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Airdrie Irish get back in the win column

After a slow start, a strong showing from the Airdrie Irish propelled the competitive men's football team to a 48-29 win over the Calgary Wolfpack on July 9.

A high-powered offensive showing from the Airdrie Irish helped the competitive men's football team to a 48-29 win over the Calgary Wolfpack on July 9. 

The victory over their regional rival means the Irish will have home-field advantage for the upcoming Alberta Football League (AFL) playoffs, which get underway in August.

“[Beating Calgary] feels really good,” said Airdrie quarterback Josh Williams, who was named the game's MVP thanks to his three-touchdown performance. “We had a few rough plays here and there, but our team pulled it together in the end. I’m really happy with the camaraderie we put together.”

In a game that was reminiscent of last year's meeting between the two teams – which Airdrie won 77-32 – the battle was a high-scoring encounter that lasted nearly three hours at Ed Eggerer Athletic Park. 

The visiting Wolfpack got things going with an early touchdown from receiver Alex Saretsky, whose TD catch in the end zone put the Calgarians up 6-0 on their first drive of the game.

While the team failed to add an extra point on the one-point convert, the Wolfpack scored a single on the ensuing kick to make it 7-0.

But Airdrie shook off the rust quickly. The hosts got back into the game and led 14-7 by the end of the first quarter, courtesy of a pair of touchdowns from the Irish's two Williams – Jacob and Josh. 

The hosts widened their lead in the second quarter, when Tim “Maui” Larson intercepted a Wolfpack pass and charged his way 60-plus yards downfield to bring the score to 20-7. 

“I think we just needed to play our game,” Williams said of the Irish's ability to overcome the sloppy start. “We got those plays out of our system early and picked it up in the end.”

Smelling Wolfpack blood, Airdrie's offence really got going in the third quarter. Williams juked his way into the endzone for his second rushing touchdown to extend the lead to 26-7, and then Jesiah Ingram scored on a pick-six that brought the Irish's lead to 32-7. Sam Haeni scored on the two-point convert to tack two additional points on the board for the Irish.

As if a 25-point advantage wasn't enough, Braxton Hyland got in on the scoring, muscling his way into the Calgary end zone for another Airdrie TD. However, the Wolfpack also added a few additional touchdowns of their own to staunch the bleeding.

“I think both teams prepared pretty well for this game,” Williams said. “We executed. We have a lot of work to do and still have room to improve, but we’re happy with the path we’re on.”

Calgary made a game of it with another TD by Saretsky midway through the fourth quarter, but Williams responded for Airdrie with his third rushing touchdown of the contest to solidify Airdrie's win, 48-29.

The quarterback gave kudos to his linemen on all three of his majors.

“We had a great job from our o-line,” Williams said. “I can’t do anything if guys aren’t making blocks. They did their jobs and that’s what I credit [my own performance] to. Going into the next game, we just need to continue getting the mistakes out of the way and keep that trajectory going.”

Lutz injured

The Irish's win came despite the loss to injury of the team's star running back Connor Lutz, who was seen patrolling the sidelines on July 9 with an air cast on his foot.

Williams noted the absence of Airdrie's top-scoring player meant there was opportunity for other members of the Irish offence to step into the spotlight, such as Haeni and Jacob Williams.

“It’s a tremendous loss,” he admitted of Lutz's injury at a key point of the season. “Right now, we’re unsure exactly how long he’s gone for. But we thankfully have some weapons we can use that we haven’t brought out yet. I’m excited to see them shine.”

Airdrie will have a bye this weekend, before they travel north to finish off the regular season on July 23 against the Fort McMurray Monarchs. The Irish currently boast a 3-1-1 record, putting them in second place of the seven-team AFL standings, behind the unbeaten Cold Lake Fighter Jets.

Williams said it's been a great season already and the Irish are eager to keep the positive momentum going as the post-season beckons.

Scott Strasser

About the Author: Scott Strasser

Scott Strasser, editor
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