Weather could be a major factor in Canada West football semi-finals

Huskie quarterback Mason Nyhus, left, and running back Ryker Frank have both had outstanding seasons. (Photo Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards - image credit)
Huskie quarterback Mason Nyhus, left, and running back Ryker Frank have both had outstanding seasons. (Photo Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards - image credit)

Saskatchewan's two university football teams are both playing host to Hardy Cup semi-final games Saturday with an eye on playing each other the following week if they both win.

The University of Regina Rams take on the UBC Thunderbirds, while the University of Saskatchewan Huskies are at home against the Manitoba Bisons.

Besides their opponents, they'll also be combating a less than ideal weather forecast.

Huskies vs. Bisons

In Saskatoon the forecast is snow and 0 C at kickoff. In Regina the forecast for the 4 p.m. start is 4 C with rain turning to snow.

"Weather's always going to play a part, you're playing football in November," said Huskie linebacker Nick Wiebe.

"We game plan around it in order to be successful with the conditions that were given. But at the same time, I think we do a heck of a job of just playing football and kind of blocking out the noise around that."

Photo Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards
Photo Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards

The Huskies finished atop the Canada West Division with a sparkling 7-1 record.

Wiebe is the linchpin on a Huskies defence that was the stingiest in the conference, giving up an average of just 15 points a game.

The second-year Huskie, who previously played at the University of Oregon, recorded 33 solo tackles in eight games this season.

Wiebe says the game against the Bisons will come down to execution.

"The Bisons are a team that we've seen a lot over the past years. They know us and we know them," Wiebe said.

"We've had a very good week of prep up to this point, so executing on Saturday is going to be the big thing."

Offensively, the Huskies are a juggernaut, racking up an average 355 yards through the air and 177 yards on the ground.

Quarterback Mason Nyhus is having a Hec Creighton-type year.

Nyhus has thrown for more than 2,800 yards, including 18 touchdown passes against just three interceptions.

Photo Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards
Photo Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards

Second-year back Ryker Frank, who finished third in the conference with 548 yardsrushing, leads the Huskies' ground attack. He also caught 15 passes for 209 yards.

Frank says the Huskies have an abundance of running backs to choose from, including Ted Kubongo and Kayden Miller.

"One thing that's really special about our team is that we have a very talented group of running backs," said Frank, who took over the starting job when Josh Ewanchyna went down with an injury in the the first game of the season.

"We have a lot of depth," he said. "There's lots of talented guys on the team that also could have taken off given the opportunity, but I was just fortunate enough to be the next man up."

Game time at Griffiths Stadium is 1 p.m. and it's also available on SaskTel maxTV.

Photo Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards
Photo Electric Umbrella/Liam Richards

Rams vs. T-Birds

The Rams finished second to the Huskies this year with a 5-3 record, including two razor-thin losses to Saskatchewan.

The Rams will face a Thunderbird team that relies heavily on a running attack featuring Isaiah Knight, who led Canada West with 754 yards on the ground.

That plays into the strength of the Rams defence, which gave up just 94 yards a game, tops in Canada West.

Linebacker Ryder Varga led the team with 43 tackles and two sacks while fifth-year defensive lineman Anthony Bennett has been a force all year, leading Canada West with eight sacks and ranking second in tackles for a loss.

Offensively the Rams are led on offence by rookie quarterback phenom Noah Pelletier.

The first-year player out of Balfour Collegiate tossed 10 touchdowns while also throwing 10 interceptions.

Riley Boersma led the team in receptions with 41, followed by Bennett Stusek, who caught 32 passes including four touchdowns.

Huskie Athletics
Huskie Athletics

Pelletier says  this is a big opportunity for himself and the team to make some noise in the playoffs.

"I've been really focused on trying to get better every single game as an individual, and also just as a team and as an offence," he said.

"It's definitely been super exciting [as a rookie] … I've definitely had a few moments where I kind of just sit back and think about the opportunity and I guess just really, really dial in and make sure I'm taking full advantage of the opportunity."

Pelletier says while they are focused on the T-Birds, they know a win could set up a match with their arch-rival up north.

"Hopefully we can get it done this week and then we have another big opportunity the week after that," he said. "It will continue from there as long as we we keep putting in the work and and doing what we have to do."

The Rams/T-Birds kick off at 4 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium, and it too is also available on SaskTel maxTV.

If both teams win the Huskies would host the Rams next Saturday at Griffiths Stadium.