would be able to take a full squad to McMahon Stadium Saturday.

"We had no broken bones or anything serious. It's just a lot of bruises and those types of injuries, sprains. So at this time we can't see anyone not making the trip because of injuries.

"We'll be going full on Thursday (at practice). Hopefully people will be ready to practise and some of their injuries will be healed up a little bit."

The two teams sit at opposite ends of the province from one another, but both franchises have scripted a bit of history between each other since the Drillers joined the AFL in 2004.

"Last year we beat them in the regular season and then we lost to them in the semifinal. So this year we're hoping the tables have turned, they beat us the regular season and (hopefully) we're going to take it away from them in the semis," said Kostuk.

"It gives us a little extra motivation to play a little harder just because we have that history and it's been building in the last couple of years between our two clubs."

Monday, July 31
Leasons lace into Vandals
Larry Fisher
Monday July 31, 2006

Lloydminster Meridian Booster — It was another day at the office for Darryl Leason as his Calgary Wolfpack lit up the Lloydminster Vandals 29-10 Saturday at Armstrong Field.

Leason, a former third-string quarterback with the Edmonton Eskimos, completed 29 of 45 passes for 373 yards and four touchdowns – two of which his brother Mike was on the receiving end.

“The Vandals had the Number 1 defense coming in and we were expecting a tight battle, which is what they gave us,” said Darryl, a three-time Alberta Football League MVP. “They really pushed us and forced us to make some big plays, but credit my receivers for finding ways to get open, for winning a lot of one-on-one battles, and for coming up with some huge catches.”

At 32 years young, Leason picked apart the Vandals’ stingy secondary and proved he’s still got it. His performance was a sharp contrast to that of last year’s 32-22 Wolfpack win, where he threw six interceptions – two of which were returned for touchdowns – and only managed one major through the air.

“Last year Lloyd had our number, but this time we came in here and eliminated a lot of those mistakes,” said Darryl, who joked he might have 10 good years left in him. “Overall we did what we wanted to do on offense and things just worked out for us.”

The Wolfpack were as advertised – explosive offensively and capable of out-scoring opponents – in handing the Vandals their first home loss of the 2006 season, while at the same time remaining undefeated with a perfect 8-0 record.

The Vandals knew coming in they would need to hit double-digits and then some to knock off the first-place Wolfpack, however, they were unable to cap a drive with a major until late in the fourth quarter when fullback Brian Denniston rumbled in from seven yards out behind the lead block of Travis Levitsky.

Brad Ollen’s 35-yard field goal in the first quarter accounted for the Vandals’ only other scoring play, but there were plenty of bright spots on offence despite their inability to put points on the board.

Quarterback Jason Benjamin had another respectable outing – finishing the game 13 of 22 for 140 yards with one interception – considering he was without his top three targets in Ken Fisher, Darren Mokuruk and Heath Williamson. Stepping up with a big game in their absence was rookie wide-out Chad Krilow, who caught four passes for 39 yards and had two other receptions called back on offsides, which would have added another 39 yards and a touchdown to his stat-sheet. J.P. Debreuil, also in his first start, made a leaping highlight-reel grab for an 18-yard gain, while halfback Dirk Treptow rushed for 57 yards on 10 carries before leaving the game midway through the third quarter with an apparent neck injury. Denniston, who was filling in for Nathan Yanko, was handed the ball from then on, picking up 14 yards on seven carries to go along with the Vandals’ lone touchdown.

“We’re not devastated because we lost this game, this is a good team that we lost to and there were actually more positives than negatives out there,” said Vandals coach Chris McKenna. “The (Wolfpack) had been averaging 47 points a game and we kept them to 29, so that says a lot about our defense, and our offence deserves a pat on the back for their effort too.

“We were missing a bunch of our regulars, but we still moved the ball fairly well for the most part and the biggest thing was that Krilow and some of those guys that don’t typically see the field much got to play today and actually stepped up and showed us they can play.”

Although it will go down as a loss on their overall record, the Vandals have a lot to build on heading into their Week 9 tilt against the third-place Calgary Gators, who are coming off a 26-14 upset of the Wainwright Longhorns in Week 8. That win, combined with the Vandals’ loss, has made for a logjam in the AFL standings and it will all come down to this final weekend. As it stands, the Gators, Longhorns and Grande Prairie Drillers are in a three-way tie for third at 5-3, while the Vandals currently sit sixth and a point back with a 4-3-1 record. Fittingly, the Longhorns and Drillers will also square off in Week 9, so with a win in Calgary the Vandals would climb back into fourth – ahead of the Gators and the loser of that Wainwright-Grande Prairie game.

“We’re going there to win,” said McKenna. “That is a big game, it’s going to be the difference between (fourth) and sixth and obviously changes who we play (in the playoffs).”

Monday, July 17
Marauders gunned down by Wolfpack

By COLLIN GALLANT, Medicine Hat News
Jul 17, 2006, 23:09

The Medicine Hat Marauders won the stretcher count, but lost the ball game Saturday night 39-7 at the hands of the Calgary Wolfpack at the Methanex Bowl.
Calgary quarterback Darryl Leason fired five touchdown passes as part of a 25-for-45 passing performance that unofficially eclipsed 300 yards.

Medicine Hat’s offence needed a 50-yard strike in the dying minutes to top the century mark for total offence.
“They’re a good team. There’s no doubt about it,” said Marauders head coach Al Geib, after his team fell to 2-4 in Alberta Football League action.
“We played physically with them, and I’m proud of the boys.”
At this point, a winning record for the Marauders is not an impossibility. They travel to Calgary next Saturday to play the Gators, then host the Calgary Thunder and Red Deer Buccaneers to close out the season.
“It’s a matter of us doing it, not just saying it,” said Geib.

Early on Saturday, the Marauders won the physical battles with the four-time defending champion Wolfpack but took their beating on the scoreboard.
After two Leason TD passes in the first quarter, the Wolfpack lead 13-0 when Marauder Al Fieldberg returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards up the middle.
With four passing majors in the first half, the Wolfpack led 31-7 after 30 minutes, with a two-point convert, rouge, kickoff single, and safety thrown in there.
“We try to execute,” said Leason, whose been a part of the Wolfpack for four straight league titles. “Sometimes we know that the competition is not where we’d like it to be, but we have to go out and execute.
“(Medicine Hat) made some adjustments to take away the pass. They played a good second half.”

In the final 30 minutes the Marauders defence held strong in their red zone, forcing a trio of field goal attempts that all swung wide.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, however, an end-zone pass bounced out of the hands receiver Mike Leason (Darryl’s brother) and into the hands of Ron Burrell.
With two starting offensive linemen on the disabled list, Medicine Hat pivot Chris Page was sacked five times and was harassed all night.
Page completed just one of 12 passes before a 50-yard pass-and-run play to Ryan Getz brought the ball to the Calgary seven yard-line.
Two dropped balls in the end-zone and an outright incompletion left the score 39-7.

© Copyright by Medicine Hat

Sunday, July 16
Marauders face air assault

By COLLIN GALLANT, Medicine Hat News
Jul 15, 2006, 23:01

Coming off an ironman effort, the Medicine Hat Marauders will need to install a steel curtain for a chance of victory tonight.
The Marauders will host the Calgary Wolfpack (7 p.m. at the Methanex Bowl) and the league’s most dangerous offence.
“We’re just approaching it just like any other game,” said Marauders cornerback Al Fieldberg, who was one of 20 players who were available for last weekend’s slim 7-6 road win at the expansion Edmonton Seahawks.
With many players playing both ways in the win, the Marauders improved to 2-3 on the season.

The Wolfpack are 5-0 as quarterback Darryl Leason has tossed 24 touchdowns in five games and averaged 362 passing yards for an offence that has yet to score fewer than 37 points in a game.
“Their passing game is very good, but our secondary is one that we can keep them in check,” said Fieldberg.
“We have confidence in our team, when we have the guys show up.”
Against the Seahawks, a secondary combination of Fieldberg and Chris Lamberis picked off three passes. Medicine Hat running back Fotis Lamberis led the offence with 125 yards on the ground and the Marauders’ only touchdown.
Without a properly trained offensive line, Medicine Hat pivot Chris Page rarely went to the air and was sacked four times.
Leason’s college career saw stints with both the University of Calgary Dinosaurs and Regina Rams, and culminated with an appearance in the 2000 Vanier Cup national title game.
Regina lost to Ottawa by three points as Leason hit future CFL outstanding Canadian Jason Clermont for six catches worth 106 yards and a touchdown.
Leason, 33, was the Alberta Football League’s MVP from 2002-2005 as an all-star with the Wolfpack, who won the 2005 national senior title last September at Ivor Wynn Stadium in Hamilton.

