Thursday, Jul 06, 2017 06:00 am
By: Andrew Halipchuk
The Airdrie Irish’s three-year struggle to find an experienced quarterback behind centre may have come to an end, with Andrew Stannex stepping in and making an immediate impact.
Stannex has spent the last 11 seasons playing for the Central Alberta Buccaneers in the Alberta Football League (AFL).
“The Buccaneers were a great team to be around, but I couldn’t see myself going back,” Stannex said. “(The Irish) has all the pieces and a great coaching staff and that is something very rare. The coaching staff was a big (factor) for me.”
Stannex added the team presented him the opportunity to be a leader and mentor for the young squad and help the team progress in the league.
“There are some good quarterbacks on the team, they’re just young,” Stannex said. “Some of these younger kids can run around and throw the ball better than me. But the biggest thing is when they get into a game, they deal with a lot of pressure and haven’t had time to sit behind somebody and see what people do to deal with that pressure.”
The 29-year-old said he had intentions of putting an end to his football career following the conclusion of his 11-year tenure with the Buccaneers, but found himself itching to return to the gridiron following a year of schooling at the University of Calgary.
Although he has predominantly played quarterback during his time in the AFL, Stannex was not always a play-caller. He started out as a receiver during his high school years in Innisfail as a member of the Edmonton Huskies in the Canadian Junior Football League, as well as in his first season with the Buccaneers.
“(Early on), it was a lot of zone read plays and running around the field and not really throwing too much,” Stannex said. “It was hard to work in the throw mechanics at that time. I have played some good players with (U SPORTS) experience, so being able to learn from them and garner that shaped me into what I am now.”
Stannex intended to join the Irish in May, but couldn’t commit to the practice and game schedule early on, so he joined the team prior to its fourth game of the season June 17 against the Calgary Gators.
Despite not winning his first game as a member of the Irish, Stannex gave the team some sound play behind centre and helped keep the game close against the threatening Gators.
In his second game June 24 against the Grande Prairie Drillers, Stannex helped lead the Irish to its second win of the campaign, knocking off the Drillers 44-13 and getting the Irish to 2-3, moving the team into fifth place in the league.
Stannex said the systems in place and talent level was there for a successful team, but his experience has helped it improve immensely in two games and the team now has a newfound confidence.
“I think with the talent that we have, we can probably win out against anybody,” Stannex said.
With three games left, Stannex and the rest of the Irish have a chance at putting together the teams’ first winning season in franchise history, and can make a push for the post-season.
The Irish season continues July 8 when the 3-2 Lloydminster Vandals visits the Irish. Game time is scheduled for 3 p.m. at Ed Eggerer Athletic Park.