Sunday, 28 August 2016

Colts surge past Hilltops for top spot in PFC

Balance of power shifts in CJFL with Calgary victory

Defensive back Dylan Niedermaier returns an interception for the Colts.
    The Calgary Colts were ready to take care of business, and they did just that.
    On Sunday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Colts took a big step to joining the upper echelon of the Canadian Junior Football League downing the defending league champion Saskatoon Hilltops 36-21. The Colts stormed out to a 36-0 lead after three quarters against their biggest nemesis before the venerable Hilltops tried to make a desperate rally in the fourth quarter.
    Having hired British Columbia Football Conference legend Matthew (Snoop) Blokker as head coach before the start of the 2014 season, the Colts have been on the rise. After going 0-8 in 2013 the season before Blokker came on board, the Colts advanced to the Prairie Football Conference final in each of the last two years posting a 9-7 record in regular season play only to fall to the Hilltops. The storied Hilltops advanced to win the Canadian Bowl after each of those victories.
Quarterback Bailey Wasdal (#4) dives in for a Colts touchdown.
    Coming into this first and only regular season encounter with the Hilltop in the 2016 campaign, the Colts visibly had a different demeanor. When the dust settled, they improved to 3-0 to sit alone in first place in the Prairie Football Conference, while the Hilltops fell to 2-1.
    “We came in here with a different kind of mentality than we had in previous years,” said Colts starting quarterback Bailey Wasdal. “We came in ready. We weren’t scared.
    “We knew we were coming home with two points. I wasn’t too surprised with the way we came out flying. We just have to be better in the second half.”
    Calgary’s defence set the tone early as defensive back Dylan Niedermaier returned an interception 40 yards deep into Saskatoon territory. That set up a short drive that ended with Wasdal hitting receiver Jake Creasey on a nine-yard scoring toss to put the visitors up 7-0 just over four minutes into the contest.
The Colts celebrate a fumble return touchdown by Dallas Burke (#17).
    Due to bad field position, the Hilltops were forced to concede a safety with 1:59 to play in the first quarter to give Calgary a 9-0 edge. The Colts proceeded to go up 16-0 just as the opening frame expired as Wasdal hit receiver Richard Sindani with a 12-yard scoring toss coming off a swing pass play.
    Things only got worse for the Toppers in the second quarter, when Colts defensive back Luk Catellier made an interception to set up another Calgary scoring drive. That ensuing offensive series was capped by a one-yard touchdown dive by Wasdal to put the Colts up 23-0.
    The hole got deeper for the hosts, when the Hilltops proceeded to muff the ensuing kickoff. The ball was recovered by Colts receiver Dallas Burke, who ran the ball home 20 yards for another major score to put the Colts up 30-0 with 6:44 to play in the second quarter.
    Colts kicker Stephen Fabian booted a 37-yard field goal to give Calgary a 33-0 edge at halftime.
    “We definitely did a lot of things well, and it is going to show in the film for sure,” said Wasdal. “I think we came out trying to be physical, and I think that is what we did.
Dylan Minshull (#21) ran for 169 yards on 22 carries for the Colts.
    “We kind of asserted ourselves in the first half, and we just showed that we weren’t afraid. We were ready to bang, and we came out doing that.”
    Fabian nailed a 40-yard field goal early in the third quarter to put the Colts up 36-0.
    The Hilltops attempted a comeback in the fourth quarter. Just 15 seconds into the frame, Hilltops receiver Jason Price outfought a couple of Colts defenders for the ball to pull in a 12-yard scoring toss from quarterback Jared Andreychuk to cut Calgary’s lead to 36-7.
    Andreychuk proceeded to hit Price on a deep 32-yard connection for another Hilltops major score to trim Calgary’s lead to 36-14 with 8:08 to play in the game. With 2:53 remaining on the clock, running back Logan Fischer muscled in a major on the ground from three yards out to pull the Hilltops to within 36-21.
    The rally was sniffed out on Saskatoon’s next offensive series, when Andreychuk was intercepted by Colts defensive back Jordan Rae.
    Andreychuk completed 19-of-34 passes for 227 yards, two touchdowns, but he was intercepted three times. Fischer piled up 110 yards rushing on 23 carries.
Jason Price hauls in a 32-yard TD catch for the Hilltops.
    Wasdal completed 18-of-23 passes for 165 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions for the Colts. Calgary running back Dylan Minshull piled up 169 yards rushing on 22 carries.
    The Colts defence forced five takeaways in the contest, while the Hilltops were only able to force one turnover from the opposition.
    While both teams have six games remaining on their respective regular season schedules, the Colts hold the standings tiebreaker with Sunday’s win over the Hilltops going forward.
    “It is absolutely huge,” said Wasdal. “We had our own destiny in our own hands.
    “We had to get it done against the Hilltops. We just have to get it done the rest of the season, and we will have that home field playoff game.”
    The Hilltops return to action this coming Sunday, when they travel to Edmonton to take on the Wildcats (0-3). The Colts host the Edmonton Huskies (1-2) on Saturday.

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