The Irish came out fighting, but by the end of the Saturday-afternoon match they were just seeing Stars.
The St. Albert Stars football team hosted the Airdrie Irish at Riel Park June 27, where things looked bleak for the Stars right from the get go, with the Irish scoring the first touchdown of the game right off the kickoff.
Fortunately for the home team, that was all the fight the Irish had in them, and the Stars earned a dominant 47-6 victory, improving their record to 3-1 in the Alberta Football League. The Irish are as yet winless this season, with Saturday’s loss bringing their record to 0-4.
Coach Troy Pappas said having a strong start is something the Stars have struggled with this season, and Saturday’s game was no exception.
“We came out pretty flat in the first half; we have to get going a lot earlier,” he said. “Right when the kickoff happens, that’s when we have to get going.”
The score in the June 27 match echoes the 60-7 thrashing the first-place Fort McMurray Monarchs laid on the Stars at the Riel field a week prior, undoubtedly offering some consolation to the boys, but in some ways it was a foregone conclusion.
Coach and quarterback Mike Bryski said the match against the Irish was one they expected to win, especially after reviewing the team’s performance so far this season on video.
“After watching film of them, we knew their strengths and they had a lot of weaknesses we could isolate. Offensively we took care of that,” he said. “Defensively, we stopped their running game and that’s really all they had. Shutting that down was our first goal.”
After facing a 6-0 deficit within the first minute of the game, the Stars rallied and appeared to be firing on all cylinders.
It didn’t take long after that for St. Albert to get on the board, effectively marching the ball up the field 10 yards at a time, until they were close enough for Tyler Simmons to catch a touchdown pass in the end zone, and a successful point-after attempt put them in the lead.
The Stars defensive line then did its work well, forcing the Irish back into their own end zone for a two-point safety giving St. Albert a 9-6 lead at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter action was a bit slower, with the teams pushing back and forth until the Stars’ Taylor Simmons kicked a field goal with three minutes left to make the score 12-6.
St. Albert was again able to get control of the ball and run it into the end zone with just seconds left, and a successful conversion left the score 19-6 at the half.
The Stars came out strong in the second half, with Justin Spurr finding the end zone on a long run after receiving the kickoff, making the score 26-6. In the last play of the quarter, Pappas ran about 60 yards to lengthen the Stars’ lead to 33-6.
The result of the match was mostly a foregone conclusion by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, with the Stars posting two more touchdowns with successful point-after attempts, but the feeling on the field was quickly degrading; the Irish began to take more penalties for unnecessary roughness and even a bench penalty after their coach had some choice words for the officials.
Bryski said as coaches they do their best to keep their players out of it, and help them ride out the chippy talk that tends to come when a team is on the losing end of a large deficit.
“We basically try to herd our guys back to huddle, keep them on the straight and narrow, and not take dumb penalties for swearing, throwing punches or anything like that,” he said. “We keep it as clean as possible.”
The heat didn’t help things, either. With temperatures around 30 C, players were obviously getting uncomfortable by the end of the three-hour afternoon match.
Pappas noted the Stars typically field a smaller team with a thin bench, putting extra pressure on the players to keep up the energy despite the sun beating down on them.
“That was really tough for us,” he said. “We only show up to games with between 28 and 32 guys normally, so that’s a very tough game for our guys.”
The Stars now have a three-week break before heading down to Calgary July 18 to face the Calgary Gators before returning to Riel to face the Lloydminster Vandals July 25.