The St. Albert Stars have a score to settle with the Calgary Gators when the Alberta Football League kicks off Saturday.
Revenge is the game plan after last year’s 41-16 loss to the undefeated Gators in the AFL final.
“What we did in the championship wasn’t good enough so we’re hoping with the new guys that we’ve got on the team we can come out with a win,” said halfback Devin Guedo. “They have a lot more guys, a lot more commitment and they’ve been around the league for a lot longer so we’re coming in as the underdogs as usual.”
The rematch starts at 5 p.m. at Riel Recreation Park.
“It will definitely be a big game,” said Guedo, a high school football product of the St. Albert High Skyhawks. “We’re playing against a perfect team from last year so everyone has got to step it up.”
The Stars lit it up in their inaugural AFL season with six wins and two of the team’s four losses were against the Gators, losers of the 16th annual Canadian Major Football League final to the National Football Conference champion Montreal Transit 50-28 in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec.
“As a first year team we did great but we don’t want to be losing in the finals. We want to be a championship team,” Guedo said. “We’ve got to step up our commitment and start getting more guys out.”
The Stars unveiled this year’s line-up in Saturday’s 26-12 exhibition win over the Central Alberta Buccaneers in St. Albert.
“We still have a lot of stuff to work on,” Guedo said. “It’s a completely different team than last year and we’re just trying to work out our kinks. With us going to the championship last year we have a lot of new guys that came out. We’re working in new players and we’re working out a whole new offence and a whole new defence as well.
“It will be fun to see what we can do in our second year in the league.”
The Stars started their first drive at the six-yard line and didn’t move the ball and on third down gave up a safety.
On the next series from the 20, quarterback Troy Pappas was sacked on second down and the Stars surrendered another safety.
Early in the second quarter Shane Hall returned an interception 75 yards for a pick-six. The point after attempt was unsuccessful.
Towards the end of the first half Manny Gordon bolted 42 yards to the 10 and two plays later Jeff Czernysz hit Terrance Williams for a 10-yard touchdown. The conversion made it 13-4.
Gordon had 10 carries overall for 84 yards and one fumble.
The Stars also dropped two picks in the first half.
In the third quarter the Bucs completed an eight-yard TD pass, as the receiver reeled in a deflected ball in the endzone. The two-point conversion play was successful.
Tyler Wilson returned the ensuing kick off 99 yards to the house and the Bucs stopped the two-point conversion play.
Wilson racked up 197 all-purpose yards as a speedy returner and receiver.
Before quarter time Mike Mawusi picked off a pass near midfield.
Six minutes into the fourth quarter Matt Jarvis entered the game and on his first carry the former fifth-year tailback and MVP of the 2010 Alberta Golden Bears exploded off-tackle for a 40-yard TD.
Earlier in the day the sleek rugby winger busted loose for a long try for St. Albert’s second division team and as a second-half substitute ran for another try for the premier side. He arrived at halftime for the exhibition and before the fourth quarter slipped into Pappas’ No. 8 jersey for his first gridiron appearance since university and gained 52 yards on two handoffs.
With under five minutes to play Erik Kyler’s interception snuffed out a drive in Stars territory.
“The score really doesn’t say how the Bucs played. They played great and made a lot of plays,” said Guedo, a terror on special teams. “Special teams are huge and my goal this year is to show guys special teams are not a joke. It’s one third of the game. If you give that up you’re going to lose.”
The quarterbacking trio of Pappas, Czernysz and Josh Gillespie combined for seven completions on 15 attempts for 121 yards.
Defensively the Stars pressured the quarterback throughout the contest. Aaron McComish recorded two sacks and Gabriel David and C.J. Auigebelle had one each.
“Our strength is our defence and we definitely showed it today. We played well, we made a lot of good stops and we got some interceptions. We have a lot of returning guys from last year,” said Guedo, 23.
This is his second AFL season after taking two years off following a stint with the Edmonton Wildcats.
“I came in with the mentality that it’s just men’s league, it will be just that, and then when I came out here it was just like junior. You’ve got to show up and you’ve got to put your time in,” Guedo said. “I was playing against ex-CFL guys, ex-junior players and ex-university players. There were guys better than I am and I really underestimated the level of football. The league definitely has skill and talent and the games are intense. The guys who are out here are all here to win and play. Their hearts are in it.”