The CJFL and Prairie Conference (PFC) have released their 2023 schedule that will see the six-member Conference open the CJFL season on Sunday August 13, 2023 with a full slate of games.
The Conference champion Regina Thunder begin their title defence that afternoon at 1:00pm when they visit the Calgary Colts. The Saskatoon Hilltops who finished as the second seed last year will host the Edmonton Wildcats on the same day and the Edmonton Huskies welcome the Winnipeg Rifles.
The teams are scheduled to play an eight-week regular season concluding on October 8th. The Conference playoffs will open the following weekend with a pair of semi-finals before the Conference title game scheduled for Sunday October 22nd.
The winner of the Prairie Conference will host the winner of the Ontario Conference in the CJFL national semi-final game the following week, Sunday October 29th. The winner of this game will then travel to BC and play for the 2023 Canadian Bowl and a national crown. It will be the first national final host by the BC Conference since 2019.
The BC and Ontario Conferences continue to work on their schedules and do anticipate releasing them in the coming weeks.
As the calendar closes the 2022 chapter, a handful of CJFL teams look back and remember one of the moments that defined their season. Happy New Year from our CJFL family.
Okanagan Sun: winning the 2022 Canadian Bowl brought the CJFL tile back to Kelowna for the first time in 22 seasons. The impressive come-from-behind 21-19 victory in Regina turned out to be one of the most exciting Canadian Bowls in CJFL history. It was the first franchise win for the Sun in the Prairies and second straight title for the BC Conference while on the road.
Regina Thunder: the Prairie Conference champion Thunder had several exciting moments of 2022 including hosting the Canadian Bowl and they were the recipient of the first Rick Smoke team award showing outstanding community service. However, the true spirit of the Regina community was on display during their Conference semi-final when they hosted the Winnipeg Rifles. After a massive snowstorm Leibel Field was left unattended so players, coaches, parents, and fans had to grab their shovels and snowblowers to clear the field and get it into game ready condition. It was an incredible undertaking, but the teamwork displayed truly defined their 2022 season.
Ottawa Sooners: CJFL football returned to the nation’s capital in 2022 as the Sooners finished third in the Ontario Conference, qualifying for the Canadian Bowl playoffs. One of their favourite moments came in Week 3 of the season when they travelled to Hamilton to face the Hurricanes for the first time since 2019. Their seven-point road win was highlighted by an 85-yard defensive touchdown after a strip sack. That play showed the toughness of their defence which made them a legitimate contender and put them on track for #4 on the CJFL Power Rankings.
Valley Huskers: in Chilliwack the Valley Huskers were a difficult team to play against in 2022 as they finished the regular season with a 7-3 overall record and qualified for the CJFL Canadian Bowl playoffs. Their running attack was outstanding led by the 1000-yard rusher Reece Wyke behind a big, nasty offensive line. Quarterback Josh Janssen was solid and had a career game at the VI Raiders in September where he threw for 416 yards on 26 completions and threw eight touchdown passes. That said, their most memorable moment of the past season was the fact they were able to sweep their closest rivals the Langley Rams for the first time in franchise history with scores of 14-7 and 23-22.
Saskatoon Hilltops: all season long the Saskatoon Hilltops were electrified by CJFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Charles Sawi. On a team that doesn’t often play their rookies, Sawi was an exception at the receiver spot and returning kicks. As a matter of fact, it was one of his exciting returns that is the team’s moment of 2022. Against their provincial rivals, the Regina Thunder on September 10th at SMF Field, Sawi caught a missed field goal and quickly turned the tide with a highlight reel return, sprinting 125-yards the other direction for a touchdown in the rain.
Langley Rams: coming into the 2022 season the Langley Rams were the defending Canadian Bowl champions and were able to collect their “hardware” as the players were presented with their championship rings. On the field in Week 6 of the season receiver Terrel Jones made an incredible catch against the Valley Huskers on a tip on their last drive of the game. The bench and crowd erupted following their play of the year.
