Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Crusaders’ Smith-Windsor makes lasting memories in high school football

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

DB/RB pumped for future in game with Huskies

Taz Smith-Windsor jets downfield for the Carlton Crusaders.
Before turning his attention to his future in the game of football, Taz Smith-Windsor had to reflect and appreciate how special a part of his journey in the game was.

On October 28 playing under the “Friday Night Lights” of Saskatoon Minor Football Field, Smith-Windsor suited up for his final high school football game as his Carlton Comprehensive High School Crusaders from Prince Albert fell 38-23 to the Holy Cross High School Crusaders in a hard fought 6A SSSAD semifinal contest. Smith-Windsor had been a star running back and defensive back with Carlton’s senior football squad since his Grade 9 season in 2019.

Viewed as one of the best graduating high school players in Saskatchewan, the 17-year-old Grade 12 student has committed to joining the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Football Team for the 2023 season.

With that noted, Smith-Windsor viewed his time in high school football as one of the best times in his life. For the past two seasons, he took the field with his younger brother, Sullivan Smith-Windsor, with the Carlton senior team. Sullivan was Carlton’s star quarterback this past season in just his Grade 10 year.

Taz Smith-Windsor said Carlton head coach Lindsay Strachan was one of the biggest influences in helping him in football along with his parents in mother, Jaimie Smith-Windsor, and father, Al Osaduik. The now graduated high school star said the relationships he made with the Carlton squad will always be close to his heart.

“Obviously playing with my brother is a great experience,” said Smith-Windsor. “I’ve just made so many friends here.

“I have 40 or 50 brothers in the dressing room. It is great. My coaches, I’ve built great relationships with them.

“All those guys, they are just great guys that I’ve learned to look up to. I’ve made so many great relationships with these guys. I hope I get to stay in contact with them after high school.”

Smith-Windsor said his grandfather in Gren Smith-Windsor was the initial influence that got him interested in playing football. Gren used to be a frequent visitor at SMF Field. He played on the offensive line and linebacker for the Saskatoon Hilltops in the 1960s and was an assistant coach on the Hilltops 1969 CJFL championship team.

“My grandpa was always someone I looked up to,” said Taz Smith-Windsor, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 170 pounds. “I just kind of got into it because of him, and never really looked back from there.”

Taz Smith-Windsor drops into pass coverage as a defensive back.
Smith-Windsor first started playing flag football around age seven and took up tackle football around age nine. While he played and enjoyed other sports like basketball and golf, football was always his number one sporting love.

“It is the ultimate team game,” said Smith-Windsor. “There is no other game that depends on reliance on your teammates as much as this one, and you just get so close with the guys you are playing with no matter what team it is.

“I think it is like one of the best character building sport there is.”

Smith-Windsor’s skills with the game progressed to the point that he joined Carlton’s senior team sooner than he thought he would.

“I started in Grade 9 in 2019,” said Smith-Windsor. “I wasn’t expecting to.

“I was expecting to play my last year of KFL like minor with the (Prince Albert) River Riders. I signed up for the Carlton high school camp and that is where I met coach Lindsay Strachan. I made it through the week, and he said that he would really like me to play high school on the senior team.

“I took the opportunity, and I am super grateful that he gave it to me, because it was definitely the right decision to make.”

Smith-Windsor said playing alongside Sullivan for the past two seasons have been the most fun he has ever had in the sport. He enjoyed Carlton’s playoff run this past campaign.

In a SSSAD 6A quarter-final played at SMF Field on October 20, Carlton downed the Walter Murray Collegiate Marauders 20-15. The semifinal that followed against Holy Cross was up in the air until Holy Cross sealed the contest with a late fourth quarter touchdown that came off a big play score.

“Playoff football is always that much more fun, because it is that much more intense like win or go home,” said Smith-Windsor. “The level of competition is just super high.

“It is super fun. You get really close with these guys in those last two weeks. It is exciting.

Taz Smith-Windsor breaks past a defender in the open field.
“The last two games we played were the two closest games we’ve played in the entire season. It is nice to play those games.”

Following his Grade 9 season, Smith-Windsor started to think that playing football at the post-secondary level was a reality. The Huskies were a team he had his heart set on playing for one day as he grew up.

“I knew I wanted to play football for as long as I could,” said Smith-Windsor. “I didn’t know where that was going to happen.

