Saturday, 16 November 2019

Defence, Kleiter deliver sixth straight CJFL title to Hilltops

The Hilltops won the Canadian Bowl for a sixth straight year.
    The Saskatoon Hilltops lived the old cliché “defence wins championships.”
    On Saturday in Langley, B.C., the Hilltops relied on their unsung heroes on their defensive unit and receiver/kicker Rylan Kleiter. Thanks to clutch performances on both fronts, the Hilltops downed the host Langley Rams 11-6 at McLeod Stadium to win an unprecedented sixth straight CJFL and keep possession of the league’s championship trophy – the Canadian Bowl.
    The Hilltops have won the Canadian Bowl an incredible nine times in the last 10 years. They have faced the Rams four times in the last eight years in the CJFL title game and have claimed victory in all of their encounters.
    Out of the current run of six straight victories, Saturday’s 11-6 triumph was the Hilltops closest margin of victory in their current run of six straight titles. It was their closest Canadian Bowl victory since downing the Rams in Langley 23-21 in 2012.
    The Hilltops were trying to live up to memory of their late alum linebacker Justin Filteau, who tragically passed away in a plane crash in June. Filteau was an all-Canadian all-star, so it might have been fitting the overshadowed aspects of the Hilltops defensive unit and Kleiter’s kicking took over the spotlight.
Rylan Kleiter hit three critical field goals on Saturday.
    Against the Rams on Saturday, the Hilltops showed they can win in different ways, and legendary head coach Tom Sargeant showed faith in his team that they could win in different ways.
    Sargeant is a big fan of the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers, and his Hilltops put on a performance that flashed back to efforts put on by the Steelers in their Super Bowl winning dynasty of the 1970s under stoic late Pro Football Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Noll.
    The Hilltops have always had a great defence under defensive coordinator Jeff Yausie. With that said, the Hilltops defensive is traditionally known under Yausie as the ultimate bend don’t break unit.
    The Hilltops defence will give up yards, create a huge number of turnovers and allow the opposition to score very few points.
    Playing under overcast, damp and off and on rainy conditions on Saturday, the Hilltops defensive cranked things up to another gear. The ’Toppers played tough, aggressive and physical defence that grudgingly gave up yards.
    It was the type of performance you rarely see in today’s era of pass happy football. The Hilltops finished with 230 yards of total offence, while the Rams had 209 yards of total offence.
Jesse McNabb had 1.5 sacks for the Hilltops on Saturday.
    While often overshadowed by the Hilltops offensive unit, the 112th CJFL title game was the Hilltops defence’s day.
    Defensive end Tristan Hering and defensive tackle Jesse McNabb, who are both in their fifth years of eligibility, arguably had their finest hours with all the sacks and tackles they made. Hering finished with 2.5 sacks and McNabb had 1.5 sacks.
    The linebacking corps of Riley Keating, CJFL defensive player of the year Jadyn Pingue and Brady Fossen delivered countless big plays. Keating and Pingue are both in their final years of CJFL eligibility. Pingue had six tackles and a fumble recovery.
    In the secondary, safety Brant Morrow came up with key plays and defensive back Colton Holmes returned from injury to have one last final big moment in his final contest with the Hilltops. Holmes missed four regular season games and the Hilltops three previous post-season games before dressing for the Canadian Bowl.
    Another often overlooked part of the Hilltops team is the kicking game. Kleiter was named a CJFL all-Canadian all-star as a place kicker on Thursday after a stellar campaign.
    In the Hilltops eight regular season games, Kleiter connected on 18-of-22 field goal attempts for an 81.8 per cent success rate with a long of 42 yards.
Jadyn Pingue came up with late big third and one stop.
    On top of the success in the field goal department, Kleiter kicked 33 conversion attempts, recorded one rouge and hauled in two touchdown receptions as a receiver to lead the Prairie Football Conference in regular season scoring with 100 points.
    While Kleiter had a great season as a place kicker, it seemed like the Hilltops would never need to rely on him to win a game. On a day when the Hilltops didn’t find the end zone for a major score, Kleiter, who is a star skip on his own curling team, made 3-of-4 field goals, and his kicks were crucial in allowing Saskatoon to win on Saturday.
    The defence and Kleiter had their biggest shining moments late in the fourth quarter, with the Hilltops holding an 8-6 advantage.
    The Rams had the ball and were gambling on a third-and-one at their own 31 yard line with less than 3:34 to play in the fourth quarter. Rams backup quarterback Colby Peters tried to gain a first down on a quarterback sneak, but he was stopped by Pingue forcing a turnover on downs.
    The Hilltops were only able to drive the ball seven yards to the Rams 24 yard line. The Saskatoon coaches were thinking about gambling on a third and three, but Sargeant elected allow Kleiter to extend the lead and leave the issue in the hands of his defence.
    Kleiter connected on a clutch 31-yard field goal to put the Hilltops up 11-6 with 2:15 to play.

