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.
Photo courtesy of Wanda Harron Photography
#4 Winnipeg Rifles @ #1 Regina Thunder - Sunday October 23, 1:00pm – Leibel Field | WATCH HERE
The top team in the Prairie Conference, the Regina Thunder host the Winnipeg Rifles in one of two semi-finals on Sunday afternoon. The Thunder completed their second straight undefeated regular season and will have homefield advantage right through the Canadian Bowl playoffs.
During the regular campaign the Thunder won both meetings with the Rifles, but they were very physical and exciting games. In the first meeting in Regina the Thunder claimed a two-point 24-22 victory kicking two field goals in the final quarter to pull ahead. Then in the second matchup, this time in Winnipeg the Thunder escaped with a six-point 29-23 win after outscoring the Rifles 20-7 in the second half.
The Thunder have been very balanced in their offensive attack, while the Rifles lean on quarterback Bryson McNeil. He did torch the Thunder secondary for 667 yards and five touchdowns in the seasonal series.
Both teams have a very good defence, the Thunder allowed 16-points a game, while the Rifles give-up 22 a contest.
These two teams have only met once in the CJFL postseason, and it was last year when the Thunder beat the Rifles 45-26 to advance to the Conference title game. Surprisingly this year’s playoff game is only the second time these two franchises meet in the playoffs.
Records: Rifles 4-4 – Thunder 8-0
Points For: Rifles 173 – Thunder 286
Points Allowed: Rifles 177 – Thunder 130
Passing Leaders: Bryson McNeil – 156 of 259 for 2269 yards and 12 touchdowns (Rifles) – Carter Shewchuk – 157 of 250 for 2351 yards and 18 touchdowns (Thunder)
Rushing Leaders: Brady Meeks – 61 carries for 236 yards and 2 touchdowns (Rifles) – Ryland Leichert – 124 carries for 724 yards and 4 touchdowns (Thunder)
Receiving Leaders: Jake Roger – 34 receptions for 651 yards and 2 touchdowns (Rifles) – Rylan Sokul – 44 receptions for 669 yards and 4 touchdowns (Thunder)
Leading Tacklers: Brandon Kamenz – 37 tackles (Rifles) – Branden Janotta – 55 tackles (Thunder)
Photo courtesy of Wanda Harron Photography
The playoff teams and matchups are set as the Prairie Conference wrapped up the regular season on Sunday.
Regina Thunder 42
Edmonton Huskies 14
For the second consecutive season the Regina Thunder claim an undefeated regular season after a blowout win over the Edmonton Huskies on Sunday afternoon gathering 436 yards running a balanced offence.
The Thunder scored 21 points in the first half on route to their eighth win of the season. Quarterback Carter Shewchuk threw 191 yards and two touchdowns finding Rylan Sokul and Isaac Foord for those scores. The passing game was complemented by a very strong run game lead by Sadik Sadik and his 101 yards on 10 carries. He also scored a touchdown as did Ryland Leichert and Ife Adebogun.
Over on the defence side linebacker Stephen Smith was outstanding with four solo tackles, 1.5 sacks, intercepted a pass, forced and recovered a fumble and had a knockdown. Kenten Effa was also very good with five solo tackles.
The Huskies meanwhile will finish third in the standings following the loss on Sunday and will hit the road for the playoffs.
They scored their 14 points in the even quarters. Running back Alex Gayle had a game high 130 yards on the ground on 18 carries and scored a touchdown. The other score was a 32-yard touchdown strike from Jordan Lane to Jordan Howe.
Next weekend the Thunder (8-0) will host the Winnipeg Rifles (4-4) in a Conference semi-final while the Huskies (5-3) will visit the Saskatoon Hilltops (5-3).
Saskatoon Hilltops 43
Calgary Colts 14
The Hilltops clinched a home playoff date after a blowout win on Sunday afternoon. They would score 40 points through the first three quarters before the Colts finally got on the board.
The ground game did most of the damage to the tune of 355 yards led by Boston Davidsen. He rushed for 146 yards on 16 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. Carter McLean and Jordan Levesque also got into the endzone. Quarterback Trey Reider found Drake Douglas for a touchdown as well after completing eight passes for 108 yards.
Defensively the Hilltops rotated several players and forced five turnovers. Steve Gilewicz and Isaac Rivalin each picked off a pass and Riece Kack had a sack and a fumble recovery.
The two touchdowns for the Colts happened in the fourth quarter when the game was already out of reach. Quarterback Nick Kennedy hit Alex Wahl for a score and Joseph Richardson ran in the only other touchdown.
The Hilltops (5-3) will host the Edmonton Huskies (5-3) in a Conference semi-final this weekend while the Colts (2-6) begin preparations for next season.
Winnipeg Rifles 12
Edmonton Wildcats 8
In a defensive controlled game, the Rifles got their record back to .500 with a four-point win and will hit the road for a Conference semi-final.
With time ticking down and the Wildcats nearing the endzone Brandon Kamenz came off the right side on third down, untouched and recorded his third sack of the game at the final buzzer. In all, the Rifles had six sacks as Spencer Pilon added 2.5 to make life miserable for the Wildcats quarterback.
Offensively their lone touchdown was a two-yard run by back-up quarterback Thomas Hubbard in the second quarter. Hubbard completed 12 passes for 152 yards in the game.
The Wildcats lone touchdown was also on a run play when Nathan Zacharias scored in the first quarter on a nine-yard rush giving his club the lead. Their defence held them in the game recording three sacks and Will Downs intercepted a pass.
The game was the final one for head coach Darcy Park who announced he would not be returning to the Wildcats after over 20 years.
The Rifles (4-4) visit the Regina Thunder (8-0) in this weekend’s semi-final. The Wildcats (0-8) will lick their wounds and try to turn things around in 2023.