The Winnipeg Rifles bounced back from a pair of close road losses to start the season with an impressive 19-16 victory over the Saskatoon Hilltops in their Prairie Football Conference opener at home on Sunday afternoon on the East Side. Eagle’s Field.
It was the Rifles’ first victory over Hilltops, a perennial PFC contender since 2006, and an exultant head coach, Geordie Wilson, said it was something he had seen coming. “We’ve been building for this and you could see towards the end of last year, and then when we came out of the gate this year you could see we were ready. I just had to learn how to make plays and not make mistakes at the wrong time.”
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Donavon Downing’s game-winning 10-yard field goal with 36 seconds remaining was set up by an Aidan Avanthay over-the-shoulder catch from quarterback Bryson McNeil at the Hilltops 14. Both were examples of the plays Wilson referred to. in the battle of the see-saw.
Other examples were a Cade Lerm forced fumble and Wyatt Richards recovery with five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, along with a Brandon Kamenz interception late in the first quarter and a Keyshawn Gaskin fumble recovery with time running out. in the first half to set up Adam Fast’s touchdown run for Winnipeg’s only major of the game.
Downing finished with four field goals on the day for Winnipeg, which lost 19-10 at Saskatoon and 24-22 at Regina over the first two weeks of the schedule.
The Rifles now have a bye week before hosting the Calgary Colts on September 11 at 11 am CT at East Side Field.