    The Rams needing a touchdown to win elected to take the ball on their own 35 yard line. They got down to the Hilltops 38 yard line and faced a third-and-11 situation.
    The hosts called their second and final timeout, and with 40 seconds remaining on the clock, needed to make a first down. Peters tried to hit receiver Jarryd Taylor at the Hilltops 15 yard line, but Holmes defended the play to cause an incompletion to give the ball to the Hilltops.
Ben Abrook, left, ran the ball 27 times for 130 yards.
    Hilltops fifth-year starting quarterback Tyler Hermann was able to then run out the clock with knee down plays.
    Saturday’s game was such a defensive slugfest that the Hilltops posted 146 yards of total offence in the first half, while the Rams had 69 yards of total offence.
    After a scoreless first quarter, the Hilltops took an 8-0 lead at halftime. Kleiter hit a 21-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter, Rams punter Kyle Clarot conceded a safety and Kleiter completed the first half scoring with a 23-yard field goal.
    After the Hilltops went up 8-0, the Rams pulled starting quarterback Tristen Secord-Yanciw in favour of Peters. Rams starting quarterback wasn’t able to play due to a knee injury suffered in a regular season game on Oct. 5.
    Around the midpoint of the third quarter, the Rams put together their best offensive series of the contest that concluded with a one-yard touchdown run by backup running back Maximilian Joseph on an option toss from Peters.
    The Rams tried to go for a two-point conversion, but Peters was sacked by Hering to allow the Hilltops to still hold an 8-6 lead.
    That set stage for the dramatics late in the fourth quarter.
Tristan Hering had 2.5 sacks on Saturday.
    Hering was named the defensive player of the game, while Hilltops star power running back Ben Abrook was named the offensive player of the game. Abrook carried the ball 27 times for 130 yards.
Rams star running back Andrew Pocrnic ran the ball 16 times for 74 yards.
    In last year’s CJFL title tilt held in Saskatoon, the Hilltops hammered the visiting Rams 58-21 in frigid conditions at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    The Hilltops won in a totally different style on Saturday to claim their 22nd CJFL championship in team history.
    On top of that, the Hilltops rolled off their 31st overall win in a row with including action in the CJFL’s regular season and playoffs.
    The Hilltops have won their last 29 straight games on the road including action in the CJFL regular season and post-season. Due to their current run of six consecutive CJFL championships, the Hilltops extended their CJFL record of consecutive post-season wins to 20.
    It is highly likely the Hilltops current overall and road winning streaks are also CJFL records.
Sargeant has a 210-30-2 career record in CJFL regular season and post-season action since becoming the Hilltops head coach before the start of the 1998 campaign. He has the record for all-time head coaching victories in Canada’s amateur post-secondary football ranks.
    “Sarge” has won 13 CJFL titles as a head coach, two as an assistant coach with the team and one as a player. His first championship as a player was earned way back in 1985.
Tom Sargeant has guided the Hilltops to 13 CJFL titles as head coach.
    After Saturday’s game, the Hilltops players raised Sargeant on top of their shoulders as he lifted the Canadian Bowl.
    The Hilltops completed their second straight perfect season posting a 12-0 record in the 2019 campaign. It was their fifth perfect season in team history. They were 11-0 in last year’s perfect season.
    Saskatoon’s first perfect season came in 1958 at 11-0, the second in 1978 at 12-0 and the third in 2003 at 12-0.
    With the turnover the Hilltops had amongst their starters, this year’s perfect season was arguably the most unexpected one of the five. They graduate 15 players this season who were part of the back-to-back perfect campaigns in 2018 and 2019.
    The Rams were in pursuit of perfection in 2019 and settled with a 12-1 overall mark.
    For Sargeant, this was season where he won his 200th career game and earned his 209th career win to become Canada’s all-time leader amateur post-secondary football head coaching wins.
    He always says those numbers don’t mean much to him, but winning the championship trophies to allow his fifth-year players to leave on the ultimate high does.
    As a head coach, Sargeant has watched that moment unfold 13 times.
    This year, it was the Hilltops often overlooked defensive unit and Kleiter’s clutch kicking that made an ultimate sixth straight CJFL championship moment happen.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Friday, 15 November 2019