Monday, June 26
Not enough: Drillers put up the numbers, but fall to high-powered Wolfpack
By Jeff Korenko

Herald-Tribune sportswriter

A 34-point effort by the Grande Prairie Drillers had been plenty sufficient for them to emerge victorious on three occasions thus far this year.

It wasn't nearly enough against the high-powered Calgary Wolfpack Saturday afternoon at McMahon Stadium in Calgary.

Despite racking up nearly 400 yards in total offence and counting majors in two of the three phases of the game, the Drillers simply could not find an answer in limiting the Wolfpack offence, as they dropped a 52-34 decision.

The Drillers first loss of the Alberta Football League season leaves them with a 3-1 record on the campaign, while the Wolfpack improved to a perfect 4-0, good for first place overall in the 10-team senior men's loop.

While both teams were able to move the ball smartly for the majority of the contest, errors by the Drillers' offence at critical times was the deciding factor in the outcome, said Grande Prairie slotback James Kostuk.

"(Calgary has) a really strong offence and I think the biggest difference in this game was they capitalized on all their attempts. We came up short in the red zone a few times and that was the difference in the football game," said Kostuk, who not only caught four passes for 55 yards, but returned a kickoff 93 yards for a major in the second quarter.

"Once you are playing a team at a high level like that, any small mistake is going to hurt you. We made a few small mistakes and they took advantage of it, that's for sure."

The second quarter proved to be the Drillers' undoing Saturday.

Trailing 7-6 - as the Pack managed merely one touchdown against a pair of Tyler Fulmek field goals in the opening quarter - the Drillers surrendered five touchdowns through the air to Calgary quarterback Darryl Leason to trail 42-20 at the halftime break.

The turning point, Kostuk said, came early in the quarter. With the Drillers trailing by a touchdown and in possession of the ball within the long shadow of the Wolfpack goalpost, they gambled on third down and turned the ball over with a drop on a catchable ball inside the Calgary 15-yard line.

The Wolfpack promptly drove the length of the field for another major and instead of a being in a tied football game, the Drillers found themselves down by a pair of scores.

Kostuk however, ran the ensuing kickoff back 93 yards for a touchdown, but Calgary responded once again on their next possession.

And two more after that.

In all, Leason completed 24 of 40 passes for 353 yards and seven majors.

"They definitely stuck to the passing game," said Kostuk.

Playing a zone defence, the Drillers probably gave the Wolfpack receivers a tad too much respect, he said, and Leason was able to pick the Drillers' secondary apart.

"If (Leason) has any room to get the ball in there he will do it. He's pretty accurate and he gets it off so quick."

Offensively, Drillers pivot Nathan Aldred was 8-of-17 for 142 yards - a far cry from the 300 yards he was averaging per game through the air coming into the contest. However, the Grande Prairie side managed to chew up 232 yards on the ground.

Aldred, who threw a five-yard touchdown to slotback Stu Schollardt, was sacked twice and ran six times for 75 yards before leaving late with a back injury after taking a late hit that Calgary was penalized for.

The injury didn't appear serious enough to have Aldred miss any further playing time, Kostuk said.

"We didn't have quite as much success this weekend passing as we normally do. That kind of hurt us a little bit," said Kostuk, adding Calgary pressured Aldred into scramble mode and hurried passes on numerous occasions.

"He didn't get quite as much time to make the passes he likes to make. He was a little bit more hurried and the receivers didn't get the time to get their patterns developed."

Receiver Jeff Binks, with a 17-yard gallop, and running back Brendan Urness, with a six-yard carry, had the other majors for the Drillers. Urness finished with 62 yards on nine carries, while Trevor Prichard added 51 yards on seven rushes.

Schollardt also caught a two-point convert from backup QB John Warr, while Fulmek booted two converts.

The Drillers' first loss came in their third road game in four weeks to open the season.

They now sit in second place with six points, two back of the Wolfpack and the Wainright Longhorns, who also improved to 4-0 with a 28-12 win over the Medicine Hat Marauders Saturday.

After a bye this week, the Drillers return to the field July 8, when they are in Lloydminster to take on the Vandals at Armstrong Field.

Saturday, June 24
On Par
By Jeff Korenko
Herald-Tribune sportswriter

GP Drillers know they can measure up to powerhouse Wolfpack

The Grande Prairie Drillers won't mind if their brains don't keep them from proving Saturday they indeed belong in the upper echelon of the Alberta Football League this season.

Having opened their third season in the senior men's loop with three successive wins, the Drillers are in Calgary this weekend to take on the vaunted four-time defending provincial and 2005 national-champion Wolfpack.

At stake is an early claim to the league's top spot, as both squads come into the affair with identical unblemished 3-0 records.

While the locals know they can play with the perennial championship contenders - having been one of the few teams to down them in the last couple of years with a 15-7 victory last July at Legion Field - what hasn't been forgotten is the 54-6 drubbing the Pack laid on them at home in the 2005 AFL semifinal game.

Such a discrepancy in outcomes can lead to indecisiveness in determining, if you let it, whether you really stack up, the Drillers were saying as they went through their final preparations last night at Kateri Mission Catholic school.

The Drillers don't intend to fall into the trap of buying into the stigma of having to take on a powerhouse Saturday night at McMahon Stadium, said running back Trevor Prichard.

But he knows that a good showing against them will once again illustrate his team deserves to mentioned in the same breath.

"When you are playing the provincial champion, the national champion, I think your goal is always to beat the best and this is the bar for everybody," said Prichard.

"I don't know if it's so much that they have so much firepower (or it's) intimidation, because they have won it so many times in the last six years. There's a psychological aspect to that as well, that goes in a lot of guysâ heads."

Although the Drillers have won their first three games - with two victories coming on the road - to sit tied atop the AFL standings with the Wolfpack and Wainwright Longhorns, the squad does not believe it has played its best over a full 60 minutes of football, Prichard said.

It will take such an effort to leave Calgary with its undefeated mark intact.

"I just hope our team can come out and play a full football game. We seem to come out really strong in the first half and it's almost like in the second half we rest up a bit or we play with them a little bit and let them get back in the game and then put them away. I would like to see a full football game out of our team, for sure.

"It's going to take 60 minutes of football and it's going to take our best football to beat these guys this weekend. They are not where they are because they are fluking it off."

Offensively, the Drillers have pretty much matched the Wolfpack stride for stride in every statistical category thus far this season.

Quarterback Nathan Aldred has averaged a little more than 300 yards through the air per game as the Drillers continue to run a balanced offence, while Wolfpack pivot Darryl Leason has been incredibly accurate - having completed 73 of 121, or 60 per cent of his passes - in racking up 986 yards and 12 touchdown strikes.

Confident they can stay with the Wolfpack offensively, the Drillers must play their best game of the year on the other side of the ball.

Continuing a style that likes to try to take away the opposition's strengths as it has thus far would correlate into the Drillers secondary clamping down Saturday and limiting Leason's options through the air, said safety Tyler Weber.

"We really have to step it up when it comes to the defensive backs. I think that's one of our weakest aspects of our defence this year - they have a really good, powerful offence when it comes to the pass. They have a really good quarterback and a couple of really good receivers, so I think if we can do that we can dominate and win the football game."

Winning this one game is not at all about exacting a form of payback after last year's setback in the semifinal, Weber said.

"I don't think it's about revenge. I just think last year we just had a weak game. We didn't do a lot of things we know we could have done a lot better and I think we all know that, so if we can just get on the horse and play like we can, I think we have a very good chance of beating these guys.

"I just think we are a better team than how we have been playing. We can play better football. We are obviously a good football team, but we are coming up on a very good team this week, so I guess we have to play a lot better to beat them."

Outlaws miss shot at national title

HAMILTON (Sep 26, 2005)

Quarterback Jeff Nosal didn't mince words after his Tri-City Outlaws
came within a touchdown of winning the Canadian Major Football League

"You're never satisfied making it to a national final," said Nosal after
Saturday's 20-14 loss to the Calgary Wolfpack at Ivor Wynne Stadium. "We
wanted to win. This leaves a bitter taste in your mouth."

