Regina Thunder set to tackle Saskatoon in PFC closing

The Regina Thunder and Saskatoon Hilltops will play each other in the Prairie Football Conference final for the second season in a row.

“It’s going to be amazing. It’s always electric when we play them. I’m just excited to get a second shot at redemption this year,” Thunder quarterback, Carter Shewchuk said.

Regina topped the Winnipeg Rifles 23-14 in last weekend’s semi-final matchup. The game was delayed more than an hour and a half due to weather. Volunteers had to clear the field after a significant snowfall.

“That was a lot of snow. We had guys out there shoveling that weren’t dressed, parents, coaches, everybody. I think the PFC (Prairie Football Conference) President was out there,” wide receiver, Rylan Sokul said.

Once the game got going it was an exciting matchup and one that saw Thunder running back, Ryland Leichert rush for 390 yards. Leichert’s performance meant he set new Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) and PFC records for carries and rushing yards in a playoff game. Andrew Harris, former Vancouver Island Raider and current Toronto Argonaut of the Canadian Football League (CFL), set the playoff record for rushing yardage (370) in 2008.

“Obviously to be in the same company as him is special. I didn’t even know I really broke [the record] until after the game because during the game you’re so focused on doing your job,” Leichert said. “When I found out it was kind of surreal, it kind of took a day to kick in and I was like holy smokes,” he said while laughing.

“For a second-year guy, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it. He’s built like a man. That dude worlds harder than anybody I’ve ever seen. Obviously all of that hard work went in and he finally got his chance to really shine,” Shewchuk said.

The team will look to carry that shine and 8-0-0 regular season record into their final conference showdown this weekend.

“I think the provincial rivalry is huge and often we’re the top two teams in the prairie conference so it means a lot every time we play them,” Sokul said.

The winner of Sunday’s game will advance to the CJFL national semi-final in B.C.

“I think there’s no tighter team or tighter culture in sports in this league. We always play for each other and always play for one. I just think the fact that we love to cheer for each other and support each other show that we win as a team,” Leichert said.

“I think you can tell how close we are because we’ve had so much success this season,” Sokul added.

“Our culture just as an organization as a whole is second to none. We set the standard throughout the league. Everybody here is one big, happy, family,” Shewchuk said.

However, the Hilltops are a weapon themselves having earned six-straight national titles, most recently in 2019. The Thunder have not won since 2013.

“It’s one of those things we set our goal at the beginning of the season in our locker room there’s a sign on the roof that says ‘here to win a CJFL National Championship’ and that whole 2013 team has signed it. It’s on the roof for us to look at every single day. That’s kind of been our driving force,” Shewchuk said.

Kickoff for the championship game will take place on Sunday at 1 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium.

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