Saturday, 24 October 2015

PFC final provides intrigue

Will the up and coming Colts knock off the storied Hilltops?

Head coach Tom Sargeant, centre, gets fired up on the Hilltops bench. 
    The Prairies Football Conference championship game is anything but a lock for the venerable Saskatoon Hilltops.
    The up and coming Calgary Colts are out to prove it is their time.
    For the second straight year, the Hilltops and Colts will meet for the conference title. Saskatoon topped the PFC’s regular season standings with a 7-1 mark, and their only loss was a 34-4 setback to the Colts in a match that closed the regular campaign for both sides. The Toppers starters rested for most of that game, but the Colts moved the ball in that contest no matter who was on the field.
    Saskatoon enters the contest as favourites and as the established powerhouse. They are in search of their 18th Canadian Junior Football League championship, and in the previous 17 national title wins, Tom Sargeant has been part of 11 of those victories as a player (once), assistant coach (two times) and head coach (eight times).
    Calgary are the upstarts, who are two seasons removed from a 0-8 campaign. Last season, the Colts hired legendary British Columbia Football Conference head coach Matthew (Snoop) Blokker, and he guide the Colts to a 4-4 record and berth in the PFC final. In year two under Blokker, the Colts finished the regular season with a 5-3 mark.
    Last season, the Colts appearance in the PFC final was a surprise one and a bonus for a rebuilding program. This year, the Colts had expectations to make it this far, and they also have hopes of advancing to the Canadian Bowl and possibly winning their first CJFL title since 1990.
The Colts are out to make a statement that they have arrived, and it is their time.
Hilltops quarterback Jared Andreychuk fires off a pass against the Colts.
    The Hilltops are loaded up with 16 players in their fifth and final year of eligibility. They want to send a not so fast message to the upstarts that their time hasn’t arrived just yet.
    Saskatoon has a big edge in the experience department in big games. The Toppers players know how to rebound, if plays and moment doesn’t slid their way for a time.
    While they usually win going away, they have the ability to regroup and rally back, and that was shown on Sept 12, when they trailed the Thunder in Regina 25-10 in the fourth quarter and rallied for a 26-25 victory. In that contest, Hilltops quarterback Jared Andreychuk engineered a 75-yard two-minute drill touchdown drive near the end of the fourth quarter to win the game.
    The Colts have also received strong play from the quarterback position from John Kiesman, who spent time with the University of Regina Rams.
    Sunday’ clash might be decided by the special teams. In the first meeting on Aug. 16 between those two clubs, the Hilltops held a 13-10 third quarter lead, but blew the contest open, when linebacker Bobby Ehman blocked a Colts punt. Topper defensive lineman Dillon Buckle recovered the blocked kick in the Calgary end zone for a Saskatoon touchdown, and the Hilltops went on to claim a 31-10 victory in Calgary.
    When the Colts thumped the Hilltops on Oct. 11 in Saskatoon, Calgary had troubles on at least three long snaps in punt formation. You can expect Hilltops special teams coach Matt Yausie will unleash a full out punt block to force a big play until the Colts show they have corrected their execution troubles in that situation. That might make the difference in this year’s PFC title game.
    Saskatoon Minor Football Field should be the site of some great drama on Sunday. It almost makes you wish these team could kick things off right now.

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