Central Alberta Buccaneers set for 20th season in Alberta Football League – Red Deer Advocate

The Central Alberta Buccaneers, defending champions of the Alberta Football League (AFL), return to the field with a new roster.

Of their 48-man squad, they will only have 10 returning players from the Championship squad.

Bucs general manager Mike Wikinson has explained that their goal for the upcoming season, which kicked off on Saturday against the Airdrie Irish, would be another Championship appearance.

“We have a lot of good things happening here with the team because a lot of the players that play with us are local players from central Alberta. Whether it’s Sylvan Lake, Stettler, Ponoka, all kinds of guys who grew up in the area playing football and are looking to continue that game going forward,” he said. “What we would like to see from these players is to see them grow, to see the team grow with them, especially for this large number of newcomers to the club.”

Some of the new players recruited to the squad haven’t played in the game since before the pandemic, but there are also older men in their late 20s or early 30s who haven’t played since. junior or college and really wanted to get back in the game. They also have Americans, including defensive tackle Jordan Howard, who came to Canada from Nashville for the first time.

“I think we’re going to be really good, we’re going to be competitive in the league. We have a young quarterback Brett Bylsma, he just finished his degrees right now and we’re excited to see what he can do. He has great accuracy as a quarterback, knows his games inside out, so it will be exciting to watch him grow in his football career there,” Wilkinson said.

Last year the Buccaneers won the first championship in franchise history and this season they are celebrating 20 years since their inception. In the 90s, the Red Deer Sooners won four championships before the Buccaneers were created.

Wilkinson explained winning it all last year was an experience like no other, having all of his fans at Great Chief Park to cheer them on.

“There was a moment when the crowd was completely alive, cheering and shouting. The other team had to clap to signal to snap the ball because they couldn’t communicate with each other,” he added.

The Buccaneers won’t play their first home game of the season until July 9 to take on top flight Edmonton. They will play their first three road games in Airdrie, Fort McMurray and Calgary. However, they are looking forward to an action-packed July at Great Chief Park, playing Edmonton, Peace Country and Cold Lake.

The chief executive said they have things planned for this season’s home games as they celebrate 20 years in the AFL. Wilkinson said that made them the second-oldest team in the league, which is a big step to take.

“It is certainly in this league that it is certain. I mean talking to guys who’ve been there 15 to 20 years in the AFL they remember the team they started playing with and then they played for three other teams because eventually things happen and leaders change and schedules fold and then reappear as different clubs,” he said. “Even as early as 2017 the league itself had 10 teams and now we’re down to seven, so just one great pat on the back to celebrate 20 years as an organization.”

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