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Airdrie Irish off to flying start in 2022 AFL season

Airdrie will look to keep the winning streak going as they get set to host the Cold Lake Fighter Jets on June 18.
The Airdrie Irish are enjoying a 2-0 start to the 2022 season as they get set to host the Cold Lake Fighter Jets on June 18.

It's the battle of the unbeatens. 

After winning their first two games of the season, the high-flying Airdrie Irish are busy preparing for their toughest challenge yet of the 2022 Alberta Football League (AFL) season.

On June 18, Airdrie's competitive men's football team will host the Cold Lake Fighter Jets, with kick-off slated for 2:30 p.m. at the Ed Eggerer Athletic Park in Airdrie. Both the Irish and the Fighter Jets are undefeated this season, each boasting matching 2-0 records. 

“I’d say they are the best team in the league right now, so it’s a great opportunity for us,” said Anton Bellot, the Irish's head coach. “We’re thankful we’re at home and we expect a very tough match-up, for sure.”

Cold Lake has showcased their talent already this season with a 46-6 win over Peace Country in their first game of 2022 and then a 42-8 victory over the Calgary Wolfpack on June 11.

In scouting the team from northeast Alberta, Bellot said the Fighter Jets appear a well-balanced squad across the board.

“I would say they have talent everywhere,” the Irish head coach said. “Their defensive line is big strong, physical and fast, with really smart linebackers. Their secondary is really fast – there’s not one person out there who is worse than the other. They make great breaks, they’re smart.

“In the offence, they have a dynamic quarterback with a really strong arm, a great running back, a pretty big offensive line, and then a couple of speedsters at receiver.”

While the Fighter Jets will present a formidable foe, Airdrie will head into the game high in confidence, having enjoyed their best start to an AFL campaign in recent memory. In their two games, the Irish have outscored opponents 79-27.

Airdrie opened the AFL season on June 4 by beating last year's league champions, the Central Alberta Bucanneers, 33-21. They followed up with another statement win, crushing the Peace Country Cowboys 46-6 on June 11, on a road trip to Grande Prairie.

Despite the positive start, Bellot noted the Irish still have some work to do if they hope to mount a title challenge this season.

“We’re happy about it,” he said of the team's two-game win streak. “There are still a lot of things to clean up, specifically on our execution. We still have a long way to go.”

Airdrie's season-opener saw a sizable crowd of a few hundred fans out at the Ed Eggerer Athletic Park on June 4. Playing against the AFL's other unbeaten team this Saturday, Bellot said he hopes to see a similarly sized group of supporters cheering on the Irish when they take on the Fighter Jets. 

“We definitely will need the community support and get as many people out there to be loud and cheering for us because we do expect this to be a very close, physical, and great game for the football community,” he said. 

“We have a couple extra days of practice this week to prepare to the best of our ability. Our focus really is cleaning up our execution, focusing on our game and identity, and hopefully we can get a win. It will take a full-team effort and we’re excited for the opportunity.”

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