Huskies specials teams deny steal attempt by Bisons’ Brown

Carson Stadnyk (#16) scored in the first period for the Huskies on Friday.
    The special teams of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team ensured University of Manitoba Bisons rookie netminder Tyler Brown didn’t commit highway robbery.
    On Friday playing before 1,355 spectators at Merlis Belsher Place, the Huskies scored twice on the power play and once short-handed to down the Bisons 4-1 in a U Sports regular season clash. The win was the third straight for the Huskies, who improved to 6-3-2.
    The Huskies could have won in even more convincing fashion had it not been for the work of Brown, who turned away 47-of-50 shots fired his way. The final U of S tally came into an empty net.
    Brown, who stands 6-feet and weighs 182 pounds, starred for the WHL’s Regina Pats from 2014 to 2018, and he backstopped them to the WHL championship series in 2017, where they fell 4-2 in the best-of-seven set to the Seattle Thunderbirds.
Donovan Neuls scored a short-handed goal for the Huskies.
    On Jan. 10, 2018, Brown was dealt to the Saskatoon Blades in a blockbuster trade and finished out his last half season in the WHL playing for “The Bridge City Bunch.”
    He joined his hometown Bisons before the start of last season but was a medical redshirt for the campaign after undergoing surgery to fix a nagging injury from his time in the WHL.
    Against the Huskies on Friday, Brown looked ever y bit the netminder that helped the Pats finish first overall in the 2016-17 WHL regular season and come up two wins short of a WHL title.
    Early in the first period, Huskies winger Carson Stadnyk burst off the right wing across the face of the Bisons net, but his shot was turned away by a kick save from Brown.
Tyler Brown makes one of his 47 saves for the Bisons.
    That was the first of many stellar saves that came from the 22-year-old Bisons puck stopper.
Friday’s game also got off to a really rough start.
    Shortly after Brown’s save on Stadnyk, Bisons defenceman Carter Doerksen drove his shoulder into the jaw of Huskies forward Carter Folk in open ice in the U of M zone. The hit started a scrum.
Doerksen was given a major penalty for checking to the head and a game misconduct. The hit will automatically be reviewed by the Canada West Conference for a possible suspension.
    Folk was helped off the ice and didn’t return.
Taran Kozun makes one of his 19 saves in goal for the Huskies.
    Near the end of that five minute power play at the 10:46 mark of the opening frame, Stadnyk netted his seventh of the campaign from the right side of the Bisons goal on a net scramble.
    The Huskies proceeded to go up 2-0 with 24.1 seconds remaining in first when centre Donovan Neuls sped into the Bisons zone on the left wing and ripped a shot top corner of Brown.
    The host side needed both of those tallies.
    In the second period, Brown turned away all 14 shots fired his way. He stopped Huskies left-winger Collin Shirley, who had a chance all alone in front of the U of M goal.
    Brown also robbed Huskies centre Kohl Bauml on a backhand chance and sucked up a shot from the left slot coming from Huskies second-year left-wing Layne Young.
    Brown’s heroics allowed the Bisons to put a scare into the Huskies in the third period.
Logan McVeigh, left, and Taran Kozun mark the Huskies win on Friday.
    The visitors broke through on the scoreboard at the 4:10 mark of the third period, when winger Devon Skoleski tucked home a shot from close in to cut the Huskies edge to 2-1.
    Moments after that tally, Bisons forward Geordie Keane was given a double minor for high sticking which helped kill momentum for the visitors. Near the start of the second half of that power play, the Bisons went down two men as forward Jonah Wasylak was penalized for throwing his stick.
    On the ensuing two-man advantage, Huskies right-winger Levi Cable roofed home an insurance goal to put the Huskies up 3-1.
    Huskies centre Kohl Bauml rounded out the game’s scoring with an empty-net tally with 2:13 remaining in the third.
    Taran Kozun stopped 19 shots to pick up the win in goal for the Huskies. Brown’s stellar play couldn’t prevent the Bison from falling to 5-5-0-1.
    The two sides go at it again Saturday at 7 p.m. at Merlis Belsher Place.

Young cancer survivor drops ceremonial faceoff with Smuks

Joel Bachman, centre, drops the puck for the ceremonial faceoff.
    Friday’s U Sports regular season game at Merlis Belsher Place was the annual “Huskies Fight Cancer” night for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s hockey team, and they had a special young guest on hand.
    A 10-year-old goalie named Joel Bachman took part in a team practice this week. Bachman was diagnosed with a brain tumour at age six, and he underwent extensive treatments and is now cancer free.
    At practice, Bachman took part in drills along with Huskies star starting goalie Taran Kozun and second-year backup Travis Child.
    On Friday, Bachman got to go to centre ice to drop the puck for the ceremonial faceoff before the Huskies clash with the U of Manitoba Bisons at Merlis Belsher Place. He was joined by parents of late Huskies hard-working glue-guy forward Cody Smuk in Marty and Darla Smuk.
    Cody passed away in June of 2015 after a lengthy battle with cancer.
    Before Bachman dropped the puck, the 1,355 spectators in attendance and players, coaches and staffers from the Huskies and Bisons displayed signs that had the words, “I Fight For” written on top.
    Below those words was a white space to allow everyone to write a name on their respective sign.
    After those signs were displayed, Bachman dropped the puck for the Faceoff.
    During the game, the Huskies had a number of fundraisers going on to raise funds for Choc ’La Cure, which raises funds for equipment at the Saskatoon Cancer Centre.
    The Huskies claimed a 4-1 victory in Friday’s contest with the Bisons.

Vance hits rare heights with 30 career wins with Huskies

Jessica Vance picked up her 30th career regular season win on Friday.
    Jessica Vance had a huge milestone night playing against her former U Sports squad.
    On Friday night at the Wayne Fleming Arena in Winnipeg, Man., Vance made 14 saves to back the U of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team to a 1-0 victory over the host U of Manitoba Bisons. With Friday’s victory, Vance became the third netminder in the history of the Huskies women’s program to win 30 career regular season games.
    Vance, who is from Prince Albert, Sask., spent the 2015-16 campaign with the Bisons as a medical red shirt before sitting out a year to join the Huskies for the 2017-18 campaign. She never played a game in goal with the Bisons.
    Since joining the Huskies, the graduate of the Prince Albert Northern Bears female midget AAA team quickly rose to star status being named the Canada West player of the year in 2017-18 helping the Huskies earn a berth at U Sports nationals.
    Vance is still the all-time leader for the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League in career wins (48) and games played (91) in regular season action.
    In the history of the Huskies women’s hockey program, Vanessa Frederick and Cassidy Hendricks both hit the 30-career win barrier with the squad.
    Frederick played for the Huskies from 2007 to 2010 and in 2011-12 posting a 31-21 record, a 2.30 goals against average, a .914 save percentage and five shutouts in regular season play.
    Hendricks suited up for the Huskies from 2012 to 2017 posting a 57-44-13 record, a 2.04 goals against average, a .922 save percentage and 12 shutouts in regular season play.
    Vance, who is in her third season with the Huskies, has posted a 30-12-5 record, a 1.10 goals against average, a .952 save percentage and 17 shutouts in regular season play.
    The 22-year-old is the Huskies all-time leader in career regular season shutouts, and she is tied with former Bisons goaltender Stacey Corfield for the third most career regular season shutouts in the history of the Canada West Conference. Corfield collected her 17 shutouts playing five seasons for the Bisons from 2005 to 2010.
    Offensive defender Leah Bohlken scored on a second period power play for the Huskies to account for the lone tally in the contest.
    Vance made a diving paddle stick stop with a 60 seconds to play in the third period on Bisons rookie forward Kate Gregoire to preserve the win.
    The Huskies improved to 6-3-2 with the victory.
    Erin Fargey turned away 29 shots to take the setback in goal for the Bisons (2-8-1).
    The two sides go at it again on Saturday at the Wayne Fleming Arena .

