Monday, 12 June 2017

Eyolfson growing into bigger role with Valkyries

Alex Eyolfson fires a pass downfield for the Valkyries.
    Alex Eyolfson had trouble grasping that the Western Women’s Canadian Football League season was over, but the 19-year-old quarterback was pumped her team went out on a high.
    On Saturday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the host Saskatoon Valkyries downed the Edmonton Storm 44-20 in WWCFL consolation final. The win allowed the Valkyries to finish the campaign with a 5-2 overall record, while the Storm were 2-4 overall.
    The Valkyries played their seven games over seven consecutive weeks without a bye week. While Eyolfson was pleased her team went out on a winning note, the graduate of Saskatoon’s Holy Cross High School said it felt different that the season was over.
Alex Eyolfson (#15) rolls out of the pocket for the Valkyries.
    “It went by so fast,” said Eyolfson. “It was so condensed.
    “We all need a break now. It was a good hard season. It is crazy. It went by in like a month and a half.”
    After the Valkyries received a consolation plaque, the Regina Riot took the field for the WWCFL championship game and blanked the Calgary Rage 53-0. The Riot claimed their second WWCFL title in three years.
    The Valkyries claimed the WWCFL championship last year. Their quest to repeat came to an end with a 34-24 WWCFL Prairie Conference championship game loss to the Riot on June 4 at Taylor Field in Regina. That contest was the final competitive tackle football game played at the fabled facility.
    Eyolfson admitted there was a bit of a sad feeling that her team wasn’t playing in the WWCFL title game.
    “Definitely, we are all disappointed,” said Eyolfson. “We could have had that game.
Alex Eyolfson (#15) calls out signals for the Valkyries.
    “We went into this game just going it is our mission go play, go win and finish off the season on a strong note.”
    The Valkyries did just that on Saturday, with Eyolfson completing 7-of-14 passes for 82 yards, two touchdown passes and no interceptions. Both of her touchdown throws came in the first quarter.
    The sophomore signal caller hit sophomore receiver Alyssa Wiebe for an eight-yard strike at the 1:42 mark of the first quarter to put the Valkyries up 7-0. With 1:49 to play in the first quarter, she hit Jaime Lammerding, who plays both offensive and defensive line, for a two-yard TD toss that got the Valkyries bench rocking.
    Lammerding is one of four players to play in all seven seasons the Valkyries have existed, and her touchdown score was the first of her career. The catch increased the Valkyries lead to 20-0. Saskatoon’s other seven-year members included linebacker Beth Thomson, defensive back Tori Giles and defensive lineman Lori Smith.
    In between Eyolfson’s touchdown tosses, kicker Carly Dyck nailed field goals from 30 and 35 yards out.
    The Valkyries also did a few other different things in their final outing. Wiebe played quarterback for a series completing one of her two pass attempts hooking up with receiver Kelsey Murphy for a 38-yard gain.
Jaime Lammerding (#21) celebrates her TD reception for the Valkyries.
    Rookie Devyn Peters, who turned heads playing linebacker and defensive back this season, was inserted at running back, and she carried the ball 15 times for 218 yards and scored two touchdowns.
    “We just wanted to go out and have fun and play hard our last game,” said Eyolfson. “It was fun like getting Devyn (Peters) in at running back, and she got two touchdowns.
    “It was good to get (Alyssa) Wiebe in too at quarterback.”
    Edmonton did make the consolation final interesting. With 10.8 seconds to play in the first quarter, Storm running back Brenna Bouchard ran in a major from 18 yards out to cut the Valkyries lead to 20-7.
    Early in the second quarter, Storm quarterback Aria McGowan ran in a touchdown from 36 yards out to further shrink the Valkyries edge to 20-13. Edmonton’s conversion attempt failed after that score.
Devyn Peters (#31) had a monster game rushing.
    The Valkyries surged back up to hold a 34-13 lead thanks to rushing majors coming from Peters from 12 yards out and Melanie Harris from one yard out.
    As the second quarter expired, Storm running back Sarah Deutscher ran in a score from a yard out to trim the Valkyries edge to 34-20.
    The Valkyries rounded out the game’s scoring in the third quarter with a 37 field goal from Dyck and a spectacular 73 yard touchdown run from Peters.
    McGowan completed 9-of-24 passes for 163 yards and one interception for the Storm. She ran the ball eight times for 134 yards.
    Due to numerous injuries the team sustained this season, the Valkyries had a number of new faces playing new roles like Peters and running back Ricki Obed. Eyolfson enjoyed seeing how everyone improved.
    “A lot of girls stepped up, and we played like amazing,” said Eyolfson. “We stepped up played for the injured players.
    “For sure it was a hit to our team, but like girls stepped up and played awesome. It was great.”
    Eyolfson took big strides as well. During her rookie year last season, she split time at quarterback with Reed Thorstad for the majority of the campaign.
Alyssa Wiebe tears upfield after a pass reception.
    Eyolfson went the distance in that year’s WWCFL Prairie Conference championship game completing 10-of-18 passes for 151 yards and four touchdowns in a 29-14 win over the Riot.
    This year as a sophomore, Eyolfson was the Valkyries starter all season and went the distance in their two regular season matches with the Riot and the playoffs outside of Wiebe’s one series in the WWCFL consolation final.
    On May 21, Eyolfson hit Murphy for an eight-yard winning touchdown pass with seven seconds to play to lift the Valkyries to a 20-17 regular season win over the Riot at Taylor Field.
    That moment at the storied stadium, which is best known as the long-time home of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders, was a huge season highlight.
    “Winning in the last minute and getting that pass, that was something I won’t forget,” said Eyolfson.
    The best might still be coming for Eyolfson whose command and presence in the huddled has grown immensely the past two seasons.
The Valkyries celebrate their WWCFL consolation final win on Saturday.
    As she turns 20 in September, she doesn’t plan on walking away from football just yet.
    “I love it,” said Eyolfson, who studies kinesiology at the University of Saskatchewan. “I will be playing at least a few more years. We will see.
    “I love all the girls. We made friends for life. It is just great playing with this group of girls.
    “They work so hard, and we all work for each other. It is amazing, and they are awesome.”

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