The University of Saskatchewan Huskies will host a Canada West semifinal after finishing second place in the conference thanks to a 22-9 season-finale victory against the University of Alberta Golden Bears.
“We wanted a home playoff game and we got it,” Huskies defensive lineman Evan Machibroda said.
Head coach Scott Flory stressed the importance of playing at home in the postseason. Among other favourable factors involved with avoiding travel, Flory prefers the home jersey over the away, saying “I like wearing green, not white.”
It will be the first Huskies home playoff game since 2014, the first year Flory was part of the Huskies’ coaching staff.
Flory praised running back Adam Machart for doing what he has done all season long: leading by example. Machart rushed for a career-high of 227 yards in the season finale.
“That’s just what he’s done with us all year,” Flory said, noting that Machart has given his team a consistent wow factor.
Machart has cemented his name as the greatest Huskie running back of all-time, finishing the season with a program-record of 1,334 rushing yards.
“I’m just so happy and proud of Adam. He’s just such an awesome young man, you just want success for guys like that,” Flory said. “He works so hard, does all the right things — just so happy for him. He absolutely deserves it.”
Machart broke Doug Rozon’s previous record of 1,267 rushing yards in a season, which was set in 1999.
“For him to do what he did this year is remarkable,” Flory said.
Machart’s case for the Hec Crighton Trophy is now a tough argument to deny. The trophy is awarded to the most outstanding Canadian football player across U Sports.
“It’s huge. I don’t even know what to say, it’s a huge honour,” Machart said. “I’m just happy that I can help my team win and that’s what we are going to continue to do in the playoffs.”
Machart has been mentored by former Huskie running back David Stevens since meeting him at Ignite Athletics, formerly Ignite Athletic Conditioning, in Saskatoon. Stevens rushed for 1,229 yards in 2005 and Machart says he has been overly supportive since they met some years ago.
“It’s incredible. You look at Doug Rozon’s numbers and they’re incredible. And then a guy like David Stevens,” Machart said. “Dave is a mentor of mine and has been really great to me coming up. I’ve known him for a really long time. To pass him is a huge honour.”
Machart appeared to be truly grateful to break a record that stood for two decades. He humbly credited his teammates in the trenches doing a lot of the dirty work.
“Our [offensive line], you gotta thank those guys. They are warriors and they make it happen,” Machart said. “They’re humble guys and they like to give me credit, but you know, you look at the holes I’m running through, I’m breaking tackles from linebackers and [defensive backs] and not 250-pound [defensive lineman].”
Flory credited Machart’s ability to produce while opposing teams are fully aware that he is the focal point of the Huskies’ offense.
“It’s not like people don’t know who he is, it’s not like they are trying not to scheme to stop him and that’s just impressive,” Flory said.
The big day for the Huskies did not come without an unfortunate casualty. Their leading receiver, Colton Klassen, left the game with what was expected to be a significant lower leg injury.
“My heart breaks for that young man. We don’t know the extent of it right now but it doesn’t look good,” Flory said. “It’s just not fair — I know he wants it more for this team than anybody else and he’s a huge part of it. When he went down, it eliminated a huge chunk of the game plan, there’s no doubt about it.”
If Klassen is unable to play in the semifinal, which is expected, the Huskies will have to adjust their offensive game plan accordingly.
“At this point, you’re not going to reinvent the wheel, schematically — offensively, defensively and special teams. It’s about execution and it’s about timing,” Flory said before hinting that “there’s going to be a wrinkle here and there” in the game plan.
The Huskies will once again face Alberta in the semifinal on Nov. 2. It will be the third matchup between these two teams after a split in the regular-season series.
“That’s a good football team, they’re physical and they play hard,” Flory said.
Cold weather is likely to be expected for the 3 p.m. kickoff. The snow, wind and rock-solid turf are all factors that Flory has taken into consideration when constructing his team.
“We’re in Saskatchewan. If you plan on playing in October and November, you better be prepared to deal with this stuff,” Flory said. “That’s what we plan ahead for, that’s why we run the offense the way we run the offense and that’s why we recruit the guys we recruit.”
Tanner Michalenko/ Sports & Health Editor
Photo: Supplied by GetMyPhoto.ca/ Huskie Athletics