“It started to kind of become a reality to play university football in Grade 10, and then it became my goal. My dream was to play for the Huskies. They were always my number one team that I wanted to play for, so I’m super stoked to be part of the team now.”

Huskies head coach Scott Flory said he liked what Smith-Windsor showed on the field and believes the youngster has good character.

“Taz is a really smart and athletic football player that has a lot of talent,” said Flory. “He is just a really good young man who has so much potential.

“I’m excited to see him in a Huskie uniform next year.”

Flory said the coaches and staffers with the Huskies were pumped to have Smith-Windsor join the program.

“It means a lot to us and our program that the best young men in our province want to be a part of what we’re doing,” said Flory. “We strive for excellence on and off the field, and I know Taz does too.

“He’s a great fit for us in our program.”

Smith-Windsor said he would like to play football at the professional level one day, but those thoughts are in the back of his head. He wants to embrace the experience he is going to have with the Huskies.

The Huskies have enjoyed success in recent years winning Canada West Conference titles in 2018 and 2021 and appearing in the U Sports championship game – the Vanier Cup – in 2021. The Huskies dropped a 27-21 decision in the 2021 Vanier Cup to the University of Western Ontario Mustangs in Quebec City, Quebec.

Taz Smith-Windsor is pumped to play for the Huskies in 2023.
On Saturday, November 12, the Huskies (8-1) host the Canada West title game – the Hardy Cup – at 1 p.m. at Griffiths Stadium against the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (5-4).

Smith-Windsor said the Huskies recent success was a bonus when it came on his decision to join that team.

“Their recent success is obviously a big plus,” said Smith-Windsor. “They have a great group of guys this year.

“Even last year, you saw they were super successful. I want to play for a competitive football team, and these guys are them. If you go watch their practices, they are a team that is going to win a championship, and I want to be part of it.”

Crunch time football rocks photo roundup

By Gordie Howe Sports Complex staff
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Gage Prodaehl makes a crazy TD catch on October 28.
Are you ready for some football?

In Canada, the championship chase in football annually hits high gear as October concludes and rolls into November. That plays out as true on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds with Saskatoon Minor Football Field becoming the centre of attention.

Excitement for the post-season built as the regular season closed. High school action from the SSSAD captured the majority of the attention and time at SMF Field.

Our lead photo shows receiver Gage Prodaehl of Prince Albert’s Carlton Comprehensive High School Crusaders making an insane catch for a touchdown in a 6A SSSAD semifinal game at SMF Field on October 28. Carlton would fall in a hard-fought contest 38-23 to the Holy Cross High School Crusaders, but the image of Prodaehl’s catch has made the rounds on social media.

The picture on the Complex’s Instagram account has 465 likes, and the picture on the Complex’s Facebook account has 111 reactions and 24 shares.   

The KFL also played out its last stretch and the Saskatoon Hilltops hit SMF Field for two final home games before their CJFL campaign finished.

Besides the action at SMF Field, the Indoor Training Centre has picked up in activity as various sports groups that play in the spring, summer and fall engage in off-season training.

The activity that happens on our grounds continues to provide great material for our continuing photo roundups.

These photos capture some of the memories that are made on our grounds. In this photo roundup, most of these pictures were taken by our Communications Coordinator in Darren Steinke.

Hazel Modon, who is a Grade 12 student at E.D. Feehan Catholic High School checks, in with a couple of photos too as she took pictures of her school’s Trojans football team.

Without further ado, here is a selection of 10 shots we hope you enjoy.

Family moment with big award

Vanessa Kosteroski poses for a picture with her family members on October 13 after being presented the Darren Lipinski Memorial Award by the Saskatoon Amateur Softball Association for her outstanding contribution to softball in Saskatoon. From left are Danielle Denomy, Vanessa, Bryan Kosteroski and Brayden Denomy. Vanessa received her award inside the main banquet hall at the Gordie Howe Sports Centre building.

Kack with the sack

Saskatoon Hilltops defensive end Riece Kack, left, makes a quarterback against the Calgary Colts on October 16 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field as both sides closed their respective CJFL regular season schedules. Kack led the Prairie Football Conference with 7.5 sacks in regular season play.

