The Central Alberta Buccaneers surrendered a touchdown with 2:07 left in their regular season finale to eventually fall 35-17 to the Fort McMurray Monarchs on Saturday night at Great Chief Park.
Quarterback Brandon Leyh threw two touchdowns in the first half, connecting with Ben Hnatiuk and Tylor Johannesson.
By halftime, the Bucs led 14-9.
About five minutes into the third quarter, Bucs quarterback Brandon Leyh took a hard hit to the back on a run. Leyh required attention from the training staff and lay on the field for several minutes. He eventually walked off the field on his own.
“I think we win by a pretty decent amount if our quarterback stays healthy. He’s the best player in the league and obviously makes us go. Unfortunately the guy that came in is an athlete but he doesn’t get a lot of practice reps … and our backup’s actually hurt. So that hurt us,” said Johannesson.
“Our defence held us in there and … we couldn’t score points.”
Josh Blanchard took over at quarterback for the Buccaneers.
Johannesson extended the lead further with a field goal, making it 17-9. Listed as a defensive back, he played on offence, defence and special teams.
“We unfortunately had a lot of injuries. We’ve had a lot of guys get hurt. We started with probably six of the best receivers in the league and we lost four of them,” he said.
“I feel like I’m good enough shape. I think if it was hot, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. It was a plan and I had a lot of fun.”
With the Bucs offence sputtering, a Monarchs touchdown early in the fourth quarter cut the lead to 17-15.
Late in the quarter with Fort McMurray threatening to score again, the Bucs appeared to sack quarterback Karsten Miller, forcing a fumble that would’ve pushed the Monarchs back near the Central Alberta 45-yard line.
"I think at that point it was tough because we needed that," Johannesson said. "We made a big play and then they kind of sucked the wind out of our sails. The guys were just battling so hard."
The play was ruled an incomplete pass instead and the Monarchs marched on to take a 22-17 lead.
Fort McMurray added one more touchdown with 1:12 remaining for insurance, and another with three seconds left.
With the win, Fort McMurray secured first place in the Alberta Football League with an 8-0 record.
The Bucs finish the regular season 6-2 and will host a semifinal game next Saturday.