New coach, new era in Winnipeg

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hamilton

There is plenty of optimism with the Winnipeg Rifles this offseason knowing that a number of their key pieces filled with 20 and 21 year olds are returning for 2016.  Not only are they making history this season playing in the first Interconference game, but they are hoping to get over their playoff hump and play in a PFC final for the first time since 2005.

What’s Changing?

Perhaps the most significant change with the Rifles this offseason has been at Head Coach.  Geordie Wilson takes over the helm and has brought in a coaching staff he feels gives his club the best chance to win.  Some of the new additions are: Offensive Coordinator Jeff Ready, Running Backs Neville Scarlett, Receivers Jeff Anderson, QB Ryan Marsh, DC/LB Craig Bachynski, Defensive Line Kent Wood, Defensive Assistant and Special Teams Graham Jones, DB Justin Kasak, Kicking coach George McFall.

Graduating Players:

The Rifles were very young in 2015, however made some outstanding strides.  They graduated just two fifth year players.

WR Zach Regert:  He bounced around before finishing with junior career with the Rifles.  Regert spent two years with the Okanagan Sun, then played at the University of Manitoba.  He played just three games for the Rifles making 14 receptions for 178 yards and a major.

FB Tim Demiduk: He will be missed in the backfield in 2016.  In his five games this past season the Winnipeg native rushed 17 times for 61 yards and scored a touchdown.

What They Need:

The Rifles were one of only two PFC teams that surrendered over 300 points last season (318).  They are hoping to improve their defence as a whole in 2016 but have focused on their front seven with their returning players and the injection of some new bodies.

Counting On:

In order to bust through the PFC schedule and playoffs, the Rifles will count on a number of players this season:

Tailback Mike Ritchott has been training like a “beast” and expectations are high for him to be the best back in the country.

Receiver Xander Tachinski is another young man who has trained very hard and the Rifles expect a breakout season from him.

Ian Lee was an All Canadian receiver last year and the Rifles believe he will be more dominate this year.

On the Offensive Lineman Jeremy Williams a Winnipeg kid who is coming home after a season with the Okanogan Sun.  Centre Brody Jones has really changed his body and is going to be a force in the middle and KJ Whittaker who will play Guard beside Brody has transformed his body and will be looked upon to give the Rifles quarterbacks time to throw.

Safety Mike Penner will anchor the defensive side of the ball.

The Rifles hosted an ID camp for high school seniors in the middle of March and had over 120 players attend.  Their Spring Camp opens May 30-31.

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