Focusing on in game adjustments

Assistant coach Steve Kovach talks to a group of players from his E.D. Feehan Catholic High School Trojans football team to make some in game adjustments on October 21. This photo was taken by Hazel Modon, who is a Grade 12 student at E.D. Feehan Catholic High School.

A great escape

A Titans quarterback eludes a sack attempt by a Steelers defender in KFL action from the Huskies division on October 22 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Titans prevailed 20-6 in this encounter that closed the regular season schedules for both sides.

Sawi goes all the way in PFC semifinal win

Charles Sawi keeps adding to the list of big plays he has made at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. On October 23, the 17-year-old rookie running back with the Saskatoon Hilltops is seen here jetting off on an electrifying 33 yard touchdown run with 65 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Sawi’s score ultimately gave the Hilltops a 20-15 victory in a PFC semifinal clash with the Edmonton Huskies.

Trojan dashes to daylight

An E.D. Feehan Catholic High School ball carrier breaks out of traffic in a Rusholme Rivalry clash with the Bedford Road Redhawks on October 27 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Trojans took this heartstopper 30-27 to claim the SSSAD’s third division city final. Hazel Modon, who is a Grade 12 student at E.D. Feehan Catholic High School, checked in with this photo.

Eye on the ball

A catcher focuses on watching a ball released from a pitching machine hit into his glove during a Going Yard Training Centre session on November 3 at the Indoor Training Centre. Going Yard is great at providing innovative drills that help players get better at the fundamentals of baseball, and that includes having catchers work on skills in the pitching tunnels.

Guardian reaches for a score

A running back with the St. Joseph High School Guardians reached for the end zone to finish a touchdown run against the Holy Cross High School Crusaders in the SSSAD’s 6A City Championship on November 4 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Guardians pulled out a 17-10 victory to advance to the SHSAA’s 6A provincial final slated for Friday, November 11 in Regina.

Holding defenders at bay

An offensive player shields the ball away from a couple of defenders during a mini-game situation at a Sentinels Lacrosse practice session on November 7 at the Indoor Training Centre. The Sentinels provide elite level training and game opportunities for players during the sports’ off-season from September to December.

Saints celebrate SSSAD 5A city title

The Bishop James Mahoney High School Saints celebrate winning the SSSAD’s 5A City Championship on November 4 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Saints now host the SHSAA’s 5A provincial final on Friday, November 11 at 2 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field against the Weyburn Comprehensive School Eagles.

Sunday, October 9, 2022

Farmer embarks on final Huskies hurrah

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Kendra Farmer does a practice run at the Track and Field Track.
Kendra Farmer plans to soak in and enjoy her U Sports track and field career before it is gone.

The 23-year-old Saskatoon product is embarking on her final season of U Sports eligibility with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Women’s Track and Field Team. After graduating from Centennial Collegiate in June of 2017, Farmer, who is a sprints specialist, joined the Huskies in the fall of that year and has been with that program ever since.

During the spring and summer months, Farmer is a regular at the Track and Field Track on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds training and racing as a competitor and coaching young athletes with the Running Wild Athletics Club.

“I feel like every year I’ve kind of went in just really like always looking like performance wise for myself,” said Farmer. “I think this year obviously I would love to improve on my performances from last year.

“I think I am just really like going in and just like excited to and ready to just like embrace the experience fully. I think I am just like planning on just like taking it all in (and) hopefully passing on the love and the spirit to all the new rookies and the rest of the athletes on the team to move on forward with the Huskies spirit. Honestly, it is weird for sure.

“I thankfully have had my time to accept that this will be my last year.”

Last season with the Huskies, Farmer won silver in the women’s 300-metre race and gold in the women’s 4 X 200-metre and 4 X 400-metre relays at the Canada West championships. She helped the Huskies capture a fourth consecutive Canada West team title.

Farmer ran the 300-metre final at the Canada West championships in a time of 38.32 seconds, which was a new record for the Huskies women’s team. The old mark of 38.44 seconds was posted by Joanne McTaggart back in 1975.

Farmer said that record and the fact the Huskies women’s team has won the Canada West title in her previous four seasons of eligibility are her biggest highlights with the program.

“Breaking the Huskie record last year in 300-metre (race) was a huge goal for me kind of honestly since I started Huskies,” said Farmer, who stand 5-foot-5. “That was a really big personal accomplishment.

