Sunday, 19 June 2016

Eyolfson guns Valkyries back into WWCFL final

Alex Eyolfson fires one of her four TD passes down field for the Valkyries.
    Alex Eyolfson greeted the attention that comes with being a big game hero with a lot of giggles.
    On the turf at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Saskatoon Valkyries 18-year-old rookie quarterback looked like a poised veteran on Sunday. She completed 10-of-18 passes for 151 yards and four touchdowns to lift the Valkyries past the Regina Riot 29-14 in the Western Women’s Canadian Football League’s Prairie Conference title game. She also ran the ball seven times for another 72 yards.
    Off the field, Eyolfson, who graduated from Saskatoon’s Holy Cross High School last year, seemed genuinely surprised a string of reporters came to talk to her about the day’s proceedings. She smiled and laughed her way through answering various questions.
Even when she was asked what it was like to lead the Valkyries to the WWCFL championship game, Eyolfson responded with pure joy.
    “I’m so excited,” said Eyolfson. “It is all new to me. It is going to be awesome.”
    The Riot entered Sunday’s clash as the defending WWCFL champs. A year ago, they downed the Valkyries 31-29 in a Prairie Conference title game that was played in Regina. That Riot victory ended the Valkyries quest to win the WWCFL title for a fifth straight year.
Stacey Boldt zips up field for a major score on a 15-yard pass reception.
    On paper, the Riot held a huge edge in the experience department at the quarterback position with star veteran Aimee Kowalski taking the snaps from centre.
    Saskatoon had been utilizing a two-quarterback system for much of this season with Eyolfson and sophomore Reed Thorstad sharing signal calling duties. Thorstad was limited to playing about four different series at quarterback on Sunday.
    For a moment, it appeared the biggest excitement in this year’s Prairie Conference final might come from the weather conditions in Saskatoon. After a scoreless first quarter, both teams were chased to their dressing rooms when a sudden storm opened up dropping sheets of rain and hail on the field accompanied by lightning with 12:08 to play in the second quarter.
    Those weather conditions disappeared after about five minutes, and the teams returned to action under sunny skies following a 20-minute delay.
Valkyries Receiver Marci Kiselyk (#19) celebrates a TD catch.
    When action resumed, Eyolfson went to work. With 4:18 to play in the second quarter, she found veteran receiver Marci Kiselyk on a streak pattern for a 44-yard touchdown pass to give Saskatoon a 7-0 lead. Just over two minutes later, Eyolfson hit veteran slotback Stacey Boldt on a 15-yard post pattern for a second touchdown strike to increase the Valkyries advantage to 14-0.
    Eyolfson wasn’t done there. With 6.3 seconds remaining before halftime, she hit Kiselyk again this time for a 28-yard touchdown pass. The Riot blocked the ensuing convert, but the Valkyries took a 20-0 edge into halftime.
    Valkyrie head coach Jeff Yausie was pleased with Eyolfson’s performance.
    “She (Eyolfson) played very well, and she is a very athletic person,” said Yausie. “Lots of times she escaped pressure and broke contain on the edge and she ran for some first downs.
    “She has played flag football for a long time. This is her first year in tackle football. She has run around a lot and played in a lot of big games.”
Carmen Agar piled up 200 yards rushing and receiving for the Riot.
    The Riot were able to move the ball on Sunday piling up 440 yards of total offence. Star running back Carmen Agar posted 147 yards rushing on 26 carries and 53 yards receiving on six catches. Regina also turned the ball over 10 times including seven occasions on downs which aided the Riot’s downfall.
    Regina’s first offensive possession stalled at the Saskatoon three yard line after a pass on a fake field goal by holder Claire Dore fell incomplete.
    The Riot finally broke through on the scoreboard with 2:05 to play in the third quarter. The Valkyries fumbled away a punt return in their own end zone, and Agar recovered the ball for a touchdown to cut Saskatoon’s lead to 20-7.
    The momentum swing didn’t last. Just 1:44 into the fourth quarter, the Valkyries jumped ahead 28-7, when Eyolfson found Kiselyk for a two-yard touchdown pass and then hit slotback Stacey Boldt on a five-yard pass for a two-point convert.
    Kiselyk, who has been with the Valkyries since they started in 2011, caught four passes for 90 yards and three touchdowns in Sunday’s win.
A gang of Valkyries defenders take down a Riot ball carrier.
    “The receivers adjusted so well,” said Eyolfson. “They were really open I guess when I threw it every time.
    “They adjusted and ran their routes really hard. It was just easy to get it to them.”
    Kicker Carly Dyck added a single from 29-yard missed field goal to give the Valkyries a 29-7 edge. Regina round out the scoring with 62 seconds to play in the fourth quarter, when Kowalski hit receiver Robyn Tulloch on a 30-yard touchdown pass to cement the final outcome at 29-14 in Saskatoon’s favour. The Riot finished the season with a 5-2 overall record.
    Kiselyk was pumped her side came out on the winning end.
    “We’ve been aiming for that all year,” said Kiselyk. “Every season is a new season, but I hadn’t forgotten last year. It really felt like redemption for us.”
    The sure-handed pass catcher was also proud of the effort Eyolfson had.
Valkyries QB Alex Eyolfson eludes Riot defender Robyn Tulloch.
    “Alex (Eyolfson) really stood out for us today,” said Kiselyk. “She made a lot of plays with her legs as well as with her arm.
    “Even though we struggled early, she was able to keep her head in a big game in a high pressure situation, and that shows a lot of maturity for someone so young.”
    The Valkyries advance to the WWCFL championship game to face the Edmonton Storm this coming Saturday in Lethbridge. The Storm took the Western Conference championship last Saturday with a 14-4 victory over the Lethbridge Steel in Edmonton.
    The Valkyries and Storm enter the WWCFL championship game with identical 6-1 overall records. Those two clubs met in an exhibition tilt back on April 30 in Saskatoon, where the Valkyries pulled out a 30-17 victory.
The Valkyries celebrate their WWCFL Prairie Conference title win.
    Edmonton fell 53-6 in last year’s WWCFL championship game held in Winnipeg to the Regina Riot.
    The Valkyries beat the Storm in the inaugural WWCFL championship game 35-7, which was held in Lethbridge in 2011.

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