Hilltops’ Pingue named CJFL defensive player of the year

Jadyn Pingue was named the CJFL’s top defensive player.
    The individual accolades keep piling up for fifth-year Saskatoon Hilltops middle linebacker Jadyn Pingue, and latest award bears the name of one of the team’s all-time great.
    At the CJFL’s awards banquet on Friday in Langley, B.C., Pingue took home the Larry Wruck most outstanding defensive player of the year award. Wruck was one of the Hilltops all-time greatest linebackers suiting up for the club in the early 1980s before moving on to be a standout with the CFL’s Edmonton Eskimos from 1985 to 1996.
    Pingue’s award win marks two straight years a Hilltops player has taken the CJFL’s Larry Wruck most outstanding defensive player of the year award. Last year, Hilltops linebacker Cody Peters won the CJFL’s most outstanding defensive player honours in his final year of junior football eligibility.
    The 2019 campaign has been an outstanding one for Pingue. On Wednesday, he was named a CJFL all-Canadian all-star. The fifth-year veteran was named the most outstanding defensive player and most outstanding linebacker for the Prairie Football Conference earlier in the post-season.
    Appearing in seven out of the Hilltops eight regular season games, Pingue posted 33.5 total tackles, one pass knockdown, one fumble recovery and one interception
    On Saturday, the Hilltops, who are 11-0 overall, will face the host Langley Rams, who are 12-0 overall, in the CJFL championship game – the Canadian Bowl – at McLeod Stadium (3 p.m. Saskatchewan time, 92.9 The Bull).
    The Hilltops are trying to win an unprecedented sixth straight CJFL title, and they thumped the Rams 58-21 in last year’s Canadian Bowl in Saskatoon.

Stars alum Messier officially inks with Cornell

Ashley Messier in action with the Stars last April.
    Ashley Messier made her university hockey intentions official on Friday.
    In September of 2017 at age 15, Messier verbally committed to play for the Cornell University Big Red women’s hockey team in the NCAA ranks. At that time, Messier was entering her second season with the Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA team.
    Now playing for the Selects Hockey Academy in Rochester, New York, for her Grade 12 year, Messier officially signed with the Big Red on Friday, and will joined the powerhouse NCAA program at the start of next season.
    From 2016 to 2019, Messier played three seasons with the Stars piling up 11 goals and 58 assists for 69 points in 84 regular season games as an offensive defender.
    She helped the Stars reach the championship game of the Esso Cup female midget AAA national championship tournament in April of 2018. The Stars fell 2-1 to the Alberta-based St. Albert Slash, but Messier was named the top defender of the tournament.
    Last season with the Stars, Messier, who is from Wilcox, Sask., recorded five goals and 27 assist to help the Stars post their best regular season record ever at 27-1 to top the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League standings.
    The Stars again advanced to Esso Cup and finished fourth. Messier again captured honours as the event’s top defender.
    Messier was named the Colleen Sostorics top defender of the SFMAAAHL last season and a first team SFMAAAHL all-star. She was a second SFMAAAHL all-star in 2017-18.
    Messier, who stands 5-foot-3, helped Team Saskatchewan advance to the final of the National Women’s under-18 Champion held last Saturday in Winkler, Man. Team Saskatchewan fell in the title game Team Ontario Red 3-1.
    The silver medal win was Saskatchewan’s best finish at the event that contains provincial under-18 women’s hockey teams from across the country. The 17-year-old Messier was named the most valuable player of the tournament.
    The Big Red roster contains Messier’s former Stars teammate in offensive defender Willow Slobodzian.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Thursday, 14 November 2019