It looked like the rout was on when the Outlaws went into the break down
14-1. But Tri-City adapted to the mighty Wolfpack -- national finalists
for the fifth consecutive year -- and had a chance to win in the last
minute of the game.

The Outlaws were on the Wolfpack 49-yard line with six seconds left on
the clock and needed a touchdown to win. Backup pivot Dean McLaren
connected with Nosal, who had moved over to receiver for the last play,
but the Waterloo native was hauled down about 20 yards shy of the end zone.

"No one likes to end the season on a losing note," said Nosal, a former
receiver for the University of Waterloo Warriors. "No one likes to lose,

"But we have a great group of guys. Being here gets the word out and
more players should come in, which will be good for the franchise in the

The Outlaws formed three years ago and cracked the Canadian final after
winning Ontario's Northern Football Conference last August.

This year's posse had teams on the run all season and upset the Oakville
Longhorns, Sault Ste. Marie Steelers and the Milton Marauders to reach
the national final.

The month break between the Northern championship and Saturday's game
hurt the Outlaws.

The team lost three key members when Jahmeeks Beckford and Shawn Ashe
returned to Wilfrid Laurier University and defensive back Brian Adams
headed to the University of Waterloo.

But the backups really stepped up and the entire team gave the throng of
about 200 supporters, who made the trek from Waterloo Region, much to
cheer about.

Head coach Doug Young liked the way his team adapted to the Wolfpack
after falling behind in the first two quarters.

"I thought we got thrown off our game plan a little bit and it took us
awhile to readjust," he said. "When we adjusted, I thought we slowed
them down.

"All in all . . . I thought they played hard, played well and showed
character. They did all I could really ask them to do."

Nosal was named the special teams player of the game after completing
five of eight passes for 114 yards, kicking three punts for 106 yards,
scrambling for 40 yards and snagging two tackles on defence.

Running back Cory Niereisel had 18 carries for 84 yards rushing and
scored two touchdowns. Nick Gallagher had 89 yards receiving.

On defence, linebacker Alistair Bailey had a key interception and
linebackers Gary Hudson and Jason Tomlinson and defensive back Will
Christie had solid games.


Wolfpack: Mike Leason TD, two-point convert, Robb Sherman TD, Darryl
Leason TD.

Outlaws: Cory Niereisel 2 TDs, Brad Moore convert, Jeff Nosal single.

The Calgary Wolfpack earned their second Canadian Senior Mens Football Championship in the last three years as they downed the Ontario Champion Tri-City Outlaws 20-14 in Hamilton on Saturday night at Ivor Wynne Stadium.

The Wolfpack scored on majors from Terry Eldridge, Mike Leason and Darryl Leason, with Mike Leason adding a 2 point convert.

The Outlaws were led by Cory Niereisel who had two short touchdown runs as well as a convert from Brad Moore and a punt single from Jeff Nosal.

The Alberta champs also won their other title in Oshawa in 2003 by downing the Oakville Longhorns 39-28.

The 2006 Championship will be held in Red Deer, Alberta.

'Pack wins title
Mon, August 29, 2005
Calgary Sun

The Calgary Wolfpack downed the Edmonton Stallions 42-28 yesterday in the provincial capital.

With the victory, the Wolfpack clinched the Alberta Football League championship, its fourth straight title.

The Wolfpack came out hard yesterday and built a big early lead but the Stallions clawed their way back and trailed only 20-14 at the half.

Wolfpack running back Rod Bailey had a huge game, carrying the ball 24 times for 200 yards and two touchdowns.

Bailey also scored a two-point convert and a 50-yard TD to round out a banner day.

Slotback Mike Leason had 10 catches for 136 yards, one touchdown and two, two-point converts.

Monday, August 22
Hungry like the Wolf
Calgary strikes early and often in 54-6 semifinal rout of Drillers


Herald-Tribune sportswriter

The last thing the Grande Prairie Drillers needed was a bad day at the office.

But with a berth in the Alberta Football League championship final on the line, that's exactly what they got as they hosted the Calgary Wolfpack in the AFL semifinal at Legion Field Sunday afternoon.

A slew of miscues, turnovers and penalty flags proved costly for the hosts and had the Wolfpack licking their chops, jumping to an early 27-0 lead that was never threatened as Calgary romped to a convincing 54-6 victory.

"Early on we were half a step away from being the team that would have competed with these guys," said Drillers quarterback Matt Bain, making his first start since injuring his ankle in the Drillers' season-opener back in June. "Procedure calls killed us and misreads on my part absolutely destroyed us.

"We shot ourselves in the foot more times than they beat us. We made them look awesome today. That said, I think that (Wolfpack) is probably the team that is going to win the whole thing."

Wolfpack fullback Matt Squires got the offence rolling with the game's first major with 2:13 left in the first quarter for a 7-0 lead.

Special teams vaulted the Wolfpack further ahead when Bain tossed up an interception that was turned into Calgary's second major for a 14-0 lead with 1:46 to go in the first quarter.

That pick-turned-major was a momentum killer for a Drillers team still in the game up to that point, said Bain.

"We had the right play called and everybody was place. If that linebacker had been a half-step slower against my back, that pass probably would have been on the money and he was gone," said Bain.

"It's something as small as that, but we're an emotional team and we get up and get going and rolling, but we also get down. So it's tough to hang on to things like that."

The Wolfpack continued to feast as Troy Donaldson hauled in a Darryl Leason pass on the Drillers' two-yard line.

It didn't take long for Calgary to punch through once again as running back Rod Bailey tucked the pigskin away and romped over the goal line for a 21-0 early in the second quarter.

Penalties deepened the hole as the hosts were whistled down for a pair of pass interference penalties that brought to the ball to Grande Prairie's goal line once again.

The Wolfpack made no mistake, cashing in as Squires rumbled in for his second major of the afternoon for a 27-0 lead with 12:11 remaining in the first half.

The quick start was key, said Leason.

"It's important to do that when you're on the road. In the playoffs anything can happen and you don't want to give them an advantage." he said. "We came right out there and put seven points on the board and our defence stepped up. It's awfully tough to fight back when you're down 14-0 three minutes into the game. The guys played well today and they played hard right to the end and our hats go off to them."

The Drillers finally managed to get the chains moving in the late stages of the second quarter and it set the stages for an odd end to the first half.

After a Drillers field goal attempt fell short, Wolfpack defensive back Kenny Watt attempted to run the ball out of the end zone, but fumbled the ball on the one-yard line.

Drillers receiver Brent Fulmek was Johnny-on-the-spot, pouncing on the live ball lying in the end zone to get the hosts on the board at the buzzer, trailing 27-6 at the half.

It was a slightly different Wolfpack team that took the field than the team the Drillers faced last month, said Drillers head coach Doug Stenberg.

"It was quite a bit different. There were a few more replacements than I thought. The tackles were a little bit different."

But the late score didn't faze the visitors when the teams hit the gridiron for the second half.

Instead, the Wolfpack opened up a 47-6 lead before the third quarter was over then added to that lead when Leason called his own number in the shadow of the Drillers goalposts to make it 54-6 to round out the scoring and more than ably seal the victory and trip to the AFL final.

"They looked to be in good shape. We just didn't execute for whatever reason today, plain and simple, and they brought it to us. All the credit to them," said Stenberg.

Despite posting a convincing score, Leason said his team's knowledge of the second-year Drillers was limited.

"We really don't know a whole lot about them. They don't travel well because when they do, a lot of guys have to stay at home and work, and they can only travel with 20 guys," he said.

"But when you play them at home, they have their full roster. They're in their second year (and) they're 7-2. Things are definitely looking good for them. I know they lost a few players to Juniors and that always hurts, but those guys will come back and eventually this team will be better for that. Our guys played well. It was a tough game. We went out there and executed and did the little things we had to do," he said.


Sunday's loss wraps up what has been a strong sophomore year for a Drillers team that went 7-2, grabbed second place and earned not only a first-round bye, but their first playoff home game.

"The bench was pretty positive most of the day trying to keep people up and keep us going," said Bain. "You start playing for pride and you make plays like at the end of half and come back. Then we give up a drive and we take our own emotion away.

"So a credit to them, they're a great football team. We just didn't get it done today."

Wednesday, July 20
Drillers move up 'another level' with close win over Wolfpack


Herald-Tribune sports editor

It was a short meeting, held in the moments between the final siren and the handshakes with the Calgary Wolfpack players.

So there probably wasn't much time to say very much when the Grande Prairie Drillers all took a knee after their 15-7 win Saturday over the defending Alberta Football League champions, but the topic was obvious.

