Saturday, 8 July 2017

Football Huskies in good hands with new coaches

U of Saskatchewan might surprise a few in U Sports ranks

Huskies head coach Scott Flory, right, meets fans as part of a charity event.
    The University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team has the coaching staff to take them into the future.
    There were huge bumps in the road that made the process of creating a new coaching staff a painful one. The departure of legendary Huskies head coach Brian Towriss late last December wasn’t handled in the smoothest fashion to say the least. A joint statement had to be posted on the Huskie Athletics website from U of S president Peter Stoicheff and Towriss that saw Stoicheff apologize for how the news of Towriss’s resignation was handled.
    Towriss will be officially inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on Sept. 14 in Hamilton, Ont.
    Former CFL and Huskies star player Scott Flory, who had been the Huskies offensive coordinator, was named the team’s new head coach on March 13. Since that time, Flory, who will turn 41 on July 15, has taken the ball and run with it putting his stamp on the team. Flory has put in the ground work to create optimism.
    He revamped the coaching staff, and the staff is likely deeper overall than it was during Towriss’s final season. Including Flory, only six people from the 16 person coaching staff last season remain to be part of the 14 person staff this season. The five other holdovers include Dan Houle, Lane Bryska, Cody Halseth, Braden Suchan and Paul Woldu.
    Flory brought in long-time veteran CFL quarterback Marcus Crandell as the new offensive coordinator. Crandell was a member of the Calgary Stampeders Grey Cup winning team in 2001 and the Saskatchewan Roughriders Grey Cup championship team in 2007. Those that knew Crandell during his years in Regina speak highly of him, and you can expect him to give the offence great guidance.
    Warren Muzika joined the Huskies as the team’s new defensive coordinator. Muzika played for first the Canadian Junior Football League’s Saskatoon Hilltops and then the Huskies establishing a reputation of being a “Terminator” type linebacker in the 1990s.
    The graduate of Saskatoon’s Walter Murray High School helped the Hilltops win the Canadian Bowl in 1991 and the Huskies win Vanier Cups in 1996 and 1998. He played five seasons in the CFL split between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers from 1999 to 2003 and was on Hamilton’s Grey Cup winner in 1999.
Kyle Siemens (#19) fires a pass downfield for the Huskies.
    After returning to Saskatoon once his CFL career wrapped up to pursue a teaching career, Muzika spent time as a defensive assistant with the Hilltops playing a major part in shaping that team’s linebackers. He never had a sizable role on the Huskies coaching staff until now. It is great that Flory is re-establishing some stronger links with old alums and storied former Huskies players like Muzika, who now gets to play a more significant role with the program.
    The other new assistant coaches Flory brought in who had significant playing careers with the Huskies include Duane Dmytryshyn and Tony Michalchuk. Jeremy Long and Tye Mountney are two new assistants that spent a short time with the Huskies as players. Mountney is better remembered as a star linebacker with the Hilltops in the 1990s helping them win a Canadian Bowl in 1996.
    The Huskies saw another old face return to the fold when Jerry Friesen rejoined the team as the special teams coordinator. Friesen played five seasons with the Huskies in the 1970s and was an assistant coach for 10 years starting in 1986. He spent time coaching the U of Calgary Dinos, U of Alberta Golden Bears and University of British Columbia Thunderbirds in his lengthy career before rejoining the Huskies.
    Friesen, who was the head coach of the Golden Bears during his stop at U of A, brings tonnes of valuable experience to the Huskies.
    The current Huskies staff is rounded out by Ignite Conditioning co-owner Joel Lipinski, who is the strength and conditioning coordinator and a defensive assistant. Before making CFL stops as a player with the Saskatchewan Roughriders and Edmonton Eskimos, Lipinski made his mark in the U Sports ranks as an all-Canadian defensive back first with the U of Regina Rams and then with the Saint Mary’s University Huskies in the 2000s.
    Since becoming head coach, Flory has been visible on many fronts in the community. He is pretty active in reaching out to team supporters either in person or through electronic correspondence.  His messaging to his players has been great as he tells them everything matters on and off the field including demeanor, words, actions, decisions and academics.
    Having talked to a couple of the current Huskies football coaches in public settings, it sounds like the Huskies new coaching staff has developed chemistry quite quickly and the atmosphere with the staff is very upbeat. It is conceivable the Huskies could have a strong year in 2017.
The Huskies defence gets set for action.
    The new coaching staff also doesn’t have to rebuild the program from the ground up. They take over a Huskies squad that posted a solid 5-3 regular season record in 2016 before getting thumped 47-17 in a Canada West semifinal playoff game to the Dinos. The Dinos went on to fall in the Vanier Cup to the Universite Laval Rouge et Or 31-26.
    The Huskies are slated to return a number of key players including quarterback Kyle Siemens and defensive lineman Matt Kozun. The Dogs might not experience that many growing pains. The Huskies first game is a pre-season contest on Aug. 25, when they travel to Hamilton, Ont., to face the McMaster University Marauders.
    With that said, the competition in the Canada West Conference is always tough, so success is never guaranteed. Still, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Huskies went out and had a memorable campaign.

Two youngsters, one great vet take Valkyries awards

Alex Eyolfson is the Valkyries offensive MVP.
    The Saskatoon Valkyries women’s football team gave nods to two members of their youth moment and one to standout veteran at their team awards on Thursday night at Saskatoon Minor Football Field’s clubhouse complex.
    The Valkyries offensive and defensive MVP awards went to two of the Valkyries young sophomore players. Quarterback Alex Eyolfson was named the Valkyries offensive MVP.
    The 19-year-old assumed the role as the full-time starter in her second campaign with the team. The graduate of Saskatoon’s Holy Cross High School has grown significantly over the past two seasons with the team and has a good command of the team’s offence.
    Linebacker Emmarae Dale was named the team’s defensive MVP. Since joining the Valkyries last year, Dale, who is a graduate of Saskatoon’s St. Joseph High School, immediately became a force on the defensive side of the ball. Also a member of the U of Saskatchewan Huskies track and field team, Dale reads and reacts quickly to plays and moves swiftly from sideline to sideline.
    The Valkyries presented their Green and White award to sixth-year standout defensive lineman Melanie Harris for her overall dedication to the team and the women’s game. Harris lives in Outlook, Sask., and drives into Saskatoon for all the team’s practices and games. Each of those round trips takes two hours out of Harris’s day.
    Harris has become a realizable fixture on the defensive line helping the Valkyries win Western Women’s Canadian Football League titles in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. She retired from playing with the Valkyries at the conclusion of the 2017 campaign.
    This past season, the Valkyries posted a 5-2 overall record, and both of their losses came to the Regina Riot, who won the WWCFL title. The Valkyries fell 34-24 in the WWCFL Prairie Conference championship game in Regina to the Riot on June 4, and closed the season with a 44-20 victory in a WWCFL consolation final over the Edmonton Storm on June 10 in Saskatoon.

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