Friday, 30 September 2016

Rams/Huskies take centre stage at new Mosaic

Noah Picton gets set to fire a pass downfield for the Rams.
    The action on the turf at new Mosaic Stadium might match the majestic look of the new state of the art facility itself.
    On Saturday at 2 p.m. in Regina, the host University of Regina Rams will face the University of Saskatchewan Huskies in the first game at what will be best known as the new home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. The clash is expected to be seen by over 16,500 spectators, and it will be a test event for the facility that cost $278-million to build.
    That contests also opens the festivities for “Football Day in Saskatchewan.” Following the match between the Rams and Huskies, the venerable Saskatoon Hilltops will face the Regina Thunder for the final time at old Mosaic Stadium in a clash of powerhouse Canadian Junior Football League teams at 7 p.m.
    While the majority of the people attending the university game will be out to see what it is like to attend an event at new Mosaic Stadium, they will also see a very meaningful tilt. The surprising Rams enter the contest as the fourth ranked squad in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport top 10 ratings, and they top the very tight Canada West standings with a 3-1 mark. A year ago, U of R suffered through an 0-8 season.
    The U of Calgary Dinos also have a 3-1 mark, but the Rams hold first due to their 32-27 victory over the Dinos on Sept. 23 at old Mosaic Stadium.
    The Huskies sit in fifth place in Canada West with a 2-2 record, and they still have the potential to surge up the standings.
    The majority of the crowd will be made up of people from Regina, but a sizable contingent is heading down from Saskatoon. Since the Rams joined the CIS ranks in 1999, their rivalry with the Huskies has been more of an up and down one as far as intensity goes.
    U of S has dominated the regular season encounters with a 21-6 record, but the Rams have a 3-2 edge in five post-season meetings.  Only one of those playoff encounters came in the Canada West final back in 2002, when the Huskies came away with a 44-28 victory at old Mosaic Stadium.
    The rivalry hasn’t had the bite it should have due to fact there hasn’t been frequent meetings in the Canada West final. Also, the Dinos won every Canada West title from 2008 to 2013, and the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds went all the way and won the Vanier Cup last year.
Since 2007, games between the Rams and Huskies have been really for bragging rights against each other, while someone else gets all the championship trophies.
Tyler Chow has piled up big yards on the ground for the Huskies.
    On Saturday, the only thing fans at new Mosaic will care about is what happens on that day. A victory would be key for each team’s hopes of making the Canada West playoffs and possibly hosting a post-season game.
    The players will likely provide a lot of excitement as well. Rams quarterback Noah Picton has had insane numbers over his team’s first four games completing 117-of-170 passes for 1,714 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. Picton gets to throw to a wide array of skilled pass catchers like Mitchell Picton, Khalid Kornegay and Riley Wilson, who are all averaging over 100 yards receiving a game. The U of R’s reputation of being “Receiver U” is definitely in good hands.
    Tyler Chow has emerged as the Huskies biggest offensive weapon over the first four weeks. The feature tailback has piled up 572 yards rushing on 84 carries and scored two touchdowns.
    The Huskies passing attack took a big hit in their last outing, when they dropped a 38-17 decision to the U of Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg on Sept. 24 due to receivers dropping a number of passes. They still have a strong quarterback in Kyle Siemens, who has completed 81 of 134 passes for 934 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. U of S also has a talented group of receivers, who will likely have a bounce back game as a unit.
    The crowd noise should get up high too. If you had the chance to visit the open house showing of new Mosaic Stadium during the Labour Day weekend, you will have learned the stadium design traps noise like CenturyLink Field in Seattle, which is home to the NFL’s Seahawks. Cheers echo and circle through the facility.
    There will likely be some bumps on Saturday afternoon, but the chance to see what should be a great game at new Mosaic Stadium will likely be an early Christmas gift.

Lots on the line for Hilltops and Thunder

Hilltops QB Jared Andreychuk rolls away from pressure.
    After the university game wraps up at new Mosaic Stadium, the Hilltops and Thunder will do battle at old Mosaic Stadium in a CJFL clash that has a lot on the line as the post-season approaches.
    Both teams have combined to win the last six CJFL championships. The Hilltops won the Canadian Bowl in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2015, while the Thunder captured the CJFL’s top prize in 2013.
The Hilltops enter the contest sitting second in the Prairie Football Conference with a 5-1 mark. The Thunder are third with a 3-3 record, but their three losses have come again either the Hilltops or the PFC leading Calgary Colts, who are 6-0.
    If the Hilltops win, they will guarantee at least a second place finish in the PFC standings, which means they will host a PFC semifinal playoff tilt. If the Thunder win by three or more points, they will take the season series with the Hilltops and place some pressure on Saskatoon to win its final two regular season games to hold on to second place.
    The Hilltops slipped past the Thunder 20-18 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field back on Sept. 10, which was the only other clash between these two clubs this season.
    Saskatoon also wants to keep the heat on Calgary as far as the race for first goes. The Colts are in the driver’s seat in that dash due to the fact they downed the Hilltops 36-21 back on Aug. 28 at SMF Field , which was the only head-to-head regular season clash between the two sides in the current campaign. Thanks to holding that standings tiebreaker, the Colts can lock up first place winning two of their final three games.
Sawyer Buettner fires a pass downfield for the Thunder.
    Last year, the Hilltops and Thunder staged a classic at old Mosaic. The Thunder took a 25-10 lead into the fourth quarter, and the Hilltops rallied to pull out a 26-25 victory.
    Quarterback Jared Andreychuk led that Toppers comeback, and he is having a solid campaign completing 83 of 135 passes for 1,256 yards, 13 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Saskatoon has great balance as running backs Logan Fischer, Joshua Ewanchyna and Adam Machart are all having solid years.
    Fischer tops the team with 521 yards rushing on 90 carries, while scoring six touchdowns. Ewanchyna has piled up 329 yards rushing on 40 carries and scored three majors, while Machart has 265 yards rushing on 38 carries and has scored one touchdown.
    Second-year Thunder quarterback Sawyer Buettner has turned a lot of heads completing 141 of 209 passes for 1,784 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Receiver Kristiane Desautels has been Buettner’s favourite target catching 24 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns.
    The first battle between these two squads this season had the intensity of a playoff clash, and Saturday’s encounter will likely have the same feel. Another classic might be on the way.

It always feels good to give

    As “Football Day in Saskatchewan” draws near, it has popped into my head that I have supported all four of the provinces post-secondary teams that will take the field on Regina on Saturday.
    I have donated to the scholarship funds of the Rams, Hilltops and Huskies and attended the Thunder’s Dinner of Champions fundraiser. Besides those four football teams, I have also donated to the scholarship funds of the U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s and women’s hockey teams and the U of R Cougars women’s hockey team.
    It makes me feel good when I can give money to any of these programs, and I would love to keep making similar donations in the future and add a few more teams to the list too. I want to thank you the readers for supporting me in my independent media endeavours to make this possible.
    I humbly hope I can keep earning and holding your respect as I continue onwards.

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