Kendra Farmer takes flight at the Canada Summer Games Trials.
“Team wise, I think just like showing up with the girls every year and getting that Canada West banner and getting those second place U Sports performances. Both of those have just like been really exciting, and I’ve just like have seen our team bond more and more each year. Just getting closer and getting those wins together has been really awesome.”

At the U Sports championships, Farmer took home silver medals in the women’s 4 X 200-metre and 4 X 400-metre relays. She helped the Huskies team finish second overall.

Farmer was also named the winner of the outstanding Student-Athlete Community Service Award at both the Canada West and U Sports championships. She has also been a U Sports academic all-Canadian for the past five straight campaigns including the 2020-21 campaign where all U Sports nationals were cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has gripped the world and athletes still pursued their studies.

This season, Farmer will get to go out with a couple of special opportunities to go along with taking part in the Sanderson Classic to be held at the Saskatoon Fieldhouse on January 13 and 14, 2023. The Huskies will host the Canada West Championships on February 24 and 25, 2023 and the U Sports Championships on March 9 to 11, 2023 at the Saskatoon Fieldhouse.

The Huskies last hosted the U Sports Championships way back in the 2005-06 campaign. Farmer will get to graduate from the Huskies with her last two big meets to be held at home.

“It is pretty cool,” said Farmer, who studies in the engineering program at U of S. “It will be really fun ending it in front of a home crowd.

“It will be a little more nerve-racking, because I have all of the family and friends here. That is also awesome, because there is more support. We’ll have all of the cheers and the big crowd too.

“It is a pretty cool way to end my career. I’m excited about that. That will be sweet.”

Jason Reindl, who is the head coach of both the U of Saskatchewan Huskies Men’s and Women’s Track and Field Teams, found it hard to put into words what it has meant to have Farmer as part of the women’s team. Reindl became the Huskies head coach in June of 2017, and he said Farmer has been key creating a great vibe and culture for the program.

“I cannot put the amount of positives into words,” said Reindl. “She was one of the first main recruits when I took over in the summer of 2017 that was coming into the program.

Kendra Farmer, second from left, was Huskies rookie of the year in 2017-18.
“Just her leadership and her development, the support that she has really given this program has been I’ll use the term remarkable.”

Reindl is happy he gets to coach Farmer with the Huskies for one more season and that she will have two special opportunities in her final season with the Huskies hosting conference and national championships.

“It is going to be a little bit of a unique year in the sense that we are hosting both the Canada West and the U Sports championships,” said Reindl. “For her to end her Huskies career as a fifth year of eligibility with the two biggest meets of the year at home, it is going to be a pretty special opportunity for her, her family, her friends and just all the relationships she has made over these last couple of years, because everyone is going to be able to come out and support her and the rest of the team.”

Farmer said one of the big turning points in her track and field career was winning the Patricia Lawson Trophy Huskies Female Rookie of the Year for the entire Huskies program in 2017-18.

“I can tell you when I got that award I was not expecting it,” said Farmer, who also claimed the Huskies Track and Field female rookie of the year award that is named after McTaggart. “That was a really exciting experience for me.

“I think that was really good, because it kind of solidified me as actually a Huskie that can go on and do things. I had expectations for myself, but I didn’t really know how far I would be able to go. I think getting that award really kind of helped step up my goals a bit.

“After that kind of first year, it was when I really kind of started eyeing down those records that Huskie 300-metre record and getting some of the higher-level awards, which I guess would be a goal for me this year as well. That was a big kind of moment for me just in terms of like, ‘OK. I’m actually not bad at this sport. I can go places.’ That was exciting.”

Going into her final season with the Huskies, Farmer had some highlights during the outdoor season. At the Track and Field Track on the Complex grounds, Farmer won gold in the women’s 200-metre at the Canada Summer Games Trials on June 12 and the Bob Adam’s Saskatchewan Track and Field Championships. She also captured a silver in the women’s 400-metre at the Summer Games Trials on June 11.

At the Canada Summer Games held in the Niagara Region of Ontario, Farmer helped Saskatchewan win a bronze medal in the women’s 4 X 100-metre relay on August 19.

Farmer wants to help the Huskies win a fifth Canada West team championship this season. 

