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.
Photo courtesy of Wanda Harron Photography
The Regina Thunder finished the regular season on a three game winning streak in 2018 but had to go on the road to Edmonton for the semi-finals. They would ultimately fall in that semi, ending their season.
They have retooled preparing for the upcoming campaign and will no doubt be challenging again for a Prairie Conference title. They have not captured that very title since the 2013 season. They will open the new year right back in Edmonton on August 18th when they visit the Wildcats.
The coaching staff has had a reshuffle excluding the head coach and offensive coordinator. The reshuffle has been a role change rather than coach turnover. Most coaches are back however head coach Scott MacAulay says “it’s exciting to see the enthusiasm of the coaches and in the same breath the team will be evolving.” The Thunder coaches are all volunteers putting in hundreds of hours for the sake of loving the game and organization.
The Thunder will be missing a pair of offensive lineman as Brayden Moroz and Chad Teskey leave behind massive shoes to fill as veteran players up front. They rarely made a mistake on the line and helped their ground attack to be one of the most dangerous in the CJFL.
DL Matthew Williams was a key contributor for the Thunder last season combining for seven tackles, five assists and had a sack and a half. He also had a knockdown and a fumble recovery.
What They Need:
For the Thunder in 2019 they need instant playing depth at most spots. In the past once a player was injured the back-up player seemingly wasn’t ready to play at the CJFL level. The coaching staff is trying to solve that issue this upcoming season.
QB Blake Scherley: Last season he completed 35 of 59 attempts for 493 yards and connected on six touchdown strikes. The coaching staff will look to him to be a major contributor this season.
RB Brayden Long: To alleviate some of the pressure on a younger quarterback like Scherley, Long must have a big year to keep defenders at bay. Last year he rumbled 85 times for 482 yards and scored five touchdowns.
LB Davin Williamson: He was outstanding last season with a team high 41 solo tackles, second most in the Prairie Conference. He also assisted on 18 other stops, had a sack and forced a fumble. He will be the anchor on the defensive side this season.
For some this coming Saturday is the biggest day of their young lives, as the CJFL presents its National Signing Day.
The day is earmarked every year on June 1st, the day in which players can finally sign with a CJFL club. When a player signs he is essentially signing for his entire junior football career as the player then becomes the property of that team.
Some players have attended multiple Spring Camps to get an idea of their best fit. So many considerations are made before signing with a CJFL club; location, team support, roster depth, coaching staff, scholarship program, etc all weighs in on a player’s decision.
National Signing Day is not only exciting for the players, but the coaches as well. Their ideas, hopes and hard work will finally come to fruition as they start to fill their roster spots.
Following Saturday coaches can continue to recruit and sign a player immediately if he’s a good fit for their team. That said the bulk of the players ready to play in the CJFL will sign on Saturday.
Once players sign on the dotted line, coaches can begin developing their schemes and systems around their potential starters. They can also begin preparing for their Main Camp along with Week 1 of the regular season.
All three Conferences and 18 CJFL teams will participate on Saturday, signing players to their 2019 roster.
Fans can keep up to date with CJFL National Signing Day on social media with #CJFLSigning as teams will be posting once a player signs.