"We basically said that we've risen to another level with this game and we told our defence that this one was theirs," said Drillers head coach Doug Stenberg.

The Wolfpack, winners of the league title for the last two years and the national champions in 2003, were considered a yardstick opponent for the Drillers, who are in the middle of their second season in the AFL.

The win improved the Drillers to 5-2 and moved them into a tie for second in the league with the Wolfpack. Ahead of them are the Edmonton Stallions at 7-0.

With things that close, it's not surprising that Saturday's game at Legion Field was the closest either team had been in this year.

Grande Prairie's Tyler Fulmek scored the first touchdown on a possession early in the first quarter.

His brother, Brent, got Grande Prairie's second major at the 11:15 mark of the second quarter, scampering in from 12 yards out after quarterback Nathan Aldred set things up with a 13-yard run on the previous down. A conversion made it 14-0 and that's the way the scoreboard would read at halftime as neither team was able to mount much offence as their respective defences snuffed out series after series.

Although the Wolfpack came out with a little more fire in its belly in the second half, defence was still the story.

With 8:33 left, and the Wolfpack on the Grande Prairie 18-yard line, a sack of quarterback Robb Sherman by Tyler Boyd of the Drillers ended one Calgary threat. Three minutes later, with the ball on the Driller 26-yard line, Grande Prairie defensive back Tyler Weber intercepted a pass on his team's goal line that ended another.

"The defence was on the field an awful lot today, but they never ever gave up," said Stenberg. "We bent a little bit but never ever broke. The offence did OK, we made a few little mistakes here and there. We could have had a couple more touchdowns, but this one we owe to the defence."

In the fourth quarter, Calgary finally got on the board with 8:19 left as Sherman called his own number and ran one in from one yard out.

But the Drillers responded a minute later, not with a touchdown, but with a 39-yard run by Wisam Asooz one play after the kickoff that proved to be one of the momentum-killers for Calgary. The Drillers would eventually work it down to the Calgary 20-yard line, where Tyler Fulmek's field-goal attempt with 5:27 left went wide.

In the next Calgary series, Wolfpack running back Rod Bailey ran it 24 yards to the Driller 34-yard line but his team would turn the ball over on downs again without threatening.

More wind was taken from the Wolfpack sails with three minutes left as Aldred ran a bootleg on his 52-yard line and then blasted a pass down the left sidelines to Cory Rigler, who leaped up in tight coverage and made a great catch at Calgary's 10-yard line.

Grande Prairie's single point was a rouge with 1:28 left as Tyler Fulmek's field-goal attempt missed but ripped through the endzone to make it 15-7.

"We needed at least one point on that, so that was key," said Stenberg. "I think we missed about three field goals and that doesn't usually happen, but that's OK, we'll take it."

Calgary would turn the ball over on downs once again before getting another chance after a Grande Prairie fumble, but they were kept hemmed in their own territory as the clock ticked down.

Calgary head coach Art Walker said his team, shortened to 24 players due to work commitments, came out flat in the first half because of the long trip from the south but was noticeably better in the second half.

"We never give up until the whistle blows at the end," he said. "Guys play right until the very end, 110 per cent every player. And we play as a team. Always have and always will."

One of those missing players was 2004 MVP and starting quarterback Darryl Leason, who served the second of a four-game suspension he received before the Canada Day break.

"The guy they had in there (Sherman) looked pretty good to me," said Stenberg. "He certainly runs well, whereas Darryl Leason is a great passer but he doesn't like to run but (Sherman) could sure boogie."

Walker tipped his hat to the Drillers, who lost 56-41 in a game last season to the Wolfpack.

"The biggest problem I've seen with the Drillers is when they travel and they have to go a long distance, they don't get enough guys going with them. But when they're at home, they're a team to be reckoned with," Walker said. "Last year, when we played them here, it was the best game that we had just about all year except going into the finals. They don't give up at home."

Weber, one of the Drillers defensive stalwarts on the night, said his team believes its taken a step up from last year and hopes the rest of the league knows it, too.

"We've got a lot of good football players up north here. We punch out lots of junior players and university players and we just want to show the rest of this league that we can compete and come out on top," he said. "It was a letdown when we lost to the Gators (24-10 on June 26). That's kind of where we wanted to start letting everybody in the league know that this is going to be a team that you're going to have to come out and compete with to win and it's just good to get this win. I hope we grab the next two wins, too."

Next action for the Drillers is Saturday when they travel to Red Deer for a game against the 1-4-1 Calgary Thunder.

Vandals robbed by Wolfpack
Josh Aldrich
Wednesday June 08, 2005

Lloydminster Meridian Booster — On paper, the Calgary Wolfpack should have had their way with the Lloydminster Vandals this past Saturday, but after 60 minutes they were the ones lucky to be leaving Armstrong Field with a win.
It was a game that had David and Goliath written all over it. The Vandals, just discovering a passing game in their second year of existence, put the entire Alberta Football League on notice by going toe-to-toe with the three-time defending AFL champs.
Despite the Vandals dropping the game 32-22, the message will not be lost in the defeat.
“This is a statement for the Vandals,” said linebacker Darrell Grassl. “This is to let the rest of the league know that we are not an expansion team anymore. We mean business and we want to win some games this year. We want to be a winning team this year.”
It had been a long time since the Wolfpack had been tested like this, not having lost a regular season game in three years. Getting a game like this out of an up-start franchise was hardly even a consideration before their bus left Calgary.
“We need to be challenged,” said Wolfpack quarterback Darryl Leason. “We win a lot of games 50-7, 50-1, 53-21 and we need to be challenged. If we get into the playoffs and they’re tight games, you get to the national championship game, you need that experience, to know what it feels like to come from behind to win the ball game and make the plays when you have to.”
The biggest difference between this year’s game and last year’s 52-3 blowout is under centre with the strong right arm of Heath Williamson.
The quarterback has given the Vandals an experienced option at the most critical position on the field and given the rest of the team an air of confidence.
“You’re quarterback is just amazing, he’s unbelievable,” said Wolfpack coach Art Walker. “You guys sucked it up big time today, you came to play. We expected an improved team from all of the new teams from last year.”
Williamson had a solid first half of football, leading the Vandals on several long drives and throwing for a touchdown at 10:23 of the second quarter. However, the Wolfpack blitzed him non-stop in the second half, slowing his pace as he finished 12-31 for 125 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
“I don’t think we came out here with any expectations. We just came out here trying to play our best. I think in all honesty we could have taken this game,” said Williamson. “I think I could have played better. I wanted to put a few more scores, but I think I did alright considering Calgary is the best team in the league.”
The defence also put up perhaps their strongest game in the team’s brief history. First, they posted the rare feat of actually holding the Wolfpack to under 40 points. Not only that, they also forced two-time league MVP Darryl Leason in to throwing six interceptions to just one touchdown. Leason actually threw more touchdowns to the Vandals than he did to his own teammates as safety Brad Ollen returned one from 25 yards out in the second quarter and Dave Cavanagh returned one from 15 yards out early in the fourth quarter.
Dirk Treptoe and Jeremy Tomlinson also had one pick each for the Vandals while Grassl had two, picking up a defensive game ball.
“I played one of the best games in all my life, and I know the rest of the team did too,” said Grassl. “We just came in with a plan and that was to pressure Leason into making mistakes and we did it.”
When the game is broken down, the Vandals will look back at the things that cost them. First there was an inability to pick up the outside linebacker coming on the blitz – he came virtually untouched on too many plays in the second half. There was also the points left off the board - two missed long field goals, a missed two-point conversion and a blocked extra point. And they will look at the big plays that killed them, three in particular – Williamson threw a pick at the end of the second quarter that was returned for a touchdown; a debatable pass interference call in the end zone that set Calgary up first and goal from the Vandals’ one yard line, when they had forced the Wolfpack into a third and long situation; and the Wolfpack’s Robb Sherman stealing the ball away from the Vandals Matt Loveseth in the end zone for their final touchdown.
In the end the Vandals knew this was their game for the taking. They will chalk it up to a learning experience and get ready to host the Calgary Gators at 4 p.m. this Saturday.
“We’re a second year team, but now we know we can compete,” said Vandals coach Leonard Lapierre. “You never know, we might wind up playing against these guys in the finals.”

Wolfpack too much for Buccaneers
Red Deer Express

The Red Deer Buccaneers home opener didn’t get off to the start they were hoping for, and they ended up digging a hole they weren’t able to get out of.

