Sunday, 9 November 2014

Hilltops champs again


Storied franchise concludes memorable season with 17th CJFL title

Jared Andreychuk unloads a pass for the Hilltops.
            The Saskatoon Hilltops capitalized on their date with destiny, and the Canadian Bowl returned to the Bridge City once again.
            The storied Canadian Junior Football League franchise marched into McLeod Stadium in Langley, B.C., and weren’t going to be denied their 17th national title. They built a 25-7 halftime lead against the host Langley Rams scoring 24 points off four turnovers.
            When the dust settled, the Hilltops came away with a convincing 39-14 victory.
            Quarterback Jared Andreychuk accounted for the first major on a 14-yard run in the first quarter. With 8.6 seconds to play in the first half, the signal caller put a big dagger into the Rams hopes hooking up with receiver Evan Kopchynski on a 16-yard TD strike.
            Saskatoon piled up 458 yards on offence. Langley outgained the visitors with 467 yards of offence, but the Hilltops defence proved to be opportunistic causing the Rams to turn the ball over six times.
            On Sunday, the Toppers arrived back in Saskatoon a bit tired but in high spirits after celebrating their championship win well into the night.
            The season started out rocky. Having started 1-2 thanks to two heartbreaking losses to their provincial rivals the Regina Thunder, the Hilltops faced a gut check time.
They closed off the campaign in fine style with eight straight victories for a 9-2 overall record. The only contest that was close was a 28-23 regular season closing victory over the Edmonton Wildcats back on Oct. 12.
            The Hilltops improved as the season went on. As they marched to a Canadian title, it was apparent the team still held a deep warm spot in the hearts of the citizens of Saskatoon.
            When they claimed the Prairie Football Conference title with a 27-7 victory over the Calgary Colts on Oct. 26, word spread quickly over social media lines. A day after that win, the Hilltops in conjunction with the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders hosted the Riderville North Quarterback Luncheon at TCU Place.
The event was packed and it marked a kickoff to send the junior squad forward for two weeks of preparation for the CJFL title game.
            At McLeod Stadium on Saturday, the Hilltops had a healthy group of follows in the stands, who made the trip from Saskatoon to Langley for the game.
            The win marked the eighth CJFL championship for Tom Sargeant as Hilltops head coach. Former Saskatoon StarPhoenix star sports reporter Cory Wolfe added on social media the victory marked the 11th CJFL title Sargeant has been part of with the Hilltops franchise. He also won one championship ring as a player and two more as an assistant coach.
            The Sarge has seen almost two-thirds of the Hilltops national title wins first hand.
Logan Fischer runs the ball for the Hilltops.
            At the CJFL awards ceremony on Friday, Wayndel Lewis, the Hilltops dynamic running back, was named the offensive player of the year. He rushed for 1,063 yards on 130 carries during the regular season scoring nine touchdowns.
            Due to an injured left ankle, Lewis wasn’t able to play Saturday for the Toppers, but he was still on the sidelines offering support for his teammates.
            Logan Fischer performed admirably in Lewis’s absence rushing for 94 yards on 19 scoring one major. He also hauled in four passes for another 37 yards.
            Andreychuk arguably showed the most improvement over the campaign. The third-year signal caller was on fire on Saturday completing 17 of 27 passes for 343 yards, three touchdown strikes and no interceptions.
            Receiver Evan Turkington, who was the offensive player the game, caught five passes for 131 yards and two touchdowns, and Kopchynski had five catches for 126 yards including his one TD catch.
            Defensive back Dylan Larson, who was the defensive player of the game, had 11 tackles and one tackle assist.
            In 2014, the Hilltops faced adversity with the slow start and losing Lewis to injury in a 43-13 PFC semifinal victory over the Winnipeg Rifles on Oct. 19.
            The fact the Hilltops overcame those setbacks makes the team’s 17th CJFL title that much more sweet.

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