Sunday, 9 October 2016

Bitz thankful for Hilltops blitz surprise

Rookie DB gets first sack in 43-9 romp of Wildcats

Hilltops DB Logan Bitz sacks Wildcats QB Austin Ericson.
    Logan Bitz almost couldn’t believe the Thanksgiving Day weekend surprise the Saskatoon Hilltops coaching staff had in store for him.
    Shortly before halftime of the Hilltops clash with the Edmonton Wildcats on Sunday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the rookie defensive back received a play call from the Saskatoon coaching staff for him to blitz the quarterback from the halfback position. As Hilltops defensive coordinator Jeff Yausie very rarely calls a blitz play, Bitz looked towards the bench to see if the call was for real.
    Looking at Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant, Bitz knew the call was indeed a genuine one.
    “Sarge looked at me, and he gave me that look that if I don’t do good it is never going to be called again,” said Bitz. “I just made the most of my opportunity and had a good time with it.”
    The Saskatoon St. Joseph High School graduate came clean off the edge and blindsided Wildcats backup quarterback Austin Ericson. Bitz could feel a surge of excitement as he neared the Edmonton signal caller.
Logan Bitz has turned heads as a rookie.
    “It is pretty good as a DB to get your first sack of your career,” said Bitz, who stands 5-foot-11 and weighs 170 pounds. “It felt good.
    “Normally I am in pass coverage, so it feels nice to get an open shot on some guy and then just celebrate with my teammates.”
    The Hilltops made a whole host of big plays in a 43-9 romp over the Wildcats in the Canadian Junior Football League regular season clash. Saskatoon piled up 625 yards of net offence, while holding Edmonton to 126 offensive yards. During the onslaught, the Wildcats lost started quarterback Colton Hippe to a broken leg in the second quarter on what seemed like a routine tackle.
    For Bitz, the win and his sack continued what has been a memorable rookie campaign. He was named a co-winner of the Prairie Football Conference’s special teams player of the week award after the Hilltops thumped the Okanagan Sun 58-2 on Sept. 17 in Kelowna, B.C.
    Bitz has earned a spot on the 40-man travel roster for three of the Hilltops four road games so far this season. Overall, he loves the atmosphere with the team.
    “It is amazing,” said Bitz. “It is a real family oriented thing. Everyone is friends with everybody.
    “It is really good. They do lots of family activities. Families are just really involved.”
    Against the Wildcats on Sunday, the Hilltops jumped out to a 10-0 lead after the first quarter and increased their advantage to 40-7 by halftime.
    Starting quarterback Jared Andreychuk completed 11-of-16 passes for 279 yards, four touchdown passes and no interceptions. He connected with Sam Mike on two aerial TDs from 65 and nine yards out. Andreychuk also hit Jay Price with a 48-yard touchdown strike and Ryan Turple with a 25-yard major through the air.
Hilltops DB Logan Bitz celebrates his quarterback sack.
    Late in the second quarter, the Hilltops coaches pulled Andreychuk to allow backups Jordan Walls and Tyler Hermann to finish out things in relief.
    Price had three catches for 118 yards, while Mike caught five passes for 106 yards. Rooking running back Joshua Ewanchyna piled up 106 yards rushing on seven carries and scored one touchdown along the ground.
    Defensive end Blake Hermann had a sack and blocked a punt. The Hilltops also received another punt block from defensive lineman Riley Pickett.
    James Vause kicked two 25-yard field goals for the hosts.
    Receiver Isaac Fagnan accounted for the Wildcats lone major score on a 95-yard kickoff return. Both teams conceded one safety touch.
    Bitz wants to help the Hilltops win a third straight Canadian Bowl, and he believes in the team’s mantra of helping send the fifth year players out on a big high. On a personal level, he said a national championship win would set a big standard for the rest of his own career.
Receiver Ryan Turple jukes a Wildcats DB on a 25-yard TD reception.
    With that in mind, Bitz knows it is a big challenge for a rookie to keep making the Hilltops 40-man travel roster and later the playoff roster. He aims to keep playing well enough to stay on the field.
    “I am just excited to keep going and hopefully keep playing,” said Bitz. “This game was a game that it was helping decide that top 40 going into playoffs and obviously next week going to Winnipeg. I am just excited to see if I do go or not.”
    With the win, the Hilltops improve to 7-1 to stick second in the PFC. They are trying to chase down the Calgary Colts, who fell to 7-1 on Sunday after dropping a 30-23 decision to the Thunder in Regina. The Thunder sit fourth in the PFC with a 4-4 mark.
    The Colts hold the tiebreaker in the standings over the Hilltops taking the only head-to-head meeting between the two squads 36-21 back on Aug. 28 in Saskatoon.
Hilltops guard Drayke Unger rumbles downfield on a rare carry.
    Saskatoon can still finish first in the PFC depending on a couple of results in the final weekend of play for the regular season. The Hilltops need to down the Rifles (2-6) this coming Sunday in Winnipeg and hope the Colts fall to the Edmonton Huskies (5-3) this coming Saturday in Edmonton. The Huskies, who are third in the PFC, and Thunder have locked up the conference’s final two playoff berths.
    The Wildcats fell to 0-8, and they close their schedule this coming Sunday in Edmonton against the Thunder.

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