The Airdrie Irish finished the Alberta Football League regular season on a high note yesterday (July 23) travelling to Fort McMurray and crushing the Monarchs 46 - 8.
The Irish end the year with a 4-1-1 record, in a second-place tie with the Edmonton Elite. That means, for the first time in team history, the Irish will be hosting an AFL playoff game in Airdrie, although it still hasn't been determined who they'll play, or when the game will go.
As for yesterday's decisive win, Team President Connor Lutz says, despite the fact they were missing a number of key pieces in their roster, the remainder of the team really came through.
"We had guys step up the way we expected all season. It really exemplified our depth and ability to execute. Our run game continued to be a strong element."
Lutz says, as the score might indicate, that the club played well on both sides of the ball. The Airdrie offense piled up the points and the defense didn't let the Monarchs get rolling.
"The defense played great. We had a couple of guys step up in key spots. Marcus Sapsford really shone in the trenches playing defensive end. Ty Bessette's kind of been the cornerstone of our defense all year and he had another great game."
Airdrie Head Coach Anton Bellot points to the energy his team showed throughout the game as the reason for the lopsided win.
"I loved our energy coming out from the opening kick-off. We definitely had a hop in our step and you could just tell the energy was different right away. We're definitely happy with the win but we're never satisfied. There's definitely a lot of things for us to improve."
The Irish will now look to the playoffs as their next chance to improve, and they'll do it before their home fans. Who their opponent will be and when the game will go is where it gets complicated.
The Irish finished in a second-place tie with Edmonton. The AFL tie-breaking setup first looks at the head-to-head meeting between the two teams that are tied. Edmonton and Airdrie tied 20 - 20 so the league has to go to the second tie-breaker, the points for and against in the head-to-head game, which, obviously, was another tie. The third tie-breaker takes into account which of the two teams scored the most points during the season which was, you guessed it, another tie, with both the Irish and the Elite registering 206 points this year. That makes a fourth tie-breaker necessary which is a simple coin toss. That will determine if the Irish finish second and get a first-round bye, or end up third and host a quarter-final game on August 6th against the Central Alberta Buccaneers.
Whatever the outcome, Bellot is thrilled for the team to host a home playoff encounter.
"This is the first time in team history that we're hosting a home playoff game and I'm just ecstatic for the players, the community and the organization. It's something we're really looking forward to."
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