The Buc’s found themselves down 14 points before the defence even stepped on the field, and ended up falling 53-21, but head coach Jim Claggett was more than happy with the team’s effort.

“The Wolfpack is the premier team in this league so while we’re disappointed with the result, I am happy with how our boys played,” said Claggett.

“We just didn’t execute on a few occasions and they capitalized on them, but our boys never gave up and there are definitely some positives to take away from this game.”

On the defensive side of the ball, the Buc’s played quite well controlling the best offence in the league, but they just spent too much time on the field to keep them off the score board.

“I was very impressed with our defence. It is a new defence so obviously there were some rough spots but overall they handled the explosive Wolfpack offence pretty well,” said Claggett.

“Guys like Dave Henderson and Mike Clarkson played solid and with that leadership we should be in good shape as we battle the other teams in the league.”

On the offensive side of the ball, putting up 21 points against the best team in the league was a bright spot, but that number could have been higher if the Buc’s could have taken advantage of all of their opportunities.

“We did put up some points and that was good to see but had we not short circuited a couple of times we could have made things interesting,” said Claggett.

“A couple of turnovers hurt and an interception in their endzone spoiled a good opportunity. If we make good in those situations we really give this team a good game. But we showed we could move the ball against this team and that was very encouraging.”

A good sign for the Buccaneers was the performance of a few rookies.

Defensive back Wes Blinkhorn and brother, Jamie Blinkhorn who plays wide receiver, were solid in their Buccaneer debuts, while a number of other rookies stepped up, giving the coaching staff something to look forward to as the season progresses.

“The Blinkhorn boys played very well, as did Jon Blocksom and Riley Quance on the defensive side of the ball,” said Claggett.

“It was nice to see those boys play at that level against a team that is at the calibre of the Wolfpack. It bodes well for the rest of the season.”

Next up for the Buccaneers will be the Calgary Thunder next Saturday, and while the Buc’s beat them around last year, Claggett expects this game to be a good way to gauge where his team is at.

“We beat them around a bit last year so I’m sure they’ll have a hate on for us this year and they did some recruiting so they should be an improved team,” said Claggett.

“But I think this game will tell us more of a story about our team and where we are at.”

The Buc’s will head to Okotoks this Saturday and will return home to Great Chief June 11 to battle the Medicine Hat Marauders.

Wednesday, July 28
Vandals devoured by Wolfpack
It’s not often in a 52-3 score when the winning coach is disappointed in his team’s performance, and the losing side is thrilled with theirs.

Josh Aldrich

Lloydminster Meridian Booster — It’s not often in a 52-3 score when the winning coach is disappointed in his team’s performance, and the losing side is thrilled with theirs.
But when the expansion Lloydminster Vandals held the country’s most potent offence, the Calgary Wolfpack, to a season low this past Saturday, this was the result.
“Small victories for us in this game,” said Vandal’s co-founder and cornerback Jeremy Tomlinson. “We were going out and worrying about ourselves and not worrying about the score because how do you control something like that?”
“We didn’t play very good at all,” said Wolfpack coach Art Walker. “We played OK but we should have done a lot better than we did. This should be a wake-up call for the guys. We’ve got to be more consistent, and if we want to repeat what we did last year (winning the national championship), we have to play a lot better than we did today.”
The Vandals’ defence kept them in the game as long as it possibly could, as they trailed by just six points after the first quarter, bending but not breaking. However, that effort was erased in the second quarter as Calgary pulled away with 22 points to lead 28-3 at the half.
“We were tiring out and they were figuring us out,” said Tomlinson of the Vandal’s defence. “They knew after a while what we were going to be playing.”
Reigning Alberta Football League MVP Wolfpack quarterback Darryl Leason put up 474 yards through the air with three touchdowns and one interception, but he says it could have been more.
“We struggled,” said Leason. “We haven’t been having the best of practices and it showed on the field. The last month it’s been 12 to 15 guys showing up for practices and we play touch rather than putting on the pads and getting down to business. We were making mistakes out there. Offensively I think we had eight to 10 dropped passes and half of them should have been touchdowns.”
Calgary’s offence rolled in the second half, scoring 24 unanswered points.
Lloyd’s three points came off the leg of Brad Ollen as he connected from 17 yards out at 7:02 of the second quarter. He also missed one from 52 yards in the third quarter. But he was by far their biggest offensive weapon on the evening. It’s not often the kicker will account for the biggest play from scrimmage, but Ollen did just that, picking up 23 yards on a botched punt on a third and 20 in the second quarter.
“It was a low snap and I didn’t catch it cleanly, so I picked it up and had a look. I saw pressure from the right side and an opening to the left so I just took off,” said Ollen, who also kicks for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies. “I saw the first down marker where I had to get to and just made a few moves to get there and tried to get down.”
The Vandal’s offence was at its anemic worst, failing to generate anything or give the defence a rest in the 30 C heat.
“Even though they have a very good defence, we did not play very well offensively at all,” said Tomlinson. “That was one of our worst offensive games, from our point of view.”
The defence, by the way, was lead by Tomlinson who picked Leason early, which forced the QB to look to the other side of the field where Dirk Treptoe and Matt Loveseth patrolled. Considering the circumstances, they fought and battled all game an d did well for themselves coming up with several big pass defences.
“For not giving up 150 points I’m proud of our guys staying in as long as we did,” said Treptoe. “Still a little frustrating, but we’ve got to realize we’re just a first year team and they’re a six-year team, so we had a lot of positives that came out of this game.”
Lloydminster’s defensive effort grabbed the eye of Walker, and he sees bright outlook for the rookie team.
“The Vandals, they’re young, they’re fast and they’ve got a great future in this league,” said Walker. “They don’t have any large players, our O-line is usually pretty dominating, yet your guys pushed them around. Your guys will do really well, I’m impressed with your (defensive backs) – they’ll season well. They’re fast, they’re quick, they’ll do well in the future.”
The Vandals’ next action comes Aug. 8.

Monday, July 19
Buccaneers blasted by Wolfpack
Calgary Wolfpack 53 Red Deer 24
CALGARY - Red Deer Buccaneers head coach Jim Claggett knows to be the best in the Alberta Football League they need to beat the Calgary Wolfpack.
The Buccaneers still need some work to do that as a 53-24 loss to the defending Canadian champions Sunday showed.
"There's a reason why they're the best in the country and they showed it today," said Claggett. "Their offence is incredible. There's so many ways they can beat you. We're a good team, but we're not at their level yet."
The Bucs couldn't control Wolfpack quarterback Darryl Leason, who marched the ball at will.
"We went into the game with the idea of keeping the ball on offence as much as we could and try to keep their offence off the field," explained Claggett. "We had one excellent drive when we took the length of the field from our six. It took nine or 10 minutes off the clock, but we didn't have enough of those."
Quarterback Josh Achtemichuk capped the 104 yard march with a one-yard plunge. He also threw a touchdown to Brian Ritten on a nice 45-yard pass play. Achtemichuk finished hitting 16 of 32 passes for 204 yards while Ritten grabbed four balls for 105 yards.
Chris Harden added three field goals, two converts and a single on a 65-yard kickoff.
While the Bucs defence struggled free safety Clayton McReavey turned in a solid game with five unassisted tackles.
"It was a disappointing loss, but I'm sure we learned something and now we know where we have to be to be at that level," added Claggett.
The Buccaneers, 3-2, return home Saturday when they host the Calgary Thunder at 7 p.m. at Great Chief Park. "That's a huge game for us, if we want to finish near the top in the standings," said Claggett.

Monday, July 12
Keeping it close
Drillers make powerhouse Wolfpack work for it at Legion Field

Herald-Tribune sportswriter

It wasn't a win, but it wasn't a bad loss, either. Against the Calgary Wolfpack, that is a heckuva night.

The Grande Prairie Drillers lost 56-41 to the defending Alberta Football League and national senior men's champions Saturday at Legion Field, but there wasn't anyone on the home team that had their heads hanging down.

"They (Wolfpack) were saying in the handshakes that's the best game they've had all year," said quarterback Neil Wilson. "That's a credit to Grande Prairie and the team we're putting together here. Hopefully the fans will start coming out and really supporting us. That was a heckuva game and if I was a fan I would have loved to watch that one, that was good."

And the game could have been closer if the Drillers had managed to capitalize on two goal-line stands in the second half.

The Drillers met the Wolfpack major-for-major early on as receiver James Kostuk rumbled for a pair of touchdowns in the first quarter.

