Top guns set sights on Wildcats

KEN WIEBE -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 10:31 AM ET

Getting to the top of the mountain was one thing, but the Winnipeg Rifles are determined to do what they can to stay there.

The Rifles are a perfect 3-0 during their fourth junior football season and will attempt to hold onto top spot in the Prairie Football Conference tomorrow afternoon when they take on the 2-1 Edmonton Wildcats at Foote Field in Edmonton.

STERN MESSAGE

There was plenty of excitement surrounding the Rifles this week as they moved up to No. 1 in the Canadian Junior Football League rankings, but head coach Mike Watson delivered a stern message to his team about not letting the pomp and circumstance affect their preparation.

"That's my exact point, nobody cares about who is No. 1 at Week 6 and I think they understand that now," said Watson, who put his team through the paces last night and then hopped on a bus. "Don't get me wrong, it's an accomplishment, but I didn't take the rankings into account when they didn't rank us in the Top-10 before the season and I'm not putting too much stock in them now either. If things go well, it's one more thing to reflect upon at the end of the season. But I know everybody else uses it as motivation when they're not No. 1 and they're playing those people. If anything we just added fuel to the Wildcats fire."

Regardless of where they stand in the rankings, getting off to this start is a huge step for the franchise.

"Last year was great going 4-4," said Rifles president and general manager Gord Cooke. "In my mind, we were ahead of my own personal expectations, but not Coach Watson's because he expects to win every week. We're 3-0 and now we've beaten everybody in the PFC and 3-0 in this league is exceptional but three games does not a season make.

"In this league, you've got to look at what's right in front of you or you'll lose a couple of games in a row and be in the middle of the pack instead of the top."

Which brings us back to tomorrow's game.

With another win, the Rifles stay on top but a loss would leave them in second spot looking up at the Wildcats.

"They probably have the best run game in the conference, so stopping the run will be difficult," said Watson. "Defensively, they mix things up and are fairly aggressive. If we can handle it, then there is a chance for a big play but there's a chance for a big play from them too so we need to pick up their different looks and coverages."

Watson said the Rifles will also need to focus on returns and coverage in order to win the special teams battle.

The Rifles next home game is Sunday the 18th, when they host the Saskatoon Hilltops in a return engagement at Canad Inns Stadium. Game time is 1 p.m.


Videos

Photos