Kendra Farmer helps coach with the Running Wild Athletics Club.
Once the U Sports season wraps up, she wants to keep competing in track and field and plans to continue to be a regular at the Track and Field Track.

“I don’t think I’m quite ready to give up on this sport yet,” said Farmer, who is a member of the Central Urban Metis Federation Incorporated. “I think I’ll definitely hang around for a little while.

“I love this community and just what track has done for me over the years and who it has all connected me with. I definitely want to keep going. I’ll for sure have another outdoor season after Huskies this year.

“I’m going to keep going kind of until I reach my limit. I know I’m not ready to go until I kind of reach that top point where I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where I can. I’d love obviously to make a national team at some point.”

Fall feeling provides fun sweet happenings in photos

By Gordie Howe Sports Complex staff
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

A Guardians receiver looks to get past a Crusaders tackler.
The fall sports season is in full sprint.

During the fall, Saskatoon Minor Football Field often becomes the focal point of action on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds. Great lifelong memories are made from the many high school and KFL games that take place at SMF Field along with other programs run by Saskatoon Minor Football.

Our lead photo comes from a couple of days ago on October 7 at a “Friday Night Lights” game played between the St. Joseph High School Guardians and the Holy Cross High School Crusaders. The picture shows the intensity of the game as a Guardians receiver looks to get past a Crusaders tackler. St. Joseph High School ultimate took the entertaining encounter 28-16 overseen by the Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate.

Spectators flocked to the high school football contests in large numbers, especially during Welcome Week games played on September 15 and 16. The students that have come out to support their teams created a festive and fun atmosphere.

On top of the action at SMF Field, the softball and baseball diamonds see their last usage along with the Track and Field Track before winter approaches. All of those facilities saw various user groups take part in various training sessions. The softball diamonds also hosted fall league and college season contests.

The activity that happens on our grounds continues to provide great material for our continuing photo roundups.

These photos capture some of the memories that are made on our grounds. In this photo roundup, all of these pictures were taken by our Communications Coordinator in Darren Steinke.

Without further ado, here is a selection of 12 shots we hope you enjoy.

Big outfield arm

An outfielder from the University of Saskatchewan Women’s Softball team slings the ball back into the infield during a Western Collegiate Softball Association game at Joe Gallagher Field on September 10. In this contest, the U of S downed the University of Regina Cougars 4-2.

Hilltops End Zone Dinner remains a hit

The Saskatoon Hilltops had a sizable turnout for their End Zone Dinner held at the main banquet hall at the Gordie Howe Sports Centre building on September 10. The Hilltops use the annual dinner to raise money for their scholarship fund.

Roughriders alumnus Hughes holds court

Saskatchewan Roughriders alumnus Neal Hughes was the guest speaker for the Saskatoon Hilltops annual End Zone Dinner, which was held on September 10 in the main banquet hall at the Gordie Howe Sports Centre building. The retired fullback, who won Grey Cup titles with the Roughriders in 2007 and 2013, told various entertaining stories about his time with the team and playing the game.

Sawi checks in with sensational play

It is always a great sight when Charles Sawi checks in with a big play from Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The 17-year-old might have had the best run back of his young career on September 10, when he weaved his way 125 yards down the field returning a missed field goal for a touchdown against the Regina Thunder. The Thunder ultimately prevailed in the CJFL regular season contest 29-21 in overtime.

Guardians meet their fans on Welcome Week

Members of St. Joseph High School Guardians Football Team make a lasting Welcome Week photo on September 15 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field getting pictured with a contingent of their fans. There were lots of smiles to be had as the Guardians just romped past the Centennial Collegiate Chargers 44-0 that night.

KFL cut to daylight


A ball carrier from the Falcons cuts past a tackler from the Warriors in KFL action from the Hilltops Division on September 18 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The KFL does great work in helping young players develop the fundamentals of football.

Focused out at first

A young player maintains sharp focus watching the ball into her glove during a Saskatoon Minor Softball League fall league game on September 18 at Bob Van Impe Stadium. The fall ball programs run by SMSL allows young players the additional opportunity to develop skills once their spring and summer season is complete.

Putting in the work to get stronger

A member of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies Men’s Track and Field Team pulls a weighted sled during a practice session on September 20 at the Track and Field Track. The Huskies did various drills to get stronger and faster.

