Saturday, 29 June 2019

“This game was 100 per cent for him” - Valkyries win WWCFL title in memory of late coach Filteau

Ron Filteau holds the WWCFL title trophy for the Valkyries team picture.
    REGINA, Sask. - It was far from an ordinary Western Women’s Canadian Football League championship for the Saskatoon Valkyries.
    On Saturday, the Valkyries downed the host Regina Riot 25-3 to capture their first league title since 2016 and sixth WWCFL championship since the team first hit the field in 2011. 
    The Riot entered Saturday’s game looking for their third straight league championship having won the WWCFL title in 2017 and 2018.
    The Valkyries were playing to honour the memory of their late defensive position coach Justin Filteau, who died in a plane crash on June 1. After learning about Filteau’s passing, the Valkyries dedicated their 2019 season to their late coach.
Sam Matheson (#22) jets off on a 16-yard touchdown run.
    Following Saturday’s win over the Riot, the Valkyries brought Filteau’s father, Ron, on to the field to share in the celebrations. The team had a big group hug with Ron, and he took part in a team picture with the squad.
    “This feels unreal, especially with everything that has happened this year, the adversity our team has experienced and overcome on this field,” said sixth-year defensive back Ehjae Chan. “It means so much like more than words can even express.
    “For us to be here to have played in this game and pulled through, we really felt coach (Justin) Filteau here today. This game was 100 per cent for him. I think for us it just felt fitting.”
    The Valkyries improved to 8-0 overall with the win.
Haley Girolami makes a tough sidelines catch.
    They still have one more exhibition game this coming Saturday at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field against the Montreal Blitz, who play out of a women’s league in the United States.
    The Riot, who won two straight road playoff games to make the WWCFL final, finished off with a 3-4 overall mark.
    Valkyries quarterback Alex Eyolfson, who was named her team’s MVP for the title game, said she couldn’t find the words to adequately say how she felt regarding all that her squad had to persevere through.
    “It is just amazing,” said Eyolfson. “It is a great feeling.
    “Everyone just has so much heart on this team. It just showed today at the end. We just pushed through and got it for Filteau.”
    The Valkyries actually closed their WWCFL regular season schedule one day after Filteau’s sudden passing on June 2 at Mosaic Stadium against the Riot. Saskatoon prevailed in that contest 22-7.
    “When we found out about Justin’s passing, we were playing our last regular season game here on June second, and it was a challenge,” said Valkyries head coach Pat Barry. “I had never been involved in anything like that.
Ehjae Chan (#24) celebrates a fourth quarter interception.
    “The resiliency of our athletes is incredible. I am so proud of them. Their mental toughness is something I will never forget.
    “I will remember it all of my days.”
    Saturday’s clash was a typical physical affair that traditionally occurs between the Valkyries and Riot. The defences on both sides force their share of turnovers.
    The Valkyries ultimately made their takeaways count scoring 24 points off turnovers.
Saskatoon went ahead 1-0 early in the first quarter on a 40-yard punt single from Rienna Rueve.
    In the second quarter, Valkyries rookie defensive back Kori Herner intercepted Riot star quarterback Aimee Kowalski.
    The Valkyries turned that turnover into a short scoring drive that was capped by a four-yard touchdown run by star running back Sam Matheson to give the visitors an 8-0 edge.
    Near the end of the second quarter, Chan intercepted Kowalski and made a long run back into Regina’s end of the field.
Valkyries LB Beth Lalonde sacks Riot QB Aimee Kowalski.
    A short drive resulting from that turnover ended with Rueve hitting a 15-yard field goal to give the Valkyries an 11-0 lead with 14 seconds remaining before halftime.
    “As a DB, anytime you get to have an interception it’s really meaningful, especially when it kind of changes the tide of the game,” said Chan. “Our whole team has been playing unreal.
    “Our defence, we were working together, so I feel like that was just a reflection of how well our defence was playing as a unit. I just happened to get to take the glory for that moment, but it was really the whole team working together to make that happen.”
    Early in the third quarter, the Riot appeared to seize the momentum, when defensive end Jessie Noname blocked a punt and recovered the ball at Saskatoon’s 34 yard line.
QB Alex Eyolfson (#15) threw for 200 yards for the Valkyries.
    On the ensuing Regina offensive series, Kowalski appeared to hit receiver Kyla Krenbrink for a nine-yard touchdown pass, but the score was called back due to an off-side penalty against the Riot.
    That series ended with Krenbrink hitting a field goal from 20 yards out to cut the Valkyries lead to 11-3.
    In the fourth quarter, the Valkyries got the ball on their own 45 yard line after stopping the Riot on a third down gamble.
    Saskatoon proceeded to drive the ball downfield for a scoring march that was capped by a one-yard sneak by short-yardage quarterback Reed Thorstad. Thorstad’s score gave the visitors an 18-3 lead with 6:47 remaining on the clock.
The Valkyries held Reed Thorstad (#12) up after she scores a touchdown.
    After stopping the Riot on another third down gamble, the Valkyries mounted another scoring march that was capped by a 16-yard touchdown run by Matheson to put Saskatoon up 25-3 with 2:35 to play.
    Chan made her second interception of the contest on the ensuring Riot offensive series to cap the Valkyries victory.
    “It is always nice to come and battle,” said Chan, who had three tackles to go with her two interceptions. “We always have great games when we play the Riot.
    “We appreciate that, because football is more fun when it is a challenge and you aren’t sure what is going to happen. Obviously, it is great. We’re so proud of the football community in Saskatchewan.
Valkyries head coach Pat Barry gets the ice bucket shower.
    “Obviously, we love keeping it (the WWCFL championship) in the province and battling it out.”
    Matheson had a monster game for the Valkyries running the ball 21 times for 176 yards to go with her two scores.
    Eyolfson, who was named her team’s MVP for the game, completed 13-of-27 passes for 200 yards with one interception. Valkyries rookie receiver Haley Girolami led all pass catchers with six catches for 65 yards, which included a key 24-yard sideline catch in the fourth quarter.
    “We had a great group of receivers this year,” said Eyolfson. “I think it was probably like one of the strongest years we’ve had as an offence for sure.
    “We’ve played flag before, so it is good. I can connect with them. I know how they run.”
    The Riot were limited to 199 yards of total offence as a team. Kowalski completed 14-of-37 passes with four interceptions.
Ron Filteau, centre, gets emotional from a warm greeting by the Valkyries.
    Linebacker Emmarae Dale and defensive end Danaye Holynski each had 10.5 tackles for the Valkyries.
    Defensive tackle Brittany Boschman was named the game MVP for the Riot making 3.5 tackles and recovering one fumble.
    Barry spoke to Justin Filteau’s mom, Nancy, before the contest and she said to tell the players to have fun. The side boss reminded his players of that bit of advice at halftime, and he thought they were more upbeat with how they played in the second half.
    With all the Valkyries had to go though, Barry was overjoyed to see his team win the WWCFL title.
The Valkyries raise the WWCFL championship trophy.
    “I’m a little speechless right now,” said Barry. “I am so proud of these players.
    “I am so proud of these athletes. I am really excited for them. They had a great day.”

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