Rifles dream shot down

ADAM WAZNY

, Last Updated: 7:11 AM ET

The Winnipeg Rifles record-breaking season is over.

Playing in their first ever Prairie Football Conference final the Rifles dropped just their second game of the year, losing 35-17 to the defending Canadian Junior Football League champion Edmonton Huskies in front of 1,115 fans at Canad Inns Stadium yesterday afternoon.

The Huskies repeat as PFC champions and will move on to the InterGold Cup, taking on B.C.'s South Fraser Rams on Saturday.

Edmonton finishes PFC play impressively, with playoff wins over powerhouse Saskatoon and the top-seeded Rifles on the road.

"It's awesome," Huskies linebacker Jason Bobst said afterwards. "I wasn't planning on coming back this year, but we started off really slow so I came back. It means a lot going from 1-3 to being league champions ...

"And hopefully national champions."

Following a 31-yard touchdown catch by Marco Iannuzzi, the Huskies jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back, bending when the Winnipeg offence threatened but never allowing the big score.

"Things happened (during the game) and they didn't overreact -- that's where we were wrong," Rifles coach Mike Watson said. "We needed to stay calm and we didn't."

That lack of composure was on display in the first half.

After pinning Edmonton deep in their own zone, the Rifles appeared to gain momentum when they sacked Huskies quarterback Nathan Aldred on the 3-yard-line, bringing up third down.

But Winnipeg took an unnecessary roughness penalty after the play which extended the drive -- a 13-play march that ended with a 24-yard field goal from Grant Shaw.

That made the score 16-7 Edmonton.

The next Huskies possession -- after the Rifles were stopped on Edmonton's two-yard-line -- Aldred marched his team down the field and capped off a 13-play, 108 yard drive with a 7-yard pass to running back Michel Okelu for a touchdown.

The Rifles took two penalties on that drive (one for two many men, another for a face mask -- both of which resulted in Winnipeg giving that ball back to the Edmonton offence).

Those were killers for Rifles morale.

Lack of composure

"The mental errors led to us shooting ourselves in the foot at times, giving them points, extending drives for them," Watson said "That was really one of the keys to the game -- our lack of composure."

Up 23-14 at the half, the Huskies put the game away when Iannuzzi grabbed a wide field goal attempt in his end zone and ran it back 120-yards down the sideline for the major score.

Iannuzzi was a terror all day, catching four balls for 113 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Aldred finished his day 13-of-24 for 206 yards while Shaw booted three field goals. Andrew Askin had two interceptions for Edmonton.

On the Rifles side, quarterback Nathan Friesen was 16-of-31 for 256 yards, but was picked off three times. Running back James Gerardy rushed for 148 yards on 25 carries.

Jake Kennerd rounded out the Rifles scoring with a 20-yard field goal.


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