Sunday, 29 May 2016

Riot rally past Valkyries with late field goal

Saskatoon still finishes first in WWCFL’s Prairie Conference

Morgan Turner kicks the winning field goal for the Riot.
    REGINA, Sask. - It was almost déjà vu for Regina Riot kicker Morgan Turner, who is developing a habit of nailing game winning field goals against the Saskatoon Valkyries.
    On Saturday at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Turner booted a 21-yard field goal with 2:10 to play in the fourth quarter to give the Riot a 27-26 edge over the Valkyries. That score held up as the final outcome of Western Women’s Canadian Football League clash between these provincial rivals.
    Last year, Turner hit a 12-yard field goal into a stiff wind in the final seconds of the Prairie Conference championship game also at Mosaic Stadium to give the Riot a 31-29 win over the Valkyries. Regina advanced on to win the WWCFL title.
    Turner was pumped to come through again in the clutch but noted the circumstances around this winning kick were a lot different than the one a year ago.
    “It wasn’t as much pressure as last time,” said Turner. “We had a little more time, and I have a little more confidence in myself, because of the backing of my team.”
Samantha Matheson runs to daylight on a 56-yard TD score for the Valkyries.
    Saturday’s game also closed the regular season schedule for both clubs. The Valkyries and Riot both finish with identical 3-1 records, but Saskatoon finishes first in the Prairie Conference having outscored the Riot 73-48 in the two clashes between the teams. The Valkyries romped to a 47-21 victory over the Riot on May 22 in Saskatoon.
    Both teams host conference semifinal games on June 12 against opponents that are still to be determined.
    Saturday’s clash began in a downpour of rain that lasted for about the first five minutes of the contest.
    When the weather cleared up, the Valkyries surged out to a 19-0 edge on three rushing touchdowns by power running back Samantha Matheson, who ran the ball in from two, 20 and 56 yards out. Her 56-yard romp was a thing of epic beauty.
    Regina was able to block two of Saskatoon’s conversion attempts, which would haunt the Valkyries later in the game.
Valkyries DB Rienna Rueve tackles Rachelle Smith of the Riot.
    The Riot gained some traction manufacturing a 92-yard touchdown drive shortly before halftime. With 42 seconds remaining in the second quarter, the Riot march finished with star veteran quarterback Aimee Kowalski hitting receiver Claire Dore on a seven-yard TD strike. The two proceeded connect on a short pass on a two-point conversion attempt to cut the Valkyries lead to 19-8.
    “We are very frustrated about the way that the game went tonight,” said Valkyries special teams coordinator Chris Hengen-Braun. “(Give) all credit to the Riot, they did a really good job of game planning for us.
    “We saw a lot of new girls get in there and get a lot of playing time. It was really cool to see. A lot of girls stepped up for us as well too tonight.
    “It was really cool to see a lot of players really fly around and make some good plays. We had a couple of fumbles and a couple of other turnovers that really swung the game for us.”
    The Valkyries were without a number of regulars. Most of their missing players were in Halifax, N.S., playing in the senior flag football nationals including their two regular quarterbacks Alex Eyolfson and Reed Thorstad as well as head coach Jeff Yausie. Stacey Boldt, who was the Valkyries starting quarterback last season, moved back into the signal calling role in Saturday’s loss.
Riot RB Celeste Schnell tries to pull away from the Valkyries defence.
    Despite missing a number of players, the Valkyries still had a solid outing. The Riot just found a way to gut out a win which included converting a number of third down gambles.
    In the third quarter, the Valkyries lead shrank to 19-17 after they conceded a safety and Riot powerback Carmen Agar ran in a score from three yards out.
    On the ensuing series after Agar’s score, Boldt hit receiver Carly Dyck on a deep route resulting in a 54-yard major for the Valkyries. The score put the visitors up 26-17 going into the fourth quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Riot running back Celeste Schnell powered in from a yard out for a touchdown to cut the Valkyries lead to 26-24. That helped set the stage for Morgan to nail her winning field goal.
    Saskatoon’s final drive fizzled out at about the Regina 42 yard line.
The Valkyries defence sets up during a downpour of rain in the first quarter.
    Having locked up home field advantage through the Prairie Conference in the post-season, the likelihood is extremely high the Valkyries and Riot will face each other in the conference final. Going into playoffs, Hengen-Braun likes the effort he is seeing from his players.
    “The players that we asked to step up today did step up,” said Hengen-Braun. “The girls that did play today they did a really good job for us.”

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