Hamilton Hurricanes: even before the team got on the field for the regular season the Hamilton Hurricanes’ players and coaches got an opportunity to stay overnight at Redeemer University in Ancaster Ontario which created a very strong team bond and gave them an identity coming out of training camp.
Winnipeg Rifles: this past season the Winnipeg Rifles made some huge strides with their play on the field. There was no bigger moment for them in 2022 then on August 28 when they hosted and finally beat the Saskatoon Hilltops 19-16. Quarterback Bryson McNeil completed 26 passes for 295 yards and set up kicker Donovan Downing to boot four fields, including two in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. Their defence was outstanding and frustrated the Hilltops offence all afternoon.
Kamloops Broncos: on September 17th the Kamloops Broncos hammered the Prince George Kodiaks 47-17 recording their first home win of the season and showed the hometown faithful a glimpse of a very promising future. They were led by a pair of 17-year-olds on both sides of the ball. Defensive back Keagan Curtis finished with an impressive three interceptions while on the offensive side receiver Colton Meikle set a franchise record with 222 yards on five receptions and scored three touchdowns. Quarterback Reid Vankoughnett had a career game accounting for six touchdowns, three rushing majors and three TD passes. The Broncos were able to carry that momentum into the following week when they beat the Kodiaks again for a two game winning streak.
For the first time since 2000 the Okanagan Sun are CJFL Canadian Bowl champions after a 21-19 victory over the Regina Thunder.
It was a very cold afternoon in Regina, but the Sun was shining in more ways than one. Down 15-7 at the half the Sun came out strong in the third quarter converting two touchdowns including a gutsy 24-yard touchdown pass on a third and two when Dominic Britton connected with Mike O’Shea. It turned out to be the game winning score.
The Thunder actually opened the scoring in the second quarter when running back Ryland Leichert punched the ball in from two yards out. Just three minutes later after a Thunder defensive stop Carter Shewchuk led his club back down the field and capped off the drive with a six-yard touchdown run.
With time winding down in the first half the Sun offence started to change the momentum and drove down the field. On the final snap before halftime Britton found Colby Milleto from six yards out for a touchdown getting the Sun on the board. It would be his only reception of the game.
After conceding a safety the Sun continued that momentum in the third quarter and started to chew up yards with All-Canadian running back Jevon Garwood. At 9:53 of the frame he busted through the line with speed and sprinted to a 53-yard touchdown cutting the Thunder lead to 17-14.
The Sun would take their first lead of the game on the 24-yard touchdown strike to O’Shea. This drive was set up by a Dawon Puk interception at midfield.
From there the Sun defence took over with a pair of massive third down stops late in the fourth quarter. Incredibly they kept the Thunder off the scoreboard in the second half other than two conceded safeties.
All-Canadian Kelon Thomas had an outstanding game with two solo tackles and 1.5 sacks putting pressure on the Thunder offence all game long. Peyton Ryder was also strong with a team high five solo tackles and three assisted stops.
The offence was led by Garwood and his 128 yards on 21 carries and the touchdown. Britton completed 16 passes for 130 yards, finding Milleto and O’Shea for majors. O’Shea finished with a game high five catches for 69 yards.
For the Thunder, it was their only loss of the season. Shewchuk completed 18 passes for 188 yards and Leichert rushed 22 times for 77 yards.
Their defence was led by Stephen Smith who made five tackles and had seven assisted tackles. Matthew Schill was also a factor with four tackles and put pressure on the Sun backfield.
This is the third national title for the Okanagan Sun after winning in 1988 and 2000 and it’s their first ever victory on the Prairies. As a matter of fact, it is just the second time a team from BC has traveled to Saskatchewan and won a game. The other time was in 2008 when the VI Raiders beat the Saskatoon Hilltops.
Following the Canadian Bowl the CJFL awarded the players of the game:
Offensive – Jevon Garwood – 21 carries for 128 yards and a 53-yard touchdown run
Defensive – Dawson Puk – 2 solo tackles, 3 assisted tackles, 1 interception returned for 16 yards
Special Teams – Mike O’Shea – 7 returns for 108 yards