PHOTO BY KAYLE NEIS /Regina Leader-Post
The Regina Thunder is celebrating a regular-season sweep of the Saskatoon Hilltops for the second successive year.
The PFC final is likely to be held in Regina once again after the Thunder downed the Hilltops 23-7 at Mosaic Stadium on Saturday. Regina improved its record to 5-0 while Saskatoon, which suffered its third loss in succession, dropped to 2-3.
“These games are important — they’re important in the standings — and the one at the end is what matters,” Hilltops tailback Boston Davidsen said as 2,003 spectators filed out of the stadium.
“Obviously, we’re not happy with the result today. We’re going to reflect on this. We’re going to try to build some momentum for the last three games of the season and carry it forward into the playoffs.”
The Thunder, meanwhile, needs only one victory over its final three regular-season games to clinch top spot in the conference for the second straight year.
The objective for the Regina side is to go considerably further and win the second championship in franchise history. The 2013 edition won the PFC and Canadian Junior Football League championships in its first season under the current head coach, Scott MacAulay.
“When it comes down to it, we want to end up going far in the playoffs,” the Thunder’s Justin McKerracher said after registering three interceptions, one of which he returned for a 35-yard touchdown. “This year, we want to put the pedal to the floor for the entire playoffs.”
Whereas the Thunder has won all 13 of its regular-season games in 2021 and 2022, the Hilltops have lost five times over that span.
This season’s total of three losses is the most by the Hilltops in a regular season since 1993, when Saskatoon went 5-3. Saskatoon has lost three times in a season for the first time under head coach Tom Sargeant, who took over in 1998.
Most recently, Saskatoon recorded 268 yards of net offence, whereas Regina amassed 431.
“I would say our offence struggled,” Davidsen said. “We need to be able to pick up first downs and stay on the field. Our defence spent way more time on the field than we did today.”
The Thunder jumped out to an 14-0 lead, with the big play being McKerracher’s pick-six just 51 seconds into the second quarter.
The game’s other TDs were on one-yard runs by Regina’s Ife Adebogun and Saskatoon’s Trey Rieder.
Davidsen — the PFC’s leading rusher — was Saskatoon’s top yardage producer, with 70 on 13 carries.
Middle linebacker Matt Wist paced Saskatoon’s defensive with six solo tackles and nine assisted stops. McKerracher, with his first three-interception game, was Regina’s uncontested defensive leader.
“A couple of those balls came right to me, so I’m not going to give too much credit to myself,” he said. “I’m just glad that we won. We have a great team this year.”
The Thunder and Hilltops are to return to action with road games on Sept. 25. Regina is to oppose the Winnipeg Rifles while Saskatoon meets the Calgary Colts.