| The Regina Rams celebrate their 15th National Championship and their last as a PFC team. photos by Darren Steinke|
The Canadian Bowl rematch was not close as the Regina Rams crushed the Okanagan Sun 36-13 in the 68th Canadian Junior Football League Championship held at Taylor Field last Saturday.
The CJFL coach-of-the-year Frank McCrystal spoke to his 1998 and 15 time CJFL champions in the Rams' clubhouse after the game.
"The last thing I want to say is I wonder what the Vanier Cup looks like," said McCrystal.
The Rams scored quickly as kicker Todd Pinkney's game opening kick-off went through the endzone for a single point. Rams' linebacker Corey Thackeray blocked a Sun punt about four minutes later. CJFL defensive player-of-the-year and Rams' linebacker Jeff Zimmer recovered the ball in the Sun end zone for a touchdown.
"We had a lot of mental errors, and the Rams took advantage," said Sun head coach Cal Nesdoly.
Later in the first quarter, Rams' all-Canadian slotback Jason Clermont hauled in a 27 yard reception to put the Rams on the Sun three yard-line. Cory Olynick, a Rams' running back, would score a three yard rushing touchdown.
After a Sun field goal, Wong hit Clermont on a 24 yard touchdown pass to give the Rams a 22-3 half-time lead. Clermont made the catch after the ball deflected off Sun defensive back Ryan Folk. Wong finished the game completing 19 of 26 passes for 269 yards, two touchdown passes, and no interceptions.
"We have no weak link in our offence. We have an offence full of stars," said Wong, who was named the offensive player-of-the-game.
Late in the third quarter, the Sun were in Ramsą territory trailing 22-6. Rams' all-Canadian defensive back Jason Melnechenko intercepted a pass from Sun quarterback Chris Orban and returned it 63 yards to the Sun 17 yard-line.
"On the pick, I kind of read the quarterback and just played it," said Melnechenko, who was named defensive player-of-the-game.
Rams' Prairie Football Conference all-star slotback Chris Warnecke made a 13 yard pass reception to bring the ball to the Sun four. Olynick then scored a four yard rushing touchdown.
"When they scored that last touchdown, there was just no way [we would come back]." said Sun running back Terrance Huston, who rushed for 120 yards on 21 carries.
Clermont had a 17 yard receiving touchdown in the fourth quarter to finish the Rams' scoring.
He finished the game with eight catches for 124 yards. The Rams piled up 168 rushing yards to help players like starting offensive lineman and former Calgary Colt Tony Plett experience their first CJFL championship.
"Next to my wedding day, it is the best day ever," said Plett. "I think, as a group, we played amazing."
Rams' rookies Dallas Kronberg, Mischa Bosovich, Brian Smuk, and Shane Ostapowich all took turns making key plays in the game.
"I wanted to step up and make it special for the guys in their fifth year and make it special for myself," said Kronberg, who has started most of the year on the defensive line.
The Rams' defence intercepted three passes and limited the Sun rushing attack. Rams' defensive lineman Chad Zipchian returned from injury to play in the game.
"I love to beat the shit out of all the Okanagan Sun players," said Zipchian.
McCrystal, whose team has won their last eight game, reflected on all of the elements that have made this Rams' season a success.
"The performance of the rookies. The performance of the coaches outside of the head coach.
The climb in the face of adversity," said McCrystal. "Our emphasis is on performance and execution goals. The scoreboard looks after itself."