By Britton Ledingham, Airdrie Echo – M
The Airdrie Irish, who sat seventh in league had a closer than expected game against the third place Central Alberta Buccaneers last weekend.
But, with home advantage at Ed Eggerer Field on Aug. 15, the Alberta Football League’s Irish hung close and tied up the game at 18 points with a field goal by Steve McLean with minutes remaining.
Moments later the Bucs responded with a touchdown to take the wind out of the local’s sails and finished the game 25-18.
“The game was a lot closer than everybody expected it to be,” said Irish slotback Daniel Sparks. “It hurts that the game was so close and you do lose it within the last three minutes.”
Coach Rob Geissmann agreed with Sparks and noted the Irish had more depth in their last game of the season.
“We got a little bit of a passing game going, which I don’t think they expected,” said the coach of the local team, which finished the inaugural season with a 2-6 record.
Geissmann said the addition of quarterback Wes White helped free up receiver Chad Murray from the passing role to add another threat to the Buccaneers, splitting coverage between Murray, Sparks and Alex Saretsky.
“I think we sent a message today that this team has come a very long way since the beginning of the season,” said Geissmann.
Geissmann noted contributions from several players, including Irish wide receiver and defensive back Saretsky, who had several interceptions in the game.
“We’re starting to become a very well-rounded team,” he said, noting he is looking ahead to next year and wanting to recruit more local talent.
Sparks carried both touchdowns for the Irish but didn’t take the credit for making the game tight.
“My two touchdowns that I had today weren’t just me,” said the slotback.
“I had great blocking from the other receivers and linemen. The quarterback [White] threw two excellent balls to me and I just happened to be the one to catch them and take them all the way.”
The Buccaneers took a barrage of penalties, losing yards, which the Irish capitalized on, said Geissmann.
“I think they expected to just come in and handle us,” said Geissmann. “When that didn’t happen, when they just weren’t taking control of the game and dominating us, I think they started to get frustrated.”
Geissmann said most of the coaching staff plan on returning for the team’s second season in 2016.
“The only thing we can do is look forward to next year and think it’s going to be a better season for us,” said Geissmann.
Both clubs raised funds for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation in the final home game of the season, raising almost $2,000 for the cause.