For the second straight year the Rifles host the Hilltops
Photo courtesy of Louis Christ

For the second consecutive year and sixth time the Saskatoon Hilltops and Winnipeg Rifles will meet in the post season on Sunday.

The Hilltops have won all five previous match-ups outscoring the Rifles 215-111. The closest game was in 2011 when the Hilltops squeaked past the Rifles 36-34 on route to the Canadian Bowl.

During the regular season the Toppers won in back to back games in Week 2 and 3, outscoring them 115-17.

The Hilltops defence was outstanding in the seasonal series allowing just one touchdown, collected 11 sacks and created 11 turnovers. Blake Hermann had three of those sacks, while Luke Melnyk had a 93 yard pick six.

Over the course of the season the Hilltops defence was the best, allowing 137 points while collecting 30 turnovers including 13 interceptions. Linebacker Cole Benkic was outstanding recording a point in nearly every defensive category. He had 24 tackles, 16 assists, half a sack, three knockdowns, two fumble recoveries and three interceptions including one for a touchdown. Herman had a team high five sacks.

This defence will face a Rifles offence that has started to heat up. In their last three games of the season, all wins, the Rifles have scored 131 points, averaging 43.6 points a game.

Quarterback Jamie Ybarra Jr, the former BCFC Rookie of the Year, finished the season completing 74 passes for 1,202 yards and 12 touchdowns. His average completion is among the Conference leaders connecting 56.5% of the time. His main target has been Ian Lee who leads the PFC with 501 yards on 30 receptions to go along with his four touchdowns. Lee has scored the only touchdown against the stingy Hilltops defence.

Running back Michael Ritchott will need have success on the ground to give his quarterback time to throw. During the regular season he carried 105 times for 801 yards and scored seven touchdowns. Against the Hilltops, who don’t give up a lot on the ground, he’s only tallied 21 yards.

If the two regular games are a good indication, the Hilltops offence will be able to move the ball and score against the Rifles defence. The Toppers scored 301 points this season while the Rifles gave up 318.

Quarterback Jared Andreychuk finished the regular year with the PFC’s top passer efficiency rating of 113.1 completing 64% of his passes and connected for 18 touchdowns. He was able to spread the ball around nicely, against the Rifles eight different receivers caught passes.

Thanks to the passing of Andreychuk the Hilltops run game has also flourished this season, led by Logan Fischer and his 94 carries for 794 yards and five majors. In the two games against the Rifles the ground attack tallied 432 yards and five touchdowns.

When the Hilltops do throw they will no doubt keep the ball away from Braedy Will and his Conference leading six interceptions. Will picked off three passes last week on three consecutive passes. Teammate Andrew Ricard also has three interceptions. DB Michael Penner has also had a good season, leading the club with 32 tackles. The Rifles linebackers will need to play solid. Christian Brown-Fillion and Mo Kemoh will anchor the defence will no doubt be shadowing Fischer and Andreychuk.

Kick-off in Saskatoon is set for 1:00pm. The winner punches their ticket to the PFC final next weekend.

**Note – the PFC will announce is All-Rookie Team on Tuesday, followed by the Offensive and Defensive All-Stars on Wednesday and Thursday, concluding with the Most Outstanding Players on Friday.

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