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.
The Edmonton Wildcats missed the CJFL post season in 2018 finishing with a pair of wins with a predominately young team. With a season or two now under their belts the Wildcats and head coach Darcy Park are ready to get back to the playoffs. They open the season on August 18th when they host the Regina Thunder.
On the offensive side the Wildcats have brought in an offensive assistant coach Blake Dermott who has a long history in the Edmonton area. He completed his successful 14 year CFL career and has coached at almost every level. He was named a CFL All-Star in 1989 and 1994 and won two Grey Cups. The Wildcats are very excited to have someone with his experience and wealth of football knowledge and are hoping he has an immediate impact.
DB Jayden Dalke – He was the heart and soul of the Wildcats and a tremendous leader. He again led the Wildcats in 2018 with 44 solo tackles, recovered four fumbles and had a pair of interceptions.
WR Brandon Rebnord – He was a calm presence of the Wildcats receiving corp and was usually targeted when his club needed a big play. He made 12 receptions last year for 129 yards, averaging 10.8 yards a catch.
QB Justin Swedish – He got the majority of the starts for the Wildcats last season completing 46% of his passes. He completed 73 attempts for 1145 yards and had six touchdowns passes.
What They Need:
The Wildcats ground attack is a must in 2019. It’s turning into a very exciting position for the coaching staff this offseason. They have brought in some very talented players who all should have an impact despite being on the younger side. It’ll be up the offensive line to give them the opportunities to make plays.
Linebacker Chopper Hippe was named the PFC Rookie of the Year and will be looked upon to be even better in his sophomore season. He made 34 tackles last year with two sacks, had an interception and blocked a kick.
One of the fifth year players that will have to fill the shoes of a graduated Dalke is defensive back Matt Zarowny. He will need to lead by example after making nine tackles a year ago.
Defensive lineman Ronny Bakehe enters his third season and must make an impact on the defensive side. Last season he made seven tackles but didn’t record a sack. The coaching staff is hoping that changes in 2019.
The Wildcats are excited to be proceeding with a long awaited renovation to their facilities. After a generous donation they be renovating and adding on to their facility which will make it one of the top facilities in the country with a new spacious weight room and additional meeting rooms. They will also add updated locker rooms and a therapy room to go along with a general area to host a variety of community events. The Wildcats believe this will set them up for the next 70 years.