Thursday, 5 November 2015

A great time to reconnect with the Hilltops

The starting Saskatoon Hilltops offensive line shares a laugh on the bench.
     Sometimes you just have to go out and see that good old neighbour.
    Since 1947, the modern version of the Saskatoon Hilltops junior football club has been part of the fabric of Saskatoon. Soon, they will try to close their 69th season by claiming an 18th Canadian Junior Football League championship.
    The Toppers host the Kelowna, B.C., based Okanagan Sun on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, which for most of its history was known as Gordie Howe Bowl. If you haven’t seen the Hilltops play in a while, there is no better time than Saturday to go out and be part of another memory associated with the Blue and Gold.
    If you are a fan, a former player, a former director, volunteer or even a former Bridge City media member, this will be a perfect time to relive some old memories, while supporting a first class franchise that ages extremely well.
    Many things in life like work or personal situations can pull one away from something they once had a deep rooted investment in. If it has been a long time since you last saw the Hilltops play, you will discover something familiar, if you venture to SMF Field on Saturday.
    The Hilltops are still that good old neighbour that brings a smile to your face. When they succeed, you feel extremely proud of them.
    Many in the Saskatoon community can recall teaching or coaching a Hilltops player, when they grew up. If your family had children, your children might have grown up being best friends with a Hilltops player. You likely take pride in seeing how outstanding that Hilltops player became as he grew into adulthood.
Hilltops HC Tom Sargeant gives encouragement to QB Jared Andreychuk.
    Those connections aren’t just limited to the Bridge City. People in Prince Albert share that same pride when it comes to following one of their products on the Toppers like receiver Evan Kopchynski. The same can be said for the citizens of Bonnyville, Alta., who followed the career of Hilltops defensive tackle Blake Adams.
    It is fitting that the Hilltops clubhouse and practice facility, Ron Atchinson Field, is located in a long existing residential neighbourhood. Even SMF Field borders with a residential area. The Hilltops are literally your neighbours.
    When you go and visit them, you can feel the family atmosphere, and it is very welcoming.
Their coaching staff led by head coach Tom Sargeant doesn’t just help players succeed on the field but helps them become strong first rate people, who are very community minded.
    Because the Hilltops do strive to succeed in the right way, it adds to the pride you feel for them when they do succeed.
    This Hilltops team is also on the verge of accomplishing a special milestone. If they win the Canadian Bowl, it will mark the fifth time in the last six years they have claimed the CJFL title. The only other team to win five CJFL titles over a six-year span was the Regina Rams from 1993 to 1998 before they moved on to the Canadian university ranks.
    You have to like Saskatoon’s chances of matching that accomplishment. The Hilltops have a veteran team that includes 16 players in their fifth and final year of junior eligibility. Overall, this is a squad that has won numerous big games and keeps finding a way to raise its play to a higher and higher level when everything is on the line.
The Hilltops are aiming to pull off one final victory celebration to close 2015.
    Victory on Saturday is far from a sure thing. The Sun are 12-0 overall this season and enter the Canadian Bowl having crushed the Vancouver Island Raiders 54-0 in the British Columbia Football Conference final. The Sun’s last CJFL title win came back in 2000 thanks to a 36-28 victory in Kelowna over the visiting Hilltops.
    When the adversity comes, you almost know and expect the Hilltops, who are 9-1 overall, to find a way to persevere. If you can witness of those types of storylines play out again, it would only feel right and familiar. For a resident of Saskatoon, you know that will be a moment that makes you feel good.
    NOTE - The Hilltops pre-selling tickets for the Canadian Bowl on Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Radisson Hotel. Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for students and seniors, $5 for elementary school students and free for pre-school age and under.

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