The Regina Thunder get set to kick off their 2018 season against the team that put an end to their championship aspirations last season.
The Thunder will meet their inter-provincial rivals, the Saskatoon Hilltops, on Saturday at Mosaic Stadium. The Hilltops defeated the Thunder in last year’s Prairie Football Conference finals en route to winning the Canadian Junior Football League championship.
“Anytime they play against Saskatoon, it’s a great game, it’s fun and exciting for the fans but there’s a lot of excitement among the players and coaches as well,” Thunder head coach Scott MacAuley said.
While these teams met in the conference finals last season, this is going to be a new-look Thunder team to begin this season with eight players graduating and 15 who left because of scholarship offers.
“There’s a lot of great opportunities for new guys to rise to the occasion and I’m excited to see how well the off-season was for them and how well they are able to compete in this upcoming game,” MacAuley said.
One of those changes will be at the quarterback position, with Brock Sich becoming the signal-caller. The Regina-born player is entering his third year with the Thunder and had spent the past two seasons as Sawyer Buettner’s backup. Buettner is now a member of the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees.
“The one thing that’s amazing about (Sich) is that he’s able to make quick reads and deliver the ball down the field,” MacAuley said of his new starting quarterback.
One of the weapons Sich will have at his disposal is wide receiver Lee Brown, who was named one of the top 25 players in the league according to a list by the CJFL.
MacAuley’s coaching staff also went through a change this off-season, with the hiring of veteran defensive coordinator Alex Smith.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium and MacAuley is hoping to see Saskatchewan’s football community out to cheer on all athletes involved.
“This is Saskatchewan football at its best, some of the top athletes of the province have been brought up through the minor football ranks … These guys are homegrown.”