Grande Prairie continued to keep pace as Brian Trevelyan and Wisam Azooz notched the Drillers' third and fourth TDs of the afternoon, but a late half scoring blitz put the Wolfpack ahead for good.

Mike Leason, a popular target all night, hauled in a pass with 31 seconds left in the first half to pad the visitor's lead.

Calgary capitalized on the ensuing kickoff, aiming a short kick at the Drillers that Wolfpack defensive back Robb Sherman managed to pounce on in the ensuing scrum to hand Calgary possession in the final 30 seconds.

The Wolfpack made good with the turnover, going to the air one more time as wide receiver Brett Stevens hauled in the pigskin for another aerial major with nine seconds to go in the half.

The Drillers came out charging in the second half with an impressive run right to the shadow of the Wolfpack's goal post early in the third quarter.

The Calgary defensive line bent, but didn't break, turning the Drillers away and taking over on downs.

Leason added his second touchdown of the game for the only offence generated in the third quarter.

The Drillers engineered another drive to the Calgary goal line, but were denied once again with approximately five minutes left in the game.

Wilson conceded it was tough to see two goal line stances snuffed out at such a crucial juncture of the game.

"It is frustrating, but we're a new team. A lot of our guys are just learning to play football again and get all the kinks out. It's mistakes that happen, but we just learn from those and that's why we keep getting better each game," he said.

But the hosts refused to go away as Wilson found a seam and slipped through for a touchdown in the final five minutes before going to the air and finding the outstretched hands of Nathan Aldred in the final seconds of the match to round out the high-scoring affair.

Wilson was quick to credit the guys doing the grunt work in front of him.

"The offensive line had a hell of a game. Those guys marched that ball and owned them the whole game. It was the O-line the whole time and the you can't forget the defence," he said.

The view looked pretty good from the sidelines as well as head coach Doug Stenberg nodded in approval in response to his young club's biggest test of the year thus far.

"This was great. We enjoyed every second of it," said Stenberg. "We had one touchdown that was called off that we thought was a touchdown and we then we were down on their five-yard line and got stopped three other times. (With) a break here or there we could have won," he said.

The loss drops the Drillers to an even 2-2 in the early-going of the AFL season. The Wolfpack are now 4-0.

The Drillers are back at Legion Field this Saturday for the third of five straight home games as another Calgary squad, the Razorbacks, pay a visit.

Friday, July 9
Simply a powerhouse

Herald-Tribune sportswriter

Beware, the Wolf is at the door.

If there is a team to worry about in the Alberta Football League, it's the one that's coming to Grande Prairie to play the Drillers this weekend.

The Calgary Wolfpack are, quite simply, a powerhouse - a 3-0 football machine that also happens to be the defending 2003 senior men's national champion.

"We want to try and keep it as close as we can, but the main thing is to try and learn a few things and practise some of our new plays and that kind of thing," said Drillers head coach Doug Stenberg.

'Close games' and 'Wolfpack' haven't been uttered in the same sentence in the opening three games of the AFL season.

Their closest game so far this year was their season opener June 12 when they handed the Edmonton Stallions a 62-19 loss.

Since then, the Wolfpack feasted on the Calgary Razorbacks 57-7 on June 20 before picking the Medicine Hat Marauders right to the bone with a 70-0 spanking June 26.

Starting Wolfpack quarterback Darryl Leason enters Saturday's tilt with a 64.7 pass completion percentage with 75 completions on 116 attempts.

Running back Rod Bailey leads Calgary in the rushing department with 123 yards on 20 carries, while teammate and fellow running back Sean Ingram isn't too far back with 12 carries for 64 yards.

Slotback Mike Leason leads the Wolfpack with 20 pass receptions for 424 yards, an average of 21.2 yards per carry, and wide receiver Hugues Audet has hauled in 12 passes for 283 yards and four reception touchdowns.

Add it all up and it's an intimidating team that will line up with the Drillers at 6 p.m. Saturday at Legion Field.

The Drillers, however, have been enjoying some early success in their inaugural season in the AFL.

They sport a 2-1 record, with their last victory a 28-20 decision over the Calgary Thunder June 26.

The Drillers had last weekend off and used it to heal injuries and work on some new plays.

"Basically we've just been getting our receivers and our quarterback on the same page. They did well last game and are getting better every time. We've been putting in more stuff," said Stenberg. "Every game we get a little bit better, but it's definitely going to be a challenge this time around, but we'll do the best we can. They're looking forward to playing them, that's for sure."

Thanks to the break, it's a fairly healthy Drillers team that hits the field Saturday.

Starting quarterback Neil Wilson exited the June 26 game with a pulled muscle as backup Nathan Aldred took over at pivot.

But Stenberg said his starting quarterback was looking good in practice Tuesday night and was expected to be handed the ball Saturday night.

Monday, June 28
Marauders devoured whole by Wolfpack

Medicine Hat News

The gap between the defending Alberta Football League and Canadian senior men's football champions and an expansion team in its third game of existence was made abundantly clear, as the visiting Calgary Wolfpack roared to a 70-0 whitewash of the Marauders at the Methanex Bowl on Saturday night.

Calgary complemented its vast array of offensive weapons with a merciless defence that scored three second-half touchdowns on its own. But, more noticeably, the Wolfpack got into the heads of Geib's team.

"Some of our players thought (the Wolfpack) were gods, so they kind of quit," said the Marauders' head coach. "No doubt, they were in awe. That can happen in a game like this.

"The defence played well at times, but at times, (Calgary) picked us apart. If this is the best the league has to offer, then we've got to get a lot better."

"It was a learning experience," added Medicine Hat defensive back Dylan Armstrong. "We've got a lot of guys who haven't played that quality of players before."

Reigning AFL MVP Darryl Leason was well below his season passing averages by going 18-for-34 and 241 yards, after completing over 70 percent of his passes for 1,079 yards in his first two contests.

But he balanced out the weaker numbers by connecting for five touchdowns, two to his brother Mike.

The first came on a one-play, 15-yard drive after Marauders' punter Kevin Eld fumbled the snap from centre at the end of Medicine Hat's first possession of the game, and ended up kicking the ball where it lay at his feet.

Marauders' quarterback Chris Page tried to lead his team back, but was intercepted on his first pass attempt by Joey Whelen at the Wolfpack 52.

It was the beginning of an interminable night for the Medicine Hat pivot, who was harassed into a seven-for-30 passing performance for only 72 yards with a a staggering eight interceptions, two which were returned for touchdowns.

Calgary's third drive was another one-play stick of dynamite that blew up in Medicine Hat's face, as Rod Bailey took Leason's screen pass over the middle and rolled 37 yards to the end zone to make it 14-0.

Page was intercepted again by Robb Sherman, but Shane Maier gave the Marauders a rare chance for celebration, busting through to block a 31-yard field goal attempt by Stephen McLean.

The Wolfpack recovered from that in the second quarter, moving 54 yards in 10 plays, with Leason finishing the march by pulling off a 16-yard quarterback keeper on a third-and-four. Calgary was five-of-eight on third down conversions in the game, and didn't attempt a punt until early in the fourth quarter.

"We were frustrated with our offence not executing on second down, that's why we did a lot of gambling on third down," explained Leason.

Geib was not so much bothered by that as he was by Leason's onside kickoff following the touchdown, which was jumped on by his brother at the Medicine Hat 53.

"I know you've got to practice certain plays during a game," stewed Geib. "But what's the point? Were they were trying to prove they could score 70 on us?"

The Marauders were without five starters, including running back James Seeley, but three of those injured should be back after Medicine Hat's bye week to travel to Edmonton and face the Icemen on July 11.

Next home game for the Marauders is July 17 against the Calgary Gators.

Calgary Wolfpack Captures National Crown!
OSHAWA - September 20 The Calgary Wolfpack ended the Oakville Longhorns reign as Canadian Senior Football champions with a 39-28 victory in Oshawa, Ontario on Saturday night.

Riding the arm of Darryl Leason, who completed 35 of 57 passes, the Calgary unit also ended Oakville's 40 game winning streak as well.

Leason and the Calgary offence kept the ball for most of the first half as Darryl completed an amazing 25 of 40 passes that staked the Alberta squad to a 25-17 halftime lead.

Darryl's brother Mike scored 2 touchdowns and caught 11 of those 35 passes. Other Calgary majors were scored by Jason Novakowski, Terry Eldridge and Hugues Audet. Stephen MacLean booted field goals of 16 and 31 yards and added 3 converts.

