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CJFL National Semi-Final

By Ryan Watters (@ryan2tswatters), 10/28/22, 6:15AM PDT


The Okanagan Sun visit the St. Clair Saints

Okanagan Sun @ St. Clair Saints – Saturday October 29, 7:00pm – Acumen Stadium | WATCH HERE

It’s time to party like it’s 1999.  For the first time in 23 years the Okanagan Sun and St. Clair Saints will face each other on the national stage.  This time around it’s the National Semi-Final game on Saturday evening in Windsor.  The winner moves onto play for the CJFL Canadian Bowl on November 12th.

Last time they met in 1999 the Saints, who were known as the Fratmen at that time beat the Sun 32-29 in a thrilling national championship game.  Almost all the players on Saturday’s roster weren’t even born yet. 

This game marks two teams that have been undefeated this season and won their respective Conferences last weekend with convincing wins.  As a matter of fact, they combined to outscore their opposition 76-7. The Sun defeated the Westshore Rebels 38-0 while the Saints beat the London Beefeaters 38-7.

The Sun have been the most dominating team this season and have won 12 straight games.  Their offence has scored the most points, while the defence have allowed the fewest.   They feature nine Conference All-Stars and four Major Award winners including two honours for receiver/kick returner Mike O’Shea.

Offensively this team is loaded with weapons starting with the quarterback Dominic Britton.  He completed 58% of his passes for 2086 yards and 24 touchdowns.  He has a flurry of receivers to find including O’Shea and All-Star Noah Bymak who caught a team high nine touchdowns and 616 yards.  Their running attack has been brilliant behind a massive offensive line.  Jevon Garwood is a smooth-running back who galloped to 920 yards this season and scored nine touchdowns.

Defensively it is almost impossible to slow down their ends in Kelon Thoams and Romareo Reid who are both All-Stars.  They combined for an incredible 24 sacks.  Their linebackers are solid and secondary is made up of talented ballhawks.   Oh, and O’Shea is one of the most dangerous return men in the game running back three punts for touchdowns in three consecutive games in the regular season. 

That said they must face arguably their toughest opponent yet in the Saints.

They blew through the Ontario Conference at 8-0 and have won 10 straight including their playoff wins.  Their average win was by a margin of 38 points and were they only team in the CJFL to score at least 80 points in a game…they did it twice. They feature seven Conference All-Stars and had three Major Award winners.

On the offence they are extremely balanced hurting teams on the ground and through the air.   They used two quarterbacks but Andrew Brush will no doubt get the start on Saturday.  He threw for 794 yards on 45 completions and had eight passing touchdowns.  Matthew Guenette can come in at anytime after completing 64% of his passes for 554 yards and threw seven touchdowns.  Their best target is the Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year in receiver Jared Hayes-Williams who caught 33 passes for 617 yards and six touchdowns.  

Like the Sun they have a massive offensive line who can blow holes open for a series of talented running backs.  Jonathan Cartier led the way with 466 yards on 56 carries and had five touchdowns.  Rookie MJ Doyle-Marshall came into his own and rushed for 225 yards and two touchdowns.  He was named the Offensive Player of the Game in their Conference final win over the Beefeaters. 

On the defensive side of the ball the Saints are stifling led by All-Star Tynan Braymiller who puts pressure on the opposition’s offence with nearly every snap. He had 12 tackles and 3.5 sacks during the regular season.  Linebacker Nick Brajkovic was also outstanding and was named an All-Star. Their secondary has the ability to shutdown a passing attack as they showed all season led by All-Stars Nathaniel Norton and Shaye Wynter who combined for seven interceptions.

Their return game is extremely dangerous with Dante Lewis returning kicks. He had three returns for touchdowns in the regular season and can break one at any time.

With these two teams extremely similar it should be a very entertaining National Semi-Final in 2022.

Head-to-Head (regular season)

Records: Sun 10-0 – Saints 8-0
Points For: Sun 448 – Saints 385
Points Allowed: Sun 135 – Saints 87

Passing Leaders: Dominic Britton – 122 of 210 for 2086 yards and 24 touchdowns (Sun) – Andrew Brush – 45 of 92 for 794 yards and 8 touchdowns (Saints)

Rushing Leaders: Jevon Garwood – 115 carries for 920 yards and 9 touchdowns (Sun) – Jonathan Cartier – 56 carries for 466 yards 5 touchdowns (Saints)

Receiving Leaders: Noah Bymak – 33 receptions for 616 yards and 9 touchdowns (Sun) – Jared Hayes-Williams – 33 receptions for 617 yards and 6 touchdowns (Saints)

Leading Tacklers: Peyton Ryder – 36 tackles (Sun) -Josh Allen – 23 tackles (Saints)