Round 2 – Hilltops ready to rumble with Rams

Jadyn Pingue, left, makes a tackle in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    In a rare CJFL championship battle of unbeatens, Saskatoon Hilltops linebacker Jadyn Pingue said the Langley Rams are the real deal with their 12-0 mark.
    The battle for the Canadian Bowl and CJFL national title features the Hilltops, who are 11-0 overall, taking on the host Rams, who are 12-0 overall, on Saturday in Langley, B.C., at McLeod Stadium (3 p.m. Saskatchewan time, 92.9 The Bull).
    The last time two undefeated teams squared off for the CJFL title came back in 2006 in Nanaimo, B.C.
    In that year’s Canadian Bowl, the Edmonton Wildcats entered the title tilt sporting an 11-0 overall record, and they took on the Vancouver Island Raiders, who were 12-0 overall going into that contest. The Raiders pulled out a thrilling 27-26 victory to take the CJFL title.
    In this year’s battle of unbeatens, the Hilltops go into the game placing a number of streaks on the line. 
Ben Abrook charges upfield in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    They are the five time defending CJFL champions, have won their last 30 games overall including action in the regular season and post-season, won their last 28 games in a row on the road including action in the regular season and playoffs and have won a CJFL record 19 post season games in a row.
    The Hilltops are trying to finish with back-to-back perfect seasons. They were 11-0 last year after hammering the Rams 58-21 in the Canadian Bowl held at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    The Rams, who finished last season with a 10-4 overall record, would like to finish at 13-0 this season, which would in the process derail all the Hilltops impressive streaks.
    Pingue believes the Rams put in the work to get a lot better to try and avoid a repeat result from last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    “These guys are different,” said Pingue. “They are good.
    “They are very good. Their record speaks for itself. You can look at their scores.
    “They’ve been blowing everyone out. They’ve been doing everything that need to do in their conference to able to be in this spot. They have talent all across the board.”
Tyler Hermann (#12) throw a pass in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    Offensively, the Hilltops head into Saturday’s game led by fifth-year quarterback Tyler Hermann, who wants to complete a dream season as a first-year starter. He improved steadily throughout the 2019 campaign completing 123-of-192 passes for 1,908 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions appearing in all of his club’s eight regular season games.
    His two top receivers have been fifth-year clutch pass catcher Connor Graham and third-year playmaker Keegan Dicks.
    Graham caught 28 passes for 599 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season. Dicks hauled in 31 passes for 494 yards and four touchdowns in the regular campaign.
Duncan Little (#10) in action in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    The main cog in the Hilltops offence is star power running back Ben Abrook, who led the PFC in rushing yards in the regular season carrying the ball 199 times for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns.
    The Hilltops offence is powered by a veteran and elite starting offensive line that includes right tackle Jonathan Chisholm, right guard Taylon Elderkin, centre Patrick Arno, left guard Ryder Klisowsky and left tackle Mason Ochs.
    “We’re really excited honestly, because we definitely built up to a higher level here,” said Hermann. “The first game we had a little bit of a slow start, and we kind of had to grind through our first four games.
    “We feel it has really come together for us offensively. I think it couldn’t be a better time for us, so we’re excited to showcase what we have. We have a couple of new things in store.
Tato Ferreyro (#24) of the Rams in action in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    “It should be a fun one.”
    The biggest question regarding the Rams on offence circles around the availability of star quarterback Duncan Little. Little hasn’t played since injuring his knee in a 66-0 romp over the Valley Huskers on Oct. 5 in Chilliwack, B.C., in what was the ninth regular season game for both clubs.
    In nine games for the Rams this season, Little completed 100-of-168 passes for 1,866 yards and 20 touchdowns. Colby Peters paced the Rams at quarterback through the post-season.
    Star running back Andrew Pocrnic had a stellar year for the Rams in his final campaign of CJFL eligibility. 
    The graduate of the Marion Graham Collegiate Falcons program in the Saskatoon high school football ranks carried the ball 163 times for 1,199 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Rylan Kleiter (#7) in action in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    He had a receiving touchdown to post a total of 27 majors for the campaign.
    His rushing and total touchdown totals were new CJFL records for one regular season. The old records were held by Edmonton Wildcats running back Tristan Jones, who ran for 25 major scores and 26 total touchdowns in the 2006 CJFL campaign.
    Khalik Johnson topped the Rams in receiving with 32 catches for 569 yards and nine touchdowns.
Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant said his side is working on being ready for whoever plays quarterback for the Rams.
    “We’re preparing for all scenarios,” said Sargeant. “At the end day, we got to play against him (Little) last year and seen him play some this year.
    “Compared to last year, they run the ball way more. Last year, they threw the ball more. They had (Jevon) Cottoy and some special players.
John Brown, right, in action in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    “I don’t think (Rams head) coach (Howie) Zaron is too concerned about who plays quarterback, because he has a bit of a different game plan and sort of matches us. We love to run the football, so our game plan is to get out there and try and run at anybody. I think they are trying to start to do that too.”
    On defence, Pingue was named the most outstanding defensive player and most outstanding linebacker for the Prairie Football Conference. 
    He collected 33.5 total tackles, one pass knockdown, one fumble recovery and one interception during the regular season.
    Defensive tackle Jesse McNabb, who is in his final campaign of CJFL eligibility, recorded 26.5 total tackles and three sacks for the Hilltops in the regular campaign.
    Third-year safety Brant Morrow collected 18.5 total tackles, three interceptions, two pass knockdowns, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in the regular season for Saskatoon.
Tristan Hering, right, makes a sack in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    Riley Keating, who is a fifth-year weak side linebacker, topped the Hilltops with 52.5 seconds in the regular season.
    Linebacker Cole Barron led the Rams with 28 tackles in the regular season.
    “We know how the result turned out last year, so we know they are going to be hungrier this time around,” said Hermann. “I think they are going to do a little bit different to kind of control the game in more of a sense.
    “We are preparing as though we are playing ourselves, and we are kind of trying to make sure that we are at our top level regardless of what they decide they want to do.”
    Sargeant is expecting his Hilltops will see an inspired effort from the Rams side.
    “They’ve made a lot of significant plays all throughout the year,” said Sargeant. “We have to be sharp, we have to ready.
    “They know what we are about now, so there will be no surprises.”