For the Longhorns, who had downed the Wolfpack 41-0 in 2001 and 54-46 in 2002, N.F.C. Rookie of the Year Theon James led the way with 2 touchdowns while Joe Pereira recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a score. Dana Segin booted field goals of 23 and 43 yards and added 2 converts and Ray Skeete added a 2 point conversion.

The ' Pack ended up with 413 yards of net offence compared with 299 for the 'Horns. Leason was named the offensive player of the contest. Oakville's Wayne Sliwinski, with 9 tackles, 3 tackles for losses was cited as the defensive player of the game and Calgary's Stephen MacLean, who went 2 for 3 on field goals and added 3 converts earned special teams player honours.

2004 will see the National Championship contested in Alberta.

'Horns couldn't overcome adversity
Jon Kuiperij
Sep 24, 2003

Adversity doesn't build character, it reveals it.
This popular proverb, author unknown, probably sums up the Oakville Longhorns' loss Saturday night better than any box score or scoring summary.

Owners of a 40-game winning streak going into the Canadian major football championship game, the Longhorns responded poorly to their first major taste of adversity in some time.

The team's inability to deal with its hardship was a major factor in its 39-28 defeat at the hands of the Calgary Wolfpack.

Although the Longhorns led the game 17-9 midway through the second quarter, you could almost sense a frustration that they weren't dominating the way they've become accustomed to, what with their 11 consecutive provincial titles and three national titles.

And when Calgary exploded for 16 points in a four-minute span, you could feel the apprehension setting in on the Oakville sideline as players and coaches struggled with the concept of playing from behind.

"For us, it had been 40 games. I guess you learn how to win, but you've got to learn how to lose too," Longhorns' veteran quarterback Mark Demerling said.

Although Oakville narrowed the gap to five points with its opening drive of the third quarter, the wheels quickly fell off as an increasingly frustrated Longhorns offence had three two-and outs and a fumble on its next four possessions.

Demerling was pulled briefly in favour of backup QB Steve Nott, Calgary added a pair of touchdowns and the infighting began in the Oakville ranks.

"We play as a team," Calgary coach Art Walker said following the contest. "I noticed their guys were fighting with each other. We don't do that. We keep it up all the time."

It was almost as if the 40-game win streak, an accomplishment every Longhorn seemed precisely aware of, became Oakville's main detriment.

"Panic is a personal thing," said a reflective Demerling. "When you're in a situation like this, you ultimately see people's true characteristics.

"I'd rather just not lose, period," he added when asked if the team's prolonged success ultimately set up its demise.

"I think sometimes..." he said before pausing for several seconds. "I don't know how to answer that."

The frustration boiled over in the final minutes, the game out of reach and the loss beginning to sink in.

An Oakville receiver cursed out a photographer for being along the sidelines, the Longhorns took a foolish roughing-the-passer penalty and the berating of officials began in earnest.

Not to paint the entire Oakville team with the same brush, several of the Longhorns -- Demerling and head coach Pat McNerney in particular -- took the loss in stride.

"We hadn't really played a team like (Calgary and it made us) react a lot differently. It has happened before where we kind of fall apart, and we didn't regroup tonight," McNerney said.

"We didn't establish the run, we're playing three-down football (Oakville plays four downs in the NFC)... we're at a disadvantage coming out here.

Now the 40-gamer is over. Oakville has tasted defeat for the first time in years, and it obviously wasn't enjoyable.

"Sure it stings, especially when you have a talented team like we do. Everyone has to lose sometime," McNerney said. "I'm sure these guys aren't going to feel pain like this ever again."

Loss in final ends the Longhorns' 40-game win streak
Jon Kuiperij
Sep 24, 2003

Apparently the Oakville Longhorns are human, after all.
The Calgary Wolfpack provided the proof in Saturday's Canadian senior football championship contest, ending the Longhorns' 40-game winning streak with a 39-28 victory.

Oakville's defence and running game, the club's staples for more than a decade, were generally ineffective against the Wolfpack, who entered the national final with a 10-0 record this season.

Calgary quarterback Darryl Leason shredded the Longhorn secondary for 375 yards through the air, while Oakville's rushing trio of Derwin Phillips, Ray Skeete and Chad Kennedy were limited to a combined 81 yards on 17 carries.

Oakville actually led the contest 17-9 midway through the second quarter but was then oustcored 30-4 over a 30-minute span.

"Once you dig a hole for yourself, it's hard to get out. We're usually the ones filling those holes," said Longhorns head coach Pat McNerney. "This is a very difficult thing for myself and everyone else... it will take a lot to come back from this."

Oakville veteran quarterback Mark Demerling, concluding his 21st season in the Northern Football Conference, struggled to complete 13 of 27 passes for 231 yards and two scores. He also had a pass picked off late in the first half, setting up a Calgary touchdown.

"I put a lot of this on my shoulders for not having our offence put up more points," Demerling said. "They mixed up their coverages, they were able to effectively deal with our run game... we worked exceedingly hard but sometimes you've got to say the other guys did a good job."

Slotback Theon James was the lone bright spot for the Longhorns offence, catching six balls for 150 yards and a pair of majors.

The Wolfpack made no secret of their preference to throw the football, passing on their first 17 offensive plays and taking an early 9-3 lead on a 16-yard field goal and a 13-yard touchdown catch by Mike Leason.

Oakville responded with a two-play drive for a touchdown, capped by James' 56-yard reception. The speedster caught Demerling's pass near midfield, eluded a couple of defenders and bolted to the end zone.

Just over a minute later, the Longhorns tacked on another touchdown as Joe Pereira recovered a blocked punt in the end zone, giving Oakville a 17-9 lead. However, the Wolfpack responded with 16 unanswered points to end the half.

After a Dana Segin field goal pulled the Longhorns to 25-20 early in the third quarter, Darryl Leason tossed touchdown passes to Terry Elridge and Hugues Audet to put the game away. James caught his second touchdown, a 45-yard effort, with less than four minutes remaining in the game.

"We knew their pass defence was weak and their defensive backs were not up to the task of the receivers we had," Calgary coach Art Walker said. "We're not a running team. We have a QB who should be playing in the CFL so we pass and use the run just to keep them off guard."

The game, held at Oshawa's Civic Fields, was sweet redemption for Leason and his teammates, who fell 54-46 to the Longhorns in last year's Canadian championship.

"This year we knew we had to cut down our mistakes," said Leason, owner of three CIAU titles with the University of Regina Rams. "We still made some mistakes, but we had enough points on the board to hang on until the end. Our guys wanted it and they made the big plays when they had to."

Leason, a former pivot with the Edmonton Eskimos and Winnipeg Blue Bombers, finished 35-for-57 with four TD passes and an interception.

Mike Leason, Darryl's brother, caught 11 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns.

Wednesday, June 14
For The Love Of The Game
June 14, 2000
Mirror Sports Writer

Some guys just won't quit. Their high school or college football careers behind them, members of the Calgary Wolfpack and the Alberta Football League still have the fire inside that tells them to strap on the pads and hit the gridiron.

It is a pay-to-play scenario that sees lots of guys taking a shot at playing the game they love one more time.

"When a guy hits 23, unless he's good enough to make the CFL, there aren't many places to play full contact football," says Jim Lightfoot, president of the AFL.

"Your pretty much limited to flag football, which to us is sacrilegious."

The defending national champs, the Wolfpack- along with the Calgary Thunder, Calgary Gators and Edmonton Icemen- make up the Alberta Football League which is affiliated with the Canadian Senior Football League.

This year, they will play a nine-game regular season, followed by playoffs (if they finish first, second or third).

As well, they will travel to Montana on the Canada Day/Independance Day weekend to play an exhibition against a local semi-pro team.

"They're really hyping it the game down there," says Lightfoot.

The rules are the same as the CFL, except players are restricted from so-called cut blocks. This is a safety issue, preventing injuries that could cost a player his ability to work.

The team and the league get their players from all levels, with most having played high school, junior or university ball.

The Wolfpack's quarterback is former Regina Ram and Calgary Dino pivot Darryl Leason.

He says the level of play is impressive, and the league was the perfect venue to feed his competetive spirit.

"Anyone who is here is here because they love football and that keeps the level up," said Leason.

"Football is a different sport. You can play hockey or baseball as you get older, but not in football. We're lucky in Calgary to have this league."