Redhawks running back takes flight

This Bedford Road Collegiate Redhawks running back was in the zone making numerous big plays against the Mount Royal Collegiate Mustangs on September 29 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Redhawks took that installment of the Rusholme Road Rivalry 47-0.

Making the snag at shortstop look easy

A shortstop snags a hot groundball going through the infield at Cairns Field during a Going Yard Training Centre practice session on October 3. Going Yard is getting in their final outdoor sessions before moving their practices to the Indoor Training Centre.

Setting up to create the Oval

The speed skating tiles sit laid out on top of the track and field track in anticipation for the time the snow falls and it gets cold enough to create the Clarence Downey Speed Skating Oval. The K+S Potash Canada Multisport Centre sits in the background overlooking the scene.

Insurance TD by the Guardians

Before the winter snow arrives, there is still more football to be played. A St. Joseph High School Guardians receiver goes in for a key late fourth quarter insurance touchdown against the Holy Cross High School Crusaders in a “Friday Night Lights” game played on October 7. That major gave the Guardians a 28-16 lead, which ultimately ended up being the final score of the contest.

Friday, September 9, 2022

High school football – An SMF Field tradition dating back to 1960

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

A Saints receiver heads downfield after a catch on Sept. 17, 2021.
Jaxson Kramchynsky smiles and gets energized reflecting on the sea of Bishop James Mahoney High School students at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on opening day.

Kramchynsky plays defensive end for the Bishop James Mahoney Saints High School Saints Football team, and under the “Friday Night Lights” on September 17, 2021, he helped his squad slug out a 23-7 victory over the Evan Hardy Collegiate Souls in the Saints first regular game of the campaign. The Saints win closed out Week 1 of the regular season schedule for the Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate (SSSAD).

A large group of students from Bishop James Mahoney came to SMF Field to cheer on the Saints. After the final seconds ticked away in the win over the Souls, the Bishop James Mahoney students rushed over to the field’s entrance in the south end zone to great the Saints players as they came off the field.

Kramchynsky can still see himself going into that massive sea of students giving high-fives and hugs to a huge amount of cheers. It was a celebration and a moment he wished could have gone on for an endless amount of time.

“That was a great feeling, because the whole stands were filled with a bunch of students from our school,” said Kramchynsky, who is now in his Grade 12 season with the Saints. “When we all came off (the field), they all started cheering.

“It was just super fun to see like the support from our people who don’t come and play football. It was a fun experience.”

Brody Bilan, who is a Grade 11 running back with the Saints this year, remembers being pumped up to see the massive number of students from Bishop James Mahoney in the stands for the opening game last season.

“It is motivational for sure,” said Bilan. “You want to prove yourself.

Bishop James Mahoney students meet their players on Sept. 17, 2021.
“You’re just out there having a good time anyways trying to zone it out and play the game.”

Like Kramchynsky, Bilan was awestruck to see the Bishop James Mahoney students waiting for the Saints players to come off the field to celebrate last year’s opening day win.

“I just remember it being like fun,” said Brody. “Coming off that win and just everyone being around it, it was just like a great experience.”

High school football has a long history in Saskatoon dating back to October 29, 1924, when Nutana Collegiate slipped past Bedford Road Collegiate 2-1 in the first high school football game played in the city.

Since September 30, 1960, Saskatoon Minor Football Field on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds has been the primary home for high school football in “The Bridge City.” The football stadium was first known as the Holiday Park Bowl and then took on the Gordie Howe Bowl name for most of its history.

It was rechristened as Saskatoon Minor Football Field in 2014 when a new field turf was installed that replaced the grass field. The old grass field often deteriorated into a mud pit late in the season.

Still, the players that came to the football park since 1960 have fond and enduring memories of the games they took part in at SMF Field. That includes Brody Bilan’s father, Steve Bilan.

In the current day, Steve is the quarterbacks coach for the Saints, but from 1993 to 1995, he was the star quarterback for the E.D. Feehan Catholic High School Trojans. After graduating from E.D. Feehan, Steve continued to play at SMF Field throwing passes for the CJFL’s storied Saskatoon Hilltops from 1996 to 2000.

Students pack the SMF Field stands during “Welcome Week.”
“In high school, you always had the hype of the late games,” said Steve. “The atmosphere there always had a bit of a haze in the air, and the smell in the air was just always so magical.

