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 the London Beefeaters
Last season the London Beefeaters had a solid campaign finishing third with a 5-3 record and amassed three shutouts in the Ontario Conference.
Quarterback Clarke McCallum showed tremendous growth completing 91 passes for 1275 yards and seven touchdowns. His top two targets were Cody Young and Spencer Foster who combined for 43 receptions 545 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Due to the Beefeaters success head coach Chris Marshall has been given an opportunity to coach at Western University in U-Sports. The move opens the door for a number of other opportunities and the Beefs are hoping they pay off.
Following the departure of Coach Marshall, London native Jesse Maddox becomes the new head coach. For the past 11 years Maddox has been coaching football in Alberta and has just recently moved back to Ontario. In Alberta he coached the Fort McMurray Monarchs to their second Canadian Major Football League title in 2018. He also coached the Fort McMurray Ravens midget team, and was guest coach with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and at a number of high school camps.
This season the Beefeaters will wear red jerseys, adding a strong bold clean cut and clear statement of how they would like to look on the field.
They are also changing the culture and vision. They will showcase a strong attention to on and off the field environments and the direction of the Board and Coach Maddox. They are looking to create a fun and very competitive environment for their players on and off the field to be successful in the pursuit of their goals/aspirations of school, work and football.
LB Oscar Reddecop was the Beeefeaters best defender last season and was named an Ontario Conference All-Star. He tallied at team high 28 solo tackles and was a nuisance in the opposition’s backfield adding pressure more often than not and recorded a pair of sacks, had a blocked kick and recovered a fumble.
DL Brendan Hepburn was named an Ontario Conference All-Star following an outstanding season. He led the Beefeaters with four sacks to complement his 14 tackles, one blocked kick and two forced fumbles.
OL Austin Lowe was a rock on the offensive line and was named an Ontario Conference All-Star. He was one of the main reasons for the success of quarterback Clarke McCallum
What They Need:
The Beefeaters need to bulk up their defensive ends. Players with experience at this position are hard to come by much like on the offensive line. Currently they have a great crop of players but time will tell where they stand making the jump from high school to the CJFL.
QBs Clarke McCallum and Jake Pow: McCallum returns for his third season while Pow enters his first in the CJFL after earning a roster spot with the Western Mustangs for the previous two seasons. They are super excited to have two starting calibre leaders under center coming into the year and are looking forward to seeing what both can do starting against the Niagara Regional Raiders in their opener on August 18th.
OL Matt Bettencourt started on the offensive line at Western in 2017 and won a Vanier Cup. He is a big, strong, nasty and someone every team wants protecting their quarterback. The Beefeaters believe he is the best offensive lineman in the country at this level, and are excited to have him be a leader up front.
DB Jacob Mandel has come to London via the GTA Grizzlies last year. He was named an Ontario Conference All-Star after leading the Grizz with 29 tackles, while adding two knockdowns, two forced fumbles and three interceptions.
As the Beefeaters prepare for the 2019 season they have had a huge influx of new players in the last 2-3 months seeing 50-60 new players on top of 30 plus veterans returning. They are very much looking forward to changing this program around and too hit the ground running. Underdog mentality!
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.