Sarah Wright soars towards bigger role in Saskatoon Valkyries backfield

Originally published on Canada Football Chat:

Returning for a second season of Saskatoon Valkyries football, Sarah Wright took on a greater sense of confidence. With a breadth of experience that included both flag and touch versions of the game, the chance for the native of Saskatoon to graduate to tackle football, brought with it a very positive learning experience.

Playing in the hub of elite Canadian football, as the province of Saskatchewan has led the way in developing elite talent, enriching Wright’s experience with the Valks. Compared to her first season with the club, a significant aspect in Wright’s gridiron evolution involved taking on a bigger role, simultaneously emerging as a local hero.

Making the transition from fullback to running back, Wright displayed tremendous proficiency, adapting to her new role with a combination of alacrity and eagerness. Complementing such a willingness to learn and grow was the fact that the Valks tweaked their offensive attack. Changing from a formation that involved a pair of running backs, the club opted for a one runner in the backfield, establishing a featured back, it proved to be a role that suited Wright ideally,

“Going into last season with the Valkyries, though I have played many forms of football (i.e. flag and touch), I was not too certain about where I would specifically fit in on the team.

I started out practices as a receiver because that is was I was more used to but as time progressed some of the girls on the team suggested I try running back. I absolutely fell in love with that position and felt as I was helping my team more.

In my first year, I played fullback which was more blocking and power runs out of a two-back system. This year, we changed our offense formation to only have one running back and I think with that it motivated me to push harder at every practice to earn my playing time on the field.

By changing this formation, I believe that we had more options for run plays out of the backfield. In comparison to my first year I believe I came into the season more prepared as well as excited to try and win.”

Considering that the Valks welcomed many new faces to the season, Wright’s presence as a second year player also involved taking on a more mature role, evolving into a leader. Setting a positive example through work ethic, Wright’s assiduousness at the running back position also helped establish a crucial tone.

Reflecting on the fact that the running back position did involve several other players lining up in the backfield, mirroring an approach that saw players attempt numerous new positions this season, Wright’s presence provided consistency.

“There were a lot of changes throughout the season when it came to running back, we had lots of people moving in and out of positions right at the beginning and throughout the season as well, but mostly we had girls who were playing this position for the first time.

Being the only returning running back from the year before I felt like I somewhat put on a leadership role in ways of getting everyone excited to play this position and trying to prepare for the games.”

Taking into account that growth and evolution emerged as key themes in Wright’s second season of Valks football, such themes took on bigger meaning for the team in general. With the WWCFL adopting a new playoff format, as the top seed in each conference took on the second seeded team in the opposing conference, the Valks were lined up against the Western Conference’s Calgary Rage.

Leading up to the postseason, Wright would play a key factor. Amassing a brilliant performance against the Manitoba Fearless, highlighted by a 29-yard touchdown run, the regular season victory helped the Valks punch their ticket to an eighth straight playoff appearance, while avoiding its first-ever losing season.

The sense of achievement was one that encompassed Wright’s journey in 2018, progressively becoming an impact player and a key cog in the Valks’ offensive machine,

“Going into the game against the Fearless I knew that it would be a good, hard fought out game. Their football team has many strong and talented football players and I knew that this game was going to be challenging.

Throughout the season my goals included getting better each game and earning my touches so when this came around I knew that I had to be on top of my game and to put our team in good positions when I could. when the game finished it was an awesome feeling knowing that we got to go on to the next round of playoffs because we knew we were not finished yet. It was an awesome feeling.”

Disposing of the Rage in the semis, the Finals founds the Valks facing a highly familiar opponent. Renewing rivalries with the Regina Riot, whom they have opposed in the postseason during every year of WWCFL football, the first-ever All-Saskatchewan Final brought with it a heightened importance to the expanding presence of the WWCFL final in sporting Canadiana.
Worth noting, Wright would make her presence felt in the opening half, score the first touchdown in this highly historic championship game. Along with a 29-yard field goal by Carly Dyck, a member of Canada’s national women’s football team in 2017, the Valks boasted a 10-0 advantage. Although the Riot bounced back after halftime, claiming a 14-10 victory, the Valks assembled a valiant effort during an intense contest where both teams were evenly matched.

Reflecting on the championship game, Wright refuses to wallow in self-pity. Acknowledging that the team has been one in transition over the last few seasons, she is also quick to point out that the amount of new faces eager to build on the foundation established by many franchise luminaries has added a feeling of both pride and rejuvenation.

Praising the efforts of her teammates, refusing to quit in a game that demonstrated the high quality of play from both teams, it has only fueled Wright’s drive to return to the WWCFL’s biggest game in 2019. Geared towards attaining a sixth championship for the club, Wright’s determination is one that may fulfill the hopes and dreams of an entire fan base and organization. For opposing teams, the site of number 88 in the backfield next season may be poised to instill dread, ready to grow into the role of game changer.

“Being able to reach the final was a great feeling. I know our team lost some key players over the last couple of years but that only opened doors for others to shine. I could tell that our whole team was in it to win it and though the outcome of the game did not go as planned, every girl and coach put their heart and soul into that last game and that is all anyone could ever ask for. Playing in the final against our rivals was an awesome experience and I definitely think we can make it there again next season.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”

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