“That was back before the turf was put in. The dirt would rise, because there would be so many games earlier in the day. You could just see that haze kind of flowed up.

“It was just kind of a cool mystique kind of presence to it.”

Playing with the Trojans, Steve enjoyed taking part in games against Mount Royal Collegiate and Bedford Road Collegiate as part of the Rusholme Rivalry. The rivalry stems from the fact a border of each school connects to Rusholme road.

While it was only about a 10-minute bus trip from E.D. Feehan to SMF Field, Steve remembers the excitement growing on the bus trips as the team neared the stadium.

“You knew you had just kind of a quick trip,” said Steve. “You really got the anticipation going.

“As you are driving down the street, you would see like classmates waving to the bus or just like people down the street waving to you. They knew a game was on. It was just good.

“I remember even just pulling up to the field in high school, and you could hear the announcer talking. You kind of felt like a pretty big deal walking on to a high school field. It was cool.”

Steve said a full circle moment was helping coach his son and seeing his son play high school football on the same field he did.

“It is pretty special, and I think that is just the tradition of football in Saskatchewan like Saskatoon and Saskatchewan in general,” said Bilan. “It is always just about passing the torch.

A Centennial Collegiate running back jets upfield in 2021.
“You keep your traditions alive with facilities like that. You modernize them a little bit, but it just passed down from generation to generation. Hopefully down the road, Brody is coaching his kid somewhere down the road.

“It is the same kind of torch that gets passed. I think of even just former players that coached me whether it was high school or Hilltops or (University of Saskatchewan) Huskies players that coached me it just continues to cycle.”

Jud Heilman, who is a consultant for SSSAD, said the excitement and anticipation to get out to SMF Field at the start of every high school football season is pretty high.

“High school football is always the first one on the menu for SSSAD high school athletics,” said Heilman. “It kind of sets the tone for the whole year.

“It is just a great way for kids to kind of get back from summer vacation and get back into the swing of things. Whether you are on the team or cheering the team on, it has just built that school spirit. It carries our whole sporting year, our calendar year right from high school football all the way through to basketball and track and field.”

The 2022 high school season has gotten underway with exhibition games played on September 1, 8 and 9. The first slate of regular season games is set for September 15 and 16.

Heilman said the SSSAD high school league traditionally host what are known as “Welcome Week” games during the first week of regular season play. During “Welcome Week,” each school brings out their entire Grade 9 class. Those Grade 9 students are usually all dressed up in school colours, and those “Welcome Week” games are usually their first experience with high school athletics as part of their school.

From that start, Heilman said many memories are made. Heilman said that players who have suited up for high school football games at SMF Field since it originally opened in September of 1960 have a warm spot for memories of those times.

As a result of those memories being created, Heilman said playing high school football at SMF Field is one of Saskatoon’s great sporting traditions.

Holy Cross High School takes on Bethlehem Catholic High School in 2021.
“No matter how old you get, you always have that memory of your high school athletics career,” said Heilman. “Those memories last a lifetime.

“Those friendships last a lifetime. It is always something that you are maybe 10 or 15 years away from an old classmate. You see someone on the street, and you can always reminisce about high school sport and getting to the bowl to play football games – the SMF Field.

“It is just fantastic and life building.”

The SSSHA’s full schedule of regular season high school football games can be found at sssad.net/schedule/.

Seasons change – Photo roundup a combo of summer and fall

By Gordie Howe Sports Complex staff
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Elias Flory (#11) fires a pass downfield in high school football action.
A memorable summer sports season is turning into what should be a memorable fall sports season.

At the Gordie Howe Sports Complex, the baseball and softball diamonds saw their last busy frenzy of action in August and became a little quieter as the month went on. As the calendar was flipping from August to September, business was picking up at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.

By about the 10th of September, various football seasons will be hitting full stride including the Kinsmen Football League and high school football overseen by the Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate. High school action kicked into high gear on September 8 with a full state of exhibition games at SMF Field.

The action provides great material for our continuing photo roundups.

Our lead photo shows Holy Cross High School Crusaders quarterback Elias Flory throwing the football against Calgary’s Notre Dame High School Pride in an exhibition football game at SMF Field from today, September 9. The Pride came away with a 16-8 victory. The first slate of regular season high school games are slated for September 15 and 16.