Ochs, Kleiter named CJFL all-Canadians

Mason Ochs (#73) was named a CJFL all-Canadian all-star.
    It was a familiar honour for Mason Ochs but a new one for Rylan Kleiter.
    On Thursday, the CJFL announced its all-Canadian all-stars on the offensive side of the ball as well as the place kicker on special teams. The two members of the five time defending CJFL champion Saskatoon Hilltops both picked up all-star nods.
    For the third straight year, Ochs was named an all-Canadian all-star manning the Hilltops left tackle position in each of those campaigns.
    Ochs and the Hilltops starting offensive line played a huge part in allowing star power running back Ben Abrook carry the ball 199 times for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns in the club’s eight regular season games.
Rylan Kleiter (#7) was named CJFL all-Canadian all-star at place kicker.
    The protection by Ochs and the offensive line allowed starting quarterback Tyler Hermann to complete 123-of-192 passes for 1,908 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in the regular campaign.
    Kleiter was named to the CJFL all-Canadian all-star team at place kicker. He connected on 18-of-22 field goal attempts for an 81.8 per cent success rate with a long of 42 yards.
    On top of the success in the field goal department, Kleiter kicked 33 conversion attempts, recorded one rouge and hauled in two touchdown receptions as a receiver to lead the Prairie Football Conference in regular season scoring with 100 points.
    The Hilltops will try to win an unprecedented sixth straight CJFL title when they face the Langley Rams on Saturday at McLeod Stadium in Langley, B.C., at the Canadian Bowl.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Hilltops to face rain, hotter temperatures in CJFL title game

Rams won’t be frozen out of Canadian Bowl

Caleb Haight gets a strip sack in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    Saskatoon Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant knows the Langley Rams won’t be shocked by the elements this time around.
    For the second straight year, the Hilltops (11-0 overall) and the Rams (12-0 overall) will face each other in the CJFL championship game – the Canadian Bowl.
    A year ago in fridge conditions with a high of -7 C at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Hilltops hammered the Rams 58-21 to win an unprecedented fifth straight CJFL title game.
    When the two sides face each other on Saturday at McLeod Stadium in Langley, B.C., Environment Canada is predicting showers with a high of 11 C.
    This time around, Sargeant said the Rams should have a higher comfort level playing out of familiar surroundings.
    “Number one, we are going into their barn,” said Sargeant. “Last year, it was cold, so the conditions played to us.
    “I think this year the conditions are more conducive to what they’re comfortable with. Anytime you go into someone else’s environment, that gives them a bit of an advantage. We’ve been there a few other times.”
    The Hilltops will have practised in temperatures below freezing all week in Saskatoon before departing for The Canadian Bowl early Friday morning.
Keegan Dicks, left, catches a Hilltops TD in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    Hilltops star middle linebacker Jadyn Pingue believes the only adjustment his side will have to make it getting used to playing at full speed again.
    “I feel like we’re going to come out there, and we’re going to be a lot faster,” said Pingue. “We’re practising on this field.
    “It is kind of icy, so we have to focus on being lower. When we get up there, we are looking forward to being able to be on the turf and being able to get our speed going. It is pretty much the exact opposite.
    “It is minus-10 here. It is supposed to be plus-10 there. I’m just looking forward to going to B.C. and playing a game.”
    Hilltops quarterback Tyler Hermann said the weather won’t have that much effect on the strategies used by his club’s side.
    “It (the weather) is significant in a sense,” said Hermann. “Our game plan doesn’t waiver too much.
Rams’ Nathan Murray (#34) in action in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    “We’re going to be physical. We are going to be tough, and we’re going to mix in a little bit of deep ball and passing kind of stuff as well. That is pretty much what we are going for at the moment.
    “We’re just going to prepare in the cold for now I guess.”
    Besides meeting in the Canadian Bowl for the second straight year, the Hilltops and Rams will be going at it in the CJFL title game for the fourth time in eight years. 
    The Hilltops claimed the first two encounters, which were both played in Langley.
    In 2012, the Hilltops squeaked past the Rams 23-21. In 2014, the Hilltops posted a convincing 39-14 victory over the Rams, which started Saskatoon’s current run of winning the CJFL championship for five consecutive years.
    “None of my players on this team on this team have ever been out to Langley, so you know as coaches, we have to try and communicate and tell them about the environment and get them ready,” said Sargeant. “You look at the Langley Rams they are super athletic, they are very well coached and they love to make a lot of plays.”

