An outstanding 2022 season for the Airdrie Irish has led the Alberta Football League to present a pair of top awards to the club.
For the second consecutive year, the Irish have been named the AFL's Organization of the Year. Running back and Team President Connor Lutz was happy to be recognized by the AFL for the work they've put into building a solid organization.
"I think it really demonstrates what we've invested in as an organization, trying to build that brand and be a team and organization that the players want to play for. It means a lot to get that recognition from the league that we're putting in the time and resources to truly build the organization and be a leader within the league."
The other league award went to Anton Bellot who was named 2022 AFL Coach of the Year. Lutz says the Irish head honcho truly prides himself on being a player's coach and stands out because of that.
"I think the biggest thing is Anton's leadership and demeanor as a head coach. He has a really good relationship with the players and builds an individual relationship with each of the guys. I think it's pretty apparent outside of the organizations that he's very well respected by the players."
While that's all very important, Lutz says it's been Bellot's ability to put together a tight, cohesive coaching staff that has really set him apart in league circles.
"I think the fact that he's been able to bring this staff together. We have pretty well a full coaching staff with an offensive coordinator, a receiver's coach, a linebacker's coach, and when you see that outside of the organization you can really see how much time and effort's been put into building that team and investing in the players."
The AFL also selected several Irish players as all-stars this season. Jacob Williams was named the first team all-star slotback. Williams was also chosen by the Irish as their Offensive Player of the Year and was the team's nominee for the same award in the AFL. Ty Bessette led the Irish in nearly every defensive category and for that reason was named Defensive Player of the Year by Airdrie and represented the team as their AFL nominee.
Offensive tackle Zach Horne was also named a first-team league all-star, as was offensive guard Billy Duffy. Getting second-team all-star honours were offensive tackle Quinn Macdonald, defensive tackle Jesiah Ingram, kick return specialist Peter Enoka, punter James Balsdon and placekicker Andrew Sennyah.
As for the other team awards, Enoka was also selected Special Teams Player of the Year by the Irish and Helder De Medeiros was named Lineman of the Year.
The Irish also named a pair of Rookies of the Year with Quinn Macdonald picking up the offensive award while Xavier Dalton was chosen as the top defensive rookie. Both were 18-year-old starters for the Irish this season.
Max Cragg was recognized as being the Most Improved Player of the Year in Airdrie. Cragg moved to the city to continue his playing career and, while he did that, he got an even bigger award when he scored the first touchdown of his career in the Irish playoff game with Edmonton.
Finally, TJ Grabia took home the Shamrock Award for being the player who best demonstrates the Irish team culture. According to Lutz, Grabia was only absent from two or three practices in the entire season, even though he lives in Edmonton. Lutz says Grabia considered the Irish too important to worry about having to spend $2.00 a litre for gas to get to practice.
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