By Britton Ledingham, Airdrie Echo
The Airdrie Irish football team is readying for the first game of the season on May 28 when it visits the Lloydminster Vandals.
Head coach Sean Stewart started putting the players through their paces in the first outdoor practice of the year on Bert Church High School’s field, April 30.
“Guys are excited, guys are ready to go,” said Stewart. “I was very happy with what I saw day one.”
Stewart is stepping into the bench boss role for the team’s 2015-debut, taking over from coach Rob Geissmann.
Stewart said he’s training his players on a different playbook from what he called last year’s “basic” one, which resulted in a 2-6 record.
“We’ve got different schemes,” he said. “[We] want to make opponents make mistakes.”
Stewart said fans can expect movement on the offence and disguised plays on defence to keep the opponents off-guard.
“We’re trying to get everybody to dance on the defensive side of the ball, so nobody knows where they’re lining up,” he said. “We’re trying to use the scheme as an extra player.”
The Irish have several new players with Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) backgrounds, including 2015 University of Calgary Dinos linebacker Anton Bellot.
“It’s definitely going to help us,” said Stewart. “This league itself is getting a lot better. We have a lot more CIS guys coming in, a lot more junior guys coming in, so the talent pool itself in the whole league is taking a couple steps up over the last couple of years.”
The roster hadn’t been finalized as of press time and President Matt Squires said there has been numerous changes, noting the Alberta Football League season team is still recruiting.
He expects some players to join the men’s team following cuts from the Dinos and the Calgary Colts junior camps in the last two weeks.
Squires noted competing with the Irish is a gives players right out of high school the chance to strengthen their skills.
Bert Church tailback Josh Bromfield has committed to play with the Irish following his senior year, and Chestermere native, and Airdrie Northern Raiders alumnus Morgan Hides is looking to help fill the quarterback role for the team alongside George McDougall alumnus Jordan Groves.
The Irish will hit the turf for the green and gold intersquad match at noon May 15 at Ed Eggerer Field (behind Genesis Place).
The team visits the Lloydminster Vandals, May 28 for the season opener. They are also scheduled to visit the Edmonton Raiders, June 4.
The Irish is scheduled to host four home games in a row this season.
The Fort McMurray Monarchs visit at 5 p.m., June 11, the Calgary Wolfpack at 3 p.m., June 19; the St. Albert Stars at 3 p.m., June 25; and the Calgary Gators at 3 p.m., July 9. The Irish wrap up the season visiting the Grande Prairie Drillers on July 16 and the Central Alberta Buccaneers in Lacombe on July 23.