It’s a game the EPC Pacers would like to forget about.
The Pacers were shut out 49-0 in Cold Lake Friday night, a game in which their offense sputtered and had trouble holding onto the ball all game long.
The Pacers fumbled the ball seven times in the loss.
“We had been improving every week, but this was probably the worst game we’ve played all year,” explained Pete Burden, head coach of the Pacers.
The loss drops the Pacers regular season record to 0-3.
“We weren’t prepared to play and that comes back on coaching. I don’t know if it was the long bus ride or not, but we didn’t have the focus that night,” said Burden.
Unfortunately, it was a team effort in the loss.
“It wasn’t just one person. We lacked in every facet of the game,” added Burden.
The Pacers also played a bunch of their younger players against Cold Lake to give them a little more real game experience.
EPC also played without their leading receiver, Aaron Labonte, which didn’t help an already lackluster offense Friday night.
“Our kicking game wasn’t working at all, either. We couldn’t catch or hold onto the ball for most of the game,” explained Burden.
The Pacers won’t have much time to lick their wounds, as they will face Westlock this Thursday at EPC in their biggest game of the season to date.
“Basically, we just talked to the boys and told them to forget about it and start to focus on Westlock,” asserted Burden.
The two teams will battle for a possible playoff spot. Both teams come into Thursday night’s game with identical 0-3 records.
Both have struggled against the bigger and more experienced opponents in their division.
“If we win, then we are guaranteed three more games, but if we lose, we have to win the next week after in the crossover game to make playoffs,” explained Burden.
Thursday’s game should feature a close match-up, something the Pacers haven’t really had in their first three regular season games.
Westlock has only scored 12 points in their first three games, which Burden believes should give his team the edge.
“I don’t think they are as strong as us on offense, but it’s the fact that we’re so small on defense that should it make it close,” said Burden. “It should be a pretty interesting game.”
Athabasca has given up the most points in the league with 168, while Westlock is second worst with 92 points scored against them in three games.
That could be a problem for the Pacers, as their smaller defensive backs will have to deal with Westlock’s bigger running back.
“Their running backs are pretty big, so we’re going to try to get a little more beef on the inside there,” said Burden.
The Pacers have been able to put points up on good defenses, so not all hope is lost, said Burden.
“If we get back to playing like we did and get our offense scoring some points like we have, we should be alright.”
Game time is 4 p.m. at the EPC south field.
If the Pacers do fall to Westlock, it doesn’t mean the Athabasca team is done for the season.
They will have one last chance to grab a win in a crossover game on the weekend of Oct. 15.
If it does come down to the crossover game, they will likely play against Vegreville , who are in last place in the south division.
Although the Pacers may not have achieved a victory in the regular season, they did do so on Sept. 24 in an exhibition match against Vegreville.
In a back-and-forth affair, the Pacers came out on top 27-20.
It wasn’t until under a minute to go in the game that the Pacers sealed the deal.
“They were driving down in the fourth quarter, and with less than a minute to go we forced a fumble and recovered it on our own 10 yard line,” explained Burden.
After St. Paul and Bonnyville blew the Pacers out in their first two regular season games, the exhibition match is exactly what the young team needed for their confidence.
“Every week we have to move up the ladder. We need to peak for our game against Westlock, because that will determine if we make the playoffs or not,” said Burden.
The goal of the exhibition game was to get all of their younger players as much playing time as possible.
“Most of our offensive guys are in Grade 12, so it was good to get some of the younger guys some touches on offense,” explained Burden.
The Pacers weren’t expecting a win against Cold Lake, who lead the division with a 3-0 record, but the plan from the last two games is to continue gaining confidence, aggression and knowledge of the game.
“They’re finally understanding the game and it’s nice to see,” said Burden.