Sunday, 25 October 2015

Hilltops run to PFC mountaintop

Logan Fischer rumbles into the end zone for a Hilltops touchdown.
    It seems you can always count on Logan Fischer.
    The venerable Saskatoon Hilltops believed their best option to win Sunday’s Prairie Football Conference final was to give the ball to their physical workhorse tailback, who led the team with 794 yards rushing in seven regular season appearances. Fischer was handed the rock 23 times, and he rumbled for 170 yards and scored four touchdowns to help the Hilltops dump the Calgary Colts 38-16 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    The win allowed the Hilltops to repeat as conference champions and advance to the Canadian Junior Football League title game, the Canadian Bowl, for a second straight year. The Hilltops, who are the defending CJFL champions, will host the national junior final on Nov. 7 at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field against the Okanagan Sun. The Sun, who are 12-0 overall, crushed the Vancouver Island Raiders 54-0 in the British Columbia Football Conference final on Sunday in Kelowna.
    Fischer was excited that the 2015 season will go to the last possible game his club could play.
    “Every single night it is a blast with the guys,” said Fischer. “This is the closest group probably that we have had.
    “It just feels great playing with the guys for an extra two weeks. Everyone couldn’t be any happier about it.”
    Looking at the final score, one would think victory came easy to the storied Hilltops, but that was far from the case. The first quarter was a defensive slugfest that saw the only points come from a 17 yard field goal from Hilltops kicker Brett Thorarinsson. The Hilltops defence benefitted from the fact star fifth-year defensive tackle Blake Adams returned after missing a game with a left knee injury.
    Early in the second quarter, the Colts had a chance to draw even with a 28-yard field goal, but kicker Kyle Bryne’s attempt was wide counting for a single that cut Saskatoon’s lead to 3-1.
    From that point, the Hilltops really started to churn out the yards along the ground. Fischer scored his first major of the day on a slashing run from 25 yards out and put in his second score on a plunge from a yard out to give the hosts 17-1 edge.
    The grad of Saskatoon’s Bethlehem Catholic High School was quick to credit his success to the Hilltops offensive line that included starters Terry Thesen, Nathan Heide, Jordan Hydomako, Drayke Unger and Tyler Hoath.
Hilltops DT Blake Adams takes down a Colts ball carrier.
    “When it comes down to it, it is all about the battle in the trenches,” said Fischer. “Our O-line just absolutely dominated.
    “Without them, we couldn’t run the ball. We couldn’t throw the ball. Really, it comes down to the O-line.”
    The Colts battled back putting together a two-minute drill drive right before halftime. The march was capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Dylan Minshull with 15.2 seconds to play in the second quarter that cut the Toppers lead to 17-8.
    Near the start of the third quarter, the Colts put together another long offensive drive, which looked like it would result in more points. The series ended when Calgary quarterback John Kiesman unloaded a dangerous throw across the middle of the field that was intercepted by Hilltops safety James Vause. Vause would add a second interception the fourth quarter, which was also his fourth pick in Saskatoon’s two post-season games.
    Things weren’t totally smooth on offence for the Hilltops. They didn’t have their greatest outing when it came to passing the ball, as starting quarterback Jared Andreychuk completed just 7-of-17 passes for 149 yards. The incompletions included drops from receivers and a couple of missed throws by Andreychuk.
    With the passing game sputtering, the Hilltops continued to feed Fischer the ball. Right before the third quarter ended, he ran in a score from 24 yards out for his third major of the game to give the Hilltops a 24-8 lead.
    Early in the fourth quarter, Fischer drove in from a yard out for his fourth score to put Saskatoon up 31-8.
    “We kind of had a game plan,” said Fischer. “Whoever ran the ball was going to win it. Today, we wanted to run the ball.”
DT Matt Kozun hauls in a TD catch for the Hilltops.
    The lead increased to 38-8, when Andreychuk hit defensive tackle Matt Kozun, who lined up as a tight end in a short yardage situation, for a two-yard scoring toss.
    The Colts accounted for the last major, when Kiesman hit Jesse Kuntz on a 20-yard post pattern with 8.7 seconds remaining on the clock. Kiesman hit Grayson Javorsky with a short pass for a two-point conversion.
    Calgary’s signal caller finished the contest completing 27-of-46 passes for 375 yards. Calgary piled up 486 yards of total offence, while the Hilltops had 350 total yards.
    The statistical difference in the game came from the fact the Colts turned the ball over three times and had 180 yards in penalties. The Hilltops didn’t have any turnovers and only had 30 yards in penalties.
    With the win, Saskatoon improved to 9-1 overall, while Calgary finished at 6-4.
    With the PFC final in the books, Fischer was excited about playing the CJFL title game on home turf, and he wants his squad to put out another strong effort at home in about two weeks.
    “That is a tremendous feeling,” said Fischer. “We came out here and this is our home. We take that very seriously.
    “We don’t really want anyone to come in here and manhandle us. We want to do all the manhandling.”
    The Hilltops claimed last year’s Canadian Bowl 39-14 over the Rams in Langley, B.C. Saskatoon has won 17 CJFL titles.
    The Sun have won two CJFL championships, but they haven’t appeared in the Canadian Bowl since 2004, when they fell 24-7 to the Huskies in Edmonton. Okanagan’s last CJFL title came in 2000 with a 36-28 victory in Kelowna against the visiting Hilltops.

Colts played to honour Ramias

Colts DB Conner Robinson wore #23 to honour late teammate Brock Ramias.
    The Colts played Sunday’s PFC final with heavy hearts.
    On Monday, former Colt player Brock Ramias, who was with the team last season, was found dead in Kinsmen Park in Lethbridge. Ramias was a high school football star with the Lethbridge Collegiate Institute Rams.
    The Colts dedicated playing Sunday’s game to the memory of Ramias. Calgary defensive back Conner Robinson wore #23 instead of his normal #3 to honour his former teammate. Robinson, who is also from Lethbridge, and Ramais were close friends and played together in high school with the Rams. Ramias wore #23 during his high school years.
    He was only 20-years-old, and autopsy results indicate his death was non-criminal in nature.

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