“Sarge” appreciates well wishes from record 209th win

Tom Sargeant has 209 career wins as Hilltops head coach.
    Tom Sargeant didn’t expect numerous heartwarming messages would pour in after his latest milestone win.
    On Nov. 2 in London, Ont., Sargeant picked up his 209th career victory as the Saskatoon Hilltops head coach, when squad hammered the host Beefeaters 51-1 in a CJFL semifinal contest. The total put Sargeant one win ahead of retired Regina Rams head coach Frank McCrystal for the most in Canada’s amateur post-secondary football ranks.
    Sargeant has a 209-30-2 career record in CJFL regular season and post-season action since becoming the Hilltops head coach before the start of the 1998 campaign.
    McCrystal was the head coach of the Rams from 1984 to 2014, and they played 15 seasons in the CJFL and 16 campaigns in U Sports over that time as the University of Regina Rams. Over those 31 seasons, McCrystal compiled a 208-104-2 record as head coach in the regular season and post-season in both the CJFL and U Sports.
    After news spread about Sargeant’s latest milestone, the message of congratulations poured in.
    “There have been some very night gestures,” said Sargeant. “If you know me, I am a little embarrassed and humbled by it, because anything that I do as a coach, these are group accomplishments.
    “I can’t do anything alone without the support, the love of my family and then the loyalty and commitment of my coaches. Whatever comes my way I will take it, because I hope that everyone understands that it is filtering down to them too. I’ve had some extremely loyal coaches that are integral to any success that we have.”
    Sargeant has always said he isn’t a guy that keeps track of numbers. When he does achieve a milestone, he does worry that those around him might not get the credit they deserve as well.
    “Anything that comes my way, I hope I do a good enough job of spreading it,” said Sargeant. “A lot of times, I don’t do anything about it.
    “It doesn’t affect me. I just know I have to work harder the next day and get this team more better and more ready for the next task at hand. I’m certainly thankful for all of that.
    “As I said, it is a reflection of everyone around me way more so than me myself.”

Hilltops trio named CJFL defensive all-Canadians

Jadyn Pingue was named a CJFL all-Canadian all-star.
    Knowing the fact they will play for an unprecedented sixth straight CJFL championship, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Saskatoon Hilltops led the way in CJFL all-Canadian all-star selections on the defensive side of the ball.
    The CJFL announced its defensive all-Canadian all-stars on Wednesday, and the Hilltops had the most selections at three.
    Middle linebacker Jadyn Pingue was named an all-Canadian all-star after an outstanding campaign that saw him post 33.5 total tackles, one pass knockdown, one fumble recovery and one interception in seven regular season games.
    The fifth-year veteran was named the most outstanding defensive player and most outstanding linebacker for the Prairie Football Conference earlier in the post-season.
    Defensive tackle Jesse McNabb took home honours as an all-Canadian all-star for the second straight season. Playing out his final campaign of CJFL eligibility, McNabb posted 26.5 total tackles and three sacks appearing in all eight of the Hilltops regular season games.
    The CJFL showed major respect to Hilltops defensive back Colton Holmes naming him an all-Canadian all-star. Holmes played in only four of the Hilltops eight regular season games due to injury posting 17.5 total tackles, two pass knockdowns, one fumble recovery and one interception.
    Earlier in the post-season, Holmes was named the most outstanding defensive back for the PFC. He has yet to suit up for the Hilltops in the current post-season.
    Holmes attended the training camp of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders and was on the team’s practice roster until rejoining the Hilltops.
    The Hilltops will face the Langley Rams in the CJFL championship game – the Canadian Bowl – on Saturday in Langley, B.C.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Tuesday, 12 November 2019