The Indoor Training Centre started to see a little more action on the indoor field turf field and in the batting cages and pitching tunnels.

Over the last 31 days, we got to play host to Softball Canada’s Women’s Canadian Championships and Under-17 Boys’ Canadian Championships. The Saskatoon Hilltops opened play in their CJFL regular season schedule, and the Senior Western Canada Baseball Championship tournament took place at Cairns Field.

The activity that happens on our grounds continues to provide great material for our continuing photo roundups.

These photos capture some of the memories that are made on our grounds. In this photo roundup, all of these pictures were taken by our Communications Coordinator in Darren Steinke.

Without further ado, here is a selection of 12 shots we hope you enjoy.

All-star chucker

The Saskatoon Shock pitcher Alana Westerhof gets set to unload a throw during at game at Joe Gallagher Field during Softball Canada’s Women’s Canadian Championships on August 13. Westerhof was named an all-star pitcher at this event.

Express spirits high in downpour

Ontario’s Napanee Express take shelter underneath the stands at Bob Van Impe Stadium as a short and heavy downpour delayed action at Softball Canada’s Under-17 Boys’ Canadian Championships along with the Women’s Canadian Championships on August 13. After doing some rescheduling, those events wrapped up the next day.

All present for medal ceremony

This photo shows the start of the medal ceremony for Softball Canada’s Women’s Canadian Champions on August 14 at Joe Gallagher Field. Alberta’s Calahoo Erins claimed the gold medal, Saskatchewan’s Carnduff Southeast Steelers took silver and the host Saskatoon G-Force captured the bronze medal.

Championship smiles from the Erins

Alberta’s Calahoo Erins were all smiles as they posed for the customary championship team photo after winning Softball Canada’s Women’s Canadian Championship tournament on August 14 at Joe Gallagher Field. The Erins have won gold at the last three consecutive women’s Canadian Nationals.

Crushing it

A Regina Trappers hitter slams a ball into the outfield during a game at the Senior Western Canada Baseball Championship tournament on August 20 at Cairns Field. The Trappers ultimately won the tourney one day later.

Family fun on coin toss

A youngster does the honours of flipping the coin for the coin flip before a CJFL regular season game between the Saskatoon Hilltops and the visiting Edmonton Huskies on August 21 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. That contest was the Kinsmen Family Day/Young Hilltops Day game for the Hilltops.

Hilltops’ Sawi celebrates spectacular TD run

Running back Charles Sawi has a knack for scoring sensational touchdowns at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Last year, he scored lots of those running the ball as a Grade 12 senior for the Holy Cross High School Crusaders Football team. Here on August 21, Sawi celebrates scoring a touchdown off a spectacular 31-yard jaunt on a reverse run with his teammates from the Saskatoon Hilltops. Sawi scored two majors that day for the storied CJFL club in a 38-10 regular season win over the Edmonton Huskies.

Championship trophy belongs to Blades

The Blades raise the championship trophy after winning the Saskatoon Adult Flag Football League’s Men’s B final on August 24 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Ben Njaa threw four touchdown passes for the Blades in the win.

Power on display

A hitter smashes a ball in the batting cages at the Indoor Training Centre as part of a 222’s tryout camp on August 28. The 222’s softball program practises at the Indoor Training Centre throughout the winter as the facility is the program’s home base.

Tune-up throw

A quarterback from the Aden Bowman Collegiate Bears Football team fires a pass downfield during an exhibition game on September 2 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Bears were taking on Regina’s Michael A. Riffel High School Royals to prepare for the Saskatoon Secondary Schools Athletic Directorate regular season, which opens with games on September 15 and 16.

Zeroed in on the end zone

Quarterback Sullivan Smith-Windsor from Prince Albert’s Carlton Comprehensive High School Crusaders charges through a lane to get to the end zone in a high school exhibition football game against the Marion M. Graham Collegiate Falcons. Smith-Windsor did indeed reach the end zone in a 34-15 Crusaders triumph on September 8 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.

Forced fumble Crusaders style

A defender from the Holy Cross High School Crusaders forces the quarterback of Calgary’s Notre Dame High School Pride to fumble the football during a high school exhibition game on September 9 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Pride ultimately pulled out a 16-8 victory in the interprovincial encounter.