Conditions seemed perfect for the Lloydminster Vandals to finally shake their one final demon, Saturday, June 25th.
Lloydminster has never beaten the Calgary Wolfpack, an 0-8 string that extends back to the Vandals first season in the Alberta Football League (AFL) and a victory is a goalpost the team has set for itself.
The path to victory seemed open, with Calgary struggling in the early part of the season despite coming to Lloyd with a perfect 3-0 record. In the end however, it was the Wolfpack who ran away with the game late en route to a 41-24 victory.
Vandals quarterback Jared Valleau said the offence just couldn’t get on track in the second half after ending the first deadlocked 14-14 with Calgary.
“I’m just really disappointed,” Valleau said following the loss. “The defence gave us a chance to win and we screwed it up.
“They come up with the big plays they need. We had a chance, but with throwing picks and bad throws, it wasn’t a good day for us.”
A battle of two offences that rely heavily on the air for most of their yards, the expected shootout was hampered by wet conditions that made the ball slippery and footing uncertain.
After drizzling off and on all game, heavy rain broke out as the game came to a close. Valleau said it was the ending the game deserved.
“It sums it up,” he sighed.
The team has a week away from the field to rebound from their first loss of the season, returning July 9th when they’ll travel to Edmonton to face the Renegades.
Valleau said the still winless Renegades are in trouble.
“We won’t face anyone that tough again,” he said. “We have an easier game in two weeks and we beat up on them, I guess. We have to get back on track.”
With Jase Bouchard sidelined with a shoulder injury, the Vandals looked to Sean Brown to run the ball. Kicker Brad Ollen said that Brown, who was injured the previous week when the team played in Wainwright, gave the team a boost with his willingness to battle.
“Brown’s a heck of a guy,” Ollen said. “He used to be an offensive lineman and now he’s running the ball and playing special teams. I know he was really banged up after last game and to see him come out and run the ball like that was fantastic. It gave us that boost on defence.
“You see a guy out there giving it that kind of effort on offence, you want to do the same thing.”
Ollen’s own contribution came late in the game when he picked off a Darryl Leason pass through the middle, juking his way into the endzone. It was a touchdown that would have gotten the Vandals back into the game, but was called back due to a penalty.
He said looking back to see the flag on the field was crushing.
“That was the worst. I felt old and depressed,” he said, then laughed.
Ollen said that despite their struggles, the Wolfpack still have experience and confidence on their side.
“Just that experience of Darryl Leason is huge,” he said. “Not to take anything away from Jared but Darryl’s been in those situations for 20 years now for crying out loud. Jared’s a heck of a ball player, but without a running game, we weren’t able to sustain a drive. Without a run to guard against, they were able to play two safeties and that helps shut down the passing.
“They just seem to be able to click and pull things out in the second half. We go in there tied into the second half and they just have the confidence to throw those deep balls and Darryl knows where to put that ball. We got beat on three deep plays on defence today and it cost us touchdowns. We just didn’t have that on our side of the ball.”
Ollen said rebounding from the loss is as simple as getting players back and getting back to work.
“We had a heck of a game shorthanded today,” he said. “We get a running game going, couple of receivers and a running back into the lineup again and we’re just as good as them,” he said. “We’ll be playing them again in a month or so.”