Photo courtesy of Gord Mellor
Last season the Edmonton Huskies were one win away from clinching their first Prairie Conference championship in 13 seasons. They have retooled and are ready to make another run at the title here in 2019 opening the season on August 17th when they host the Calgary Colts. As a matter of fact the Huskies will play at Clarke Park Stadium in each of their first four games.
This upcoming season the Huskies will look different with over 20 players moving onto University rosters from last year’s team.
Changes but continued continuity on the coaching staff is the biggest change for the Huskies. Last season’s offensive coordinator Rick Walters has left to take on the OC position at the University of Alberta. Special Teams Coordinator Reid Knox is also joining the Bears staff as well. This has allowed Sam Schwab, who has been the receivers coach for the past four years to step in as the OC assisted by offensive line coach Bryan Marshall as running game and protection coordinator. Branden Modin, the linebackers coach is stepping into the Special Teams Coordinator role. Former CFLers Marcus Henry (Recs) and Randy Spencer (D-Line) have joined the staff for this season.
OL TJ Solboda and Jack Hanna were All-Stars for the Huskies and have now graduated moving onto play for the University of Alberta this year.
LB Oshane Samuels and Vince Schiffner were anchors on the defence last year and signed with the Edmonton Eskimos in the offseason. They will both play for the University of Manitoba this season. Samuels had 28 tackles last season, had a sack, blocked three kicks, had a knockdown and an interception. Meanwhile Schiffner compiled 20 tackles, three sacks, recovered a fumble for a 25 yard touchdown and had a 104 yard pick-six.
LB Jassen Brown was a CJFL All-Canadian who has led the Huskies defence for the past five seasons. He was a beast last year with 34 tackles, two sacks, a fumble recovery and an interception.
What They Need:
The Huskies are looking for their next starting quarterback. Last year’s starter Tommy Yanchuk who completed 108 passes for 1523 yards and nine touchdowns has left for the UBC Thunderbirds.
SR Sam Clayton and Harrison Cabel are two physical receivers that will be leaned upon to lead a young offence and continue the success the receiving core has shown over the previous seasons.
RB Brandt Burzuk was a Prairie Conference All-Star last season carrying the rock 102 times for 722 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
DB Justin Hodinsky was an All-Canadian safety last year and will step up to lead a young defence. Last season he tallied 24 tackles, blocked a kick, had four knockdowns, a fumble recovery and four interceptions including an 87 yard pick-six.
Photo courtesy of _nixbphotos
The Hamilton Hurricanes are the defending Ontario Conference champs following a perfect regular season in 2018. Their only loss came in the CJFL National Semi-Final game in Langley, BC.
Their offence was extremely potent scoring 42.5 points a game while their defence allowed just seven. In the Ontario Conference post season the Hurricanes outscored their opposition 77-23 in their two wins.
The most noticeable change for the Hurricanes is on top as long-time head coach Jason Hayes stepped down. In 11 seasons with him at the helm the Hurricanes never missed the playoffs, won four Ontario titles and he was named Coach of the Year three times. He amassed a record of 80-30 and is second all-time in wins in Ontario and sixth all-time in CJFL history. Brian Duguay slides into the vacant position and will have big shoes to fill. He’s no stranger to the Hurricanes having been involved for many years.
QB Jake Marquette could be the biggest loss to any team across the CJFL. Last season he was named the CJFL Outstanding Offensive Player after an incredible campaign completing 67% of his passes for 1760 yards and 28 touchdowns.
WR Angus Button was one of Marquette’s favourite targets and one of the most dangerous in 2018. He hauled in 25 receptions for 543 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
OL Kyle Maertens was an absolute force on the line last season. He was named the Conference’s most Outstanding Offensive Lineman and was one of the reasons why Marquette was able to stay in the pocket and survey the field looking for the best option.
What They Need:
Following the graduation of the best offensive player in the CJFL, the Hurricanes are in need of a quarterback. They will hand the starting role over to Ethan Belbeck who was last year’s back-up, learning from Marquette. They are expecting big things from him and are hopeful their offence doesn’t miss much of a beat.
WR Keyshaun Jordan is the reigning CJFL Rookie of the Year and the Hurricanes will look for even more from the sophomore. Last season he made 33 receptions for 753 yards and caught 15 touchdown passes, leading all Ontario receivers.
QB Ethan Belbeck didn’t play much last year backing up Marquette. He is expected to win the starting position coming out of camp and will try and fill up the stats sheet like Marquette before him.
OL James Sides will be counted on to hold the pocket and give Belbeck time to throw the ball down the field.
The Hurricanes will open their title defence on August 17th when they welcome the Ottawa Sooners to Tim Hortons Field.
The Winnipeg Rifles again last season finished fourth in the Prairie Conference and were forced to travel to Saskatoon to face the Hilltops in a post season semi-final.
Overall the Rifles finished 3-5 despite only scoring an average of 19.7 points a game. With another year of experience under their belt the Rifles are looking for bigger things here in 2019. They will open the season against the five-time champion Hilltops on August 18th at home.
DB Andrew Ricard departs after an outstanding season last year with 23 tackles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions.
LB Donovan Hillary was a beast for the Rifles last season. He had a team high 31 tackles along with a sack and a half, forced a fumble and recovered one for a touchdown.
OL Brody Jones will be a big loss for the Rifles on the offensive line in a Conference that prides itself on a running attack.
What They Need:
The Rifles would like to see more depth at the quarterback position. They really like their starter Riley Naujoks however a viable back-up is something they are searching for when camp rolls around. Head coach Geordie Wilson believes this is the best team they have had with real competition at every position.
QB Riley Naujoks: With another year of experience the Rifles are hoping for big things from their pivot. Last season he threw for 667 yards on 53 competitions and had seven touchdowns.
LB Cole Sneesby: He attended the Winnipeg Blue Bombers camp and collected a defensive tackle in a pre-season game against the Edmonton Eskimos. Last year he had 23 tackles, a sack and a half and recovered a fumble.
DB Troy Wilson: He also attended Bomber camp and dressed from the pre-season game against the Eskimos. He finished with a defensive tackle. Last year with the Rifles he played in all eight games, made nine tackles, had a sack and forced a fumble.
RB Brandon Urcioluli: He was part of the Bombers’ camp as well and got two carries during the pre-season game with the Esks. During the regular campaign last year he carried 54 times for 267 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns.
The Rifles have trained hard all winter, had a great spring camp and knocked off Augsburg College; a NCAA Division 3 school in a spring tune up game. They embrace the opportunity to open the season against the five-time National Champion Saskatoon Hilltops August 18. They respect them, but they do not fear them and will be ready and prepared.