Howard Gardener is the Wolfpack's designated utilty player. The former Calgary Colt says the attraction of the league is the social atmosphere surrounding the games.

"Everybody here is a lay-z-boy quarterback," said Gardener.

"It is great to play and then sit around and talk football."

"I like playing defence because, you can lay a lick on someone- really lay him out- then laugh about it with him later."

The Wolfpack and the AFL usually play their home games at McMahon Stadium but have been bumped for the first few weeks due to Stampeders training camp.

The league kicks off their 12th season Saturday, June 17 at Shouldice Park when the Edmonton Icemen visit the Wolfpack.

Monday, December 11
Storm comeback falls short
October 4, 1999
Bud Tolman
The Chronicle-Journal

The Thunder Bay Storm ran out of time Sunday in losing 36-27 to the Calgary Wolfpack in the Shrine Bowl Canadian Senior Football League championship game in Winnipeg.

The Storm fell behind the Wolfpack 36-7 after three quarters and then scored 20 unanswered points in the final quarter before the gun sounded to close the game, leaving a relieved Calgary team with the title.

"We were dissapointed, because we felt we had the team to win," said Storm manager and player Stan Alto. "It hurt to come this far and lose."

"Some guys finished their career with this game and wanted to go out winners."

Alto added it was tough, physical match, a physically painful loss.

"We lost so many players (to injuries) it wasn't funny," said Alto, who was one of the casualties, with a broken leg.

The Storm also lost in the title game last year to the Winnipeg Mustangs, getting beaten up pretty badly in that game too. But Alto said this wasn't a game of cheap hits, like last year.

"This (Wolfpack) is a class organization. They deserved to win."

The Storm jumped out of the gate quickly, marching down the Winnipeg Stadium field for the opening score. Quarterback Hank Manning and wide receiver Jason Byerley set it up with a 61-yard pass-and-run play. Manning then tossed eight yards to slotback Kelly Kohanski for the touchdown.

But the then the Thunder Bay crew fell into a funk, with the Wolfpack scoring 36 straight points before the Storm regrouped.

Kohanski added another touchdown on a short pass from Manning and Manning threw a pair of passes for scores to Byerley, a short one and one from 38 yards out.

The other Thunder Bay points came on a safety and a single by kicker Al Prokopchuk.

Alto says now the Thunder Bay team will be looking for another shot at the national title next year.

"We really improved a lot from last year," Alto said. "I'm really proud of these guys and proud to be on this team."

"The word (after Sunday's game) was we'll be there next year. We're looking forward to another shot at it. We've got a good nucleus on this team and will be looking for some other players to fill in."

Monday, December 11
Wolfpack devour Storm in final - Regina brothers power Calgary
October 4, 1999
Paul Edmonds
Winnipeg Sun

The Canadian Senior Football League championship could really be described as a tale of four cities.

While the game was contested by Calgary and Thunder Bay teams yesterday afternoon, it was two brothers from Regina who dominated the game in Winnipeg.

Quarterback Darryl Leason and his younger brother, slotback Mike, combined for four touchdowns as the Calgary Wolfpack captured the 1999 Shrine Bowl with a 36-27 victory over the Thunder Bay Storm at Winnipeg Stadium.

The pair played pitch and catch in the first half for two of Calgary's five majors, before Darryl scampered one yard on a keeper for another touchdown to put the Wolfpack in front 21-7 at halftime.

"This was fun today," said Darryl, 25, a former junior standout with the Regina Rams. "Mike is probably one of the best guys at reading coverages and finding holes, and I was able to get the ball to him nice and early. It worked out well."

The elder Leason joined the Wolpack midway through this season after playing for two years with the University of Calgary Dinosaurs.

After a recent falling out with a Dinosaus coach, the former starting pivot decided to leave the team and take a year off from university football. The decision had a trickle down effect as Mike followed his brother's lead after one season with the Dinos.

Thunder Bay did make yesterday's game interesting with an offensive push in the final quarter. Receiver Jason Byerley caught three touchdown passes in the game, including two in the fourth, as the Storm scored 20 points in the quarter.

But dropped passes and penalties hindered the Eastern Conference champs and their quest for the league title before about 100 fans.

Although Winnipeg's chances to participate in the championship game ended when the Winnipeg Rods lost to the Storm in the playoffs, the city could become the permanent site of the Shrine Bowl. Its geographical location makes it a natural neutral site.

"Winnipeg is the midway point of the country. It's a perfect football town with a great venue so why not do it here (every year)," said CSFL executive director Barry Wall.

"We still have to find our niche. It's going to take some time for this league to take off, but there's a lot of player interest and now it's the fans and corporate sponsors we're after next."

Monday, December 11
Storm to hit Winnipeg
September 28, 1999
Bud Tolman
The Chronicle-Journal

There'll be a Storm after all this weekend in Winnipeg.

The Calgary Wolfpack beat its crosstown rival Gators 17-2 in the Western Division final of the Canadian Senior Football League and now will kick off against the Thunder Bay Storm in the national title match Sunday in Winnipeg.

The Gators earlier said if they won the west title they wouldn't make the trip to Winnipeg. And the loss to the Wolfpack was a sort of an upset.

"They were 6-0 in league play this season," Wolfpack coach Jim Lightfoot said, in a phone call to Calgary Monday evening. "But our two games were close."

"In our last regular season game we were leading 7-6 with about two minutes to play. But we tried a pass for a first down and they intercepted it and ran it in for a touchdown."

"So, just a bit of an upset."

Lightfoot was born in Thunder Bay and lived his first eight years here before his family moved to Calgary. He played high school and junior football before joining the Wolfpack in its inaugural senior season in 1989.

The team has won six league crowns since then, the last one coming Sunday when it reclaimed the title the Gators took from the players last year.

With Sunday's national title game only the second for the fledgling CSFL, Lightfoot says he's looking forward to his team's first trip to a national.

He added he's bringing a solid team - a big team with speed.

"We have an outstanding tailback in Ken Eslinger, who set a national college record two years ago. He scored 5 touchdowns in one game for the Calgary Dinos against the UBC Thunderbirds.

"And our quarterback was the starting QB for the Dinos last year. He's pretty good too."

"I think we have good mix of run and pass. We have a large offensive line, averaging about 305 pounds. We like smash mouth football."

All that and Lightfoot adds his defence has been the core of the team this season.

"Our defence has allowed just seven points our last four games. They've been really solid, with good speed and some strong linebackers."

The game sunday in Winnipeg is scheduled to begin at 3pm. EST.

Monday, December 11
Mustangs kick up Storm
Saturday October 2, 1999
Jim Bender
Winnipeg Sun

The wrong club has been declared Eastern champions of the senior gridiron, it's chief opponent protested on the eve of the Canadian Senior Football League's first East-West championship match.

The Thunder Bay Storm, who got the nod as the eastern rep, will play the Calgary Wolfpack in the Shrine Bowl Championship at Winnipeg Stadium tomorrow at 1 p.m.

But the Winnipeg Senior Mustangs believe they earned the eastern title.

"I'm frustrated and angry," said Mustangs manager Otto Gebhardt. "They're advertising the championship game with Thunder Bay in it, which I think is wrong because we can beat Thunder Bay any time."

The problem arose from the Mustang's refusal to play a pair of games in Thunder Bay after complications due to a re-jigged regular season schedule after the St. Vital Bulldogs folded.

Both the Mustangs and Storm finished the season atop the league with identical 3-1 records, but the Mustangs should have gotten first place by virtue of a better points for and against record.

"We should have finished first and gotten the bye into the final," Gebhardt said. "So, why should we go to Thunder Bay?"

But because the Mustangs defaulted their last regular season match in Thunder Bay, the Storm were awarded first. And when the Mustangs refused to travel to Thunder Bay for the playoffs, the third place Winnipeg Rods went instead and lost.

"They bowed out because they refused to travel to Thunder Bay," said CSFL executive director Barry Wall, who made the final decision without calling a league meeting. "But it's a very messy situation where we tried to please everybody and ended up pleasing nobody."

The Mustanged had offered to pay the Storm $500 to play the game in Winnipeg and were under the impression that all concerned had agreed.

"Legally, there's nothing we can do," Gebhardt said. "But we really feel jobbed here. Barry's actually done an excellent job with the way he's kept the league going, except that we're all kept in the dark about his decisions."

"We still want to be in the league, but under different terms."

Wall, by the way, is working on both a major corporate sponsorship and a merger with the Northern Football League in Ontario for next season.