Hilltops’ Arno aspires to make classroom a long time home

Centre Patrick Arno locks up on a block for the Hilltops.
    Patrick Arno is strong at focusing on the Saskatoon Hilltops next game, but he admits his thoughts have drifted to thinking about the day after the team’s next game.
    On Saturday, the Hilltops (11-0 overall) travel to Langley, B.C., to face the host Rams (12-0 overall) in the CJFL championship game – The Canadian Bowl. The Hilltops will be trying to win an unprecedented sixth straight CJFL title in that contest.
    On Sunday, Arno will no longer be the starting centre on the Hilltops offensive line. He will have finished playing in his fifth campaign with the venerable Saskatoon side and have exhausted his CJFL eligibility.
    “It is going to be a reality check,” said Arno. “It is going to be different.
    “It is going to be something I have almost a feeling of losing something or losing someone, because it will be a club that is close to me. It will just be kind of over in a split second, so it will be different.”
Patrick Arno gets set to snap the football.
    Arno has taken steps to transition out of his life as a hulking 6-foot-4, 300-pound leader of the Hilltops offensive line to one day becoming a teacher. He has attended classes for some time at the University of Saskatchewan, and he has been accepted into the faculty of education at the University of Regina starting in January of the new year.
    A graduate of Saskatoon’s high school football ranks in the Tommy Douglas Collegiate Tigers, the move to the Saskatchewan capital will mark the first time Arno has not lived in “The Bridge City.”
    “It is a little bit different,” said Arno. “I’ve never lived away from home.
    “I’m just trying to find a place and trying to figure out where there is a good place to live in Regina and where is not to live. I’m just figuring out my schedules and all that kind of stuff.”
    Arno said he hasn’t talked to the University of Regina Rams about playing football for them at the U Sports level. Actually, he said he hasn’t talked to any U Sports football program about extending his time in the game.
    The 22-year-old’s focus after Hilltops has revolved around setting up his life after football.
Taylon Elderkin (#67) and Patrick Arno (#57) team up on a block.
    “I’m just going to school and focusing on my career so far,” said Arno. “If something comes, then I will figure it out then.”
    Arno has made tonnes of good memories playing with the Hilltops. He said his eyes were opened about possibly joining the storied junior team, when Hilltops defensive backs coach Brent Turkington visited with him during an awards banquet at Tommy Douglas.
    After that awards banquet, Arno attended Hilltops spring camp in 2015. Hilltops offensive line coach Donnie Davidsen told Arno he was competing for a spot along with another Tommy Douglas grad.
    The other Tommy Douglas grad elected not to rejoin the Hilltops for their main training camp, and Arno’s time with the team began.
Patrick Arno (#57) gets things set on the Hilltops offensive line.
    “It has really gone by really fast, quicker than when you imagine at the start,” said Arno, who was a practice roster player in his first season. “It has been a long ride.
    “It has been a good ride.”
    During his rookie campaign in 2015, Arno spent his time learning from a veteran offensive line. Centre Jordan Hydomako, left guard Nathan Heide and left tackle Terry Thesen were all in their fifth-years of eligibility and starred at their respective positions.
    Arno proved to be a quick study. He found himself taking over as the team’s starting centre in his second year in 2016 after the graduation of the three fifth-year veterans.
    “I had good leaders,” said Arno. “It was good to start.
Patrick Arno (#57) and the Hilltops stellar starting offensive line.
    “I was thrown into things quickly and kind of just had to figure it out as quick as I could. It was really good. It was really fun, and I think that experience has made me into the player that I am today.”
    Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant said Arno gained his starting spot quickly by earning the trust of the team’s coaches with his play.
    “Number one, I’ve always loved his consistency as a snapper,” said Sargeant. “The other thing I’ve liked about him was his frame.
    “He is a big man. You get that big guy in the middle, and it makes a big difference. He creates a lot of space.
    “He likes to play physical. He likes to have fun. The guys really rally around him, and I love coaching him.”
Patrick Arno (#57) in action in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    Over the years, Sargeant said Arno kept playing at a high level and always handled the complexities of the centre position well.
    “As a centre, you have to make a lot of the line sight adjustments and get everything orchestrated, and he has done a real good job of communicating,” said Sargeant. “As a captain this year, he has brought very valuable and strong leadership.
    “It is fun to see him evolve over the last three or four years to be a dominant offensive lineman on a team that is known for running the ball.”
    Arno said starting as a second-year player was one of his biggest memories with the team, even though an injury kept him out of that season’s Canadian Bowl game victory.
    He has enjoyed playing in the Hilltops last two Canadian Bowl wins and is looking forward to a third straight start in the CJFL title game on Saturday.
Patrick Arno (#57) walks on to SMF Field with mom, Brenda Arno.
    On top of playing football, Arno has an appreciation for the Hilltops history. He felt fortunate he could celebrate national title win in the team’s now demolished old clubhouse and the state of the art new one the club moved into before the start of last season.
    “Lots of guys here don’t really have those memories,” said Arno. “I was lucky enough to be in the old clubhouse for three years.
    “It is just lots of tradition there. Lots of these young guys don’t really know what it was like. They just come here and they have this new big clubhouse, and it is completely different then from when I started.
    “I like to keep the tradition going of what I knew from the old clubhouse to this clubhouse. It has been good.”
    Of course, Arno wants to help the Hilltops complete another successful chapter in their story by helping the club win an unprecedented 22nd CJFL championship.
    He will soak in being in the middle of the offensive line that contains pals in Jonathan Chisholm at right tackle, Taylon Elderkin at right guard, Ryder Klisowsky at left guard and Mason Ochs at left tackle for one last time.
Patrick Arno (#57) celebrates with part of the Canadian Bowl last year.
    This year’s battle in the Canadian Bowl with the Rams presents a unique challenge as the two sides meet in the CJFL’s title game for a second straight year.
    A year ago, the Hilltops hammered the Rams 58-21 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field to retain possession of the Canadian Bowl. Now that the Rams know what the Hilltops are about, Arno is expecting a lot tougher encounter this time around.
    “It will be interesting,” said Arno. “I think we are just looking to run the ball.
    “I want to get the O-line going, and I think the team will take care of itself. We’ve been preparing ourselves enough for this all year. My experience and my O-line’s experience and my team’s experience has been building up for this moment.”

Haight takes CJFL’s community service award

Caleb Haight (#53) won the CJFL’s Past Commissioner’s Award.
    Caleb Haight’s community involvement has been recognized at the national level in the CJFL.
    On Tuesday, the defensive end for the Saskatoon Hilltops was named the winner of the CJFL’s Past Commissioner’s Award for his community service work. Haight was named the winner of the Prairie Football Conference’s Al Park Community Service award earlier this post-season.
    The 22-year-old is playing in his final campaign of CJFL eligibility and his third full season with the Hilltops.
    Haight, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 260 pounds, has had his hand in many community endeavors. In 2016, he started out by driving local inner city kids to court-mandated community service and volunteered at local church youth groups.
    During the 2017 and 2018 high school football seasons, Haight served as the defensive line coach for the Bedford Road Collegiate Redhawks, while still playing with the Hilltops.
Caleb Haight, left, has had a strong post-season for the Hilltops.
    He became involved in the Hilltops outreach program and represented the team in various parades and community breakfasts. Haight tutored high school debate teams and volunteered as a judge at local tournaments.
    The Clavet, Sask., product has volunteered his time as a defensive line coach at the Hilltops last two high school camps.
    This season, Haight served as the head coach of the six-a-side Kensington Stampeders Grade 5/6 football team. On top of that, Haight volunteers with the Kinsmen Hockey League tying skates and working the scoreboard.
    On the field, Haight is have a strong post-season run piling up three sacks, six defensive tackles, two defensive tackle assists, two special teams tackles and one pass knockdown in the Hilltops three playoff games.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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