Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Siemens is top football dog

Huskies make right move in going with third-year pivot

Kyle Siemens stays cool in the pocket for the Huskies.
    Kyle Siemens was the obvious choice to lead the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team as the starting quarterback, which should come as no surprise seeing his short sampling of work on the field.
    Going into this Canadian Interuniversity Sport season, Siemens, who is in his third year of eligibility, was in a battle for the Huskies starting quarterback position with fifth-year veteran Drew Burko. Both happen to be graduates of Saskatoon’s Aden Bowman Collegiate in Saskatoon.
    Burko was the starting pivot from 2012 to the Huskies sixth regular season outing in the 2015 campaign.
    Sitting at 2-4 last season, the Dogs needed a spark to make a playoff push. In went Siemens for the second last regular season game, and he proceeded to push the Huskies into the post-season going 1-1 in his two starts. The wins gave the Dogs a 3-5 regular season mark.
    U of S fell in a Canada West quarter-final playoff contest 37-29 in Calgary to the University of Calgary Dinos.
    In the Huskies regular season opener last Friday, Siemens had a strong outing completing 28-of-42 passes for 338 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a thrilling 41-39 overtime victory over the University of Regina Rams. He also rose up in one big key moment before a packed crowd of 7,735 spectators at Griffiths Stadium, which showed why he had to handle the starting reins.
    The Rams had scored a touchdown and added a two-point convert to go up 31-28 with 1:36 to play in the fourth quarter.
    On the ensuing U of S series, the Huskies were at their own 20 yard line facing a third and 20. The situation favoured the defence, and the Huskies needed a big play to avoid bowing out in defeat.
    Siemens proceeded to hook up with receiver Yol Piok on a deep throw to pick up 35 yards and get the Huskies to midfield. The game’s momentum changed, and Siemens guided the Huskies into position to hit a short 20-yard field goal to tie things up at 31-31 and send the contest to overtime.
Kyle Siemens fires a pass downfield for the Huskies.
    As an encore, the Rams would go up 38-31 getting a touchdown in their first possession of the shootout overtime format, and Siemens came back hitting Colton Klassen with a 29-yard TD toss to tie things up at 38-38.
    The Rams proceeded to get a single from a missed field goal on their second OT possession to go up 39-38, and Huskies kicker Sean Stenger followed with a short 10-yard field goal to give his side a 41-39 win.
    Under Burko in 2015, the Huskies didn’t make enough key plays like the ones Siemens did inside the final 90 seconds of the fourth quarter and in overtime on Friday. In the always tough Canada West conference, making those types of plays separates good teams from average teams and great teams from good ones.
    The other thing that hurt Burko was the fact he got in a rut last season of turning the ball over. In 2015, Burko completed 117 of 206 passes for 1,725 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interceptions. He threw a combined five pics in back-to-back blowout losses to the Dinos, where the Huskies were outscored 103-34 and dropped to 2-4.
    When Siemens came in, he did a better job at taking care of the ball, which drastically improved the Huskies chances to win. In his first start last season, Siemens completed 44-of-67 passes for 520 yards, three touchdowns and one interception in a 41-36 loss at Griffiths Stadium to the eventual Vanier Cup champion University of British Columbia Thunderbirds. The 44 completions were a single game Huskies record.
    Needed a win on the road in Regina against the Rams to make playoffs, Siemens rallied the Huskies from a 34-11 late third quarter deficit to pull out a 38-37 win. He completed 23-of-41 passes for 422 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions in that contest.
    In the playoffs, Siemens had the Dogs up 22-19 early in the fourth quarter against the Dinos, before the Dinos pulled out a 37-29 victory. Siemens completed 29-of-46 passes for 356 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in that loss.
Kyle Siemens calls a play in the huddle for the Huskies.
    With the way Siemens finished the 2015 campaign, it was going to be hard not to name him the starter. He gives the Huskies their best chance to win.
    Burko did have a longer sampling as a starter. From a physical stature, he has all the tools you look for in a quarterback standing 6-foot-4, weighing 225 pounds and having a gun of an arm.
    Siemens stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 195 pounds and has a stature more comparable to CFL legend Doug Flutie. Like Flutie, Siemens isn’t your sexy pick to be quarterback, but also like Flutie, Siemens makes plays.
    Veteran Huskies head coach Brian Towriss and his staff know they have to make tough the decisions to help their team win, and this was one of them.
    Now it is up to Siemens to continue his magic this coming Friday on the road, when the Huskies travel to Edmonton to face the University of Alberta Golden Bears (0-1), who have a habit of playing the Dogs tough.

Thunder have hit at Leibel Field

Over 1,500 spectators packed Leibel Field in Regina to watch the Thunder.
    The Canadian Junior Football League’s Regina Thunder might have discovered that bigger isn’t always better.
    On Saturday, the Thunder packed over 1,500 fans into the cozy confines of Leibel Field to watch the host side post a 43-29 victory over the Winnipeg Rifles. For the Thunder’s hometown players, the move was a return to the roots type one.
    Leibel Field is home to a large majority of Regina’s minor football games. A lot of the Thunder’s Regina born players likely got their first taste of the tackled game at the park suiting up at age eight.
    The facility is also home to a number of clashes for the city’s various men’s and women’s touch and flag leagues.
    Leibel Field was renovated a few years back, which allowed the Thunder to experiment with the concept of playing there.
Tailback Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette tears downfield for the Thunder.
    Normally, the Thunder play at Mosaic Stadium, which is home to the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders. The Thunder usually draws crowds of around 1,000, which look very spread out at Mosaic Stadium, which can seat over 33,000.
    At Leibel Field, it felt like the Thunder game had a better atmosphere, as there were no empty seats in the bleachers. The beer garden was a little small, but it was equipped with a big flat screen television, which allowed spectators to keep track of what was going on out on the field.
    Overall, the Thunder had a big hit with the concept of going to a smaller park. Hopefully, they will keep coming back to this novelty in the future.
    If they even just had one game a year at Leibel Field per season, it would be a good thing.  

Hilltops back on track

Joshua Ewanchyna piled up 178 yards rushing.
    As expected, the venerable Saskatoon Hilltops earned their big bounce back victory, and they got big contributions from a couple of youngsters.
    On Sunday, the Hilltops traveled to Edmonton and flattened the Wildcats 53-16 in CJFL action to improve to 3-1. The Wildcats fell to 0-4.
    Before downing the Wildcats, the Hilltops dropped a 36-21 decision to the Calgary Colts at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on Aug. 28.
    In the win over the Wildcats, rookie tailback Joshua Ewanchyna piled up 178 yards rushing on 18 carries and scored three touchdowns. Second-year running back Adam Machart picked up 118 yards rushing on 17 carries and one major.
    Fifth-year veteran quarterback Jared Andreychuk connected on 13-of-18 passes for 244 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Receiver Jason Price hauled in six passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
    Defensive back Logan Bitz topped the Toppers with seven tackles, while safety James Vause had an interception and a fumble recovery.
    On Saturday, the Hilltops return to action with a key battle against the Regina Thunder (3-1) at 7 p.m. at SMF Field. Both teams are chasing the Colts (4-0) for first in the Prairie Football Conference.
    Before tangling with the Thunders, the Hilltops are hosting their Potashcorp Scholarship Dinner at SMF Field. Gates open at 4:15 p.m. and dinner follows at 5:15 p.m. with Saskatchewan Roughriders great George Reed as the guest speaker and a pre-game address by Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here.
    Following Saturday’s game, the Hilltops play three of their final four games on the road. That stretch includes traveling to Kelowna, B.C., on Sept. 17 for a clash that counts in the regular season standings with the Okanagan Sun, who the Hilltops beat 38-24 in last year’s Canadian Bowl. The Sun currently top the British Columbia Football Conference with a 6-0 mark.

Blades announce more Howe day details

The Gordie Howe statue in front of the SaskTel Centre.
    During a press conference on Tuesday, the Saskatoon Blades announced more details of their “Thank You, Mr. Hockey” day.
    Before their regular season home opener on Sept. 25 against the Swift Current Broncos, the Blades will honour one of the greatest hockey players of all-time in the late Gordie Howe. Howe passed away on June 10 at age 88.
    Hockey Night in Canada broadcasting legend Bob Cole will serve as host of a special 25-minute pre-game ceremony, which is slated to begin at 2 p.m. The Blades will wear special Howe themed jerseys for the contest and stickers on their helmets bearing Howe’s signature.
    The Blades are also bringing in trophies Howe won from the Hockey Hall of Fame to be put on display. The first 6,000 people inside the rink will get special Howe themed items.
    The day begins with a private ceremony at the Howe statue outside the SaskTel Centre for his family at 9:30 a.m. The cremated remains of Gordie and his wife Colleen Howe will be interred at the statue. City officials and the provincial government pushed through special approval to allow the statue to serve as a cemetery.
    After the ceremony, the Howe family will make their way to the newly built Circle Drive South Bridge, which is being named the Gordie Howe Bridge.
    All four of Gordie and Colleen’s children will be in the city for all the day’s activities.
    Blades president Steve Hogle has and is working extremely hard to pull the special events on this day together. This will definitely be the must-see Blades game of the year.

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