Saturday, 1 October 2016

Déjà vu for Hilltops at old Mosaic Stadium

Saskatoon posts second straight comeback win in Regina

Tailback Joshua Ewanchyna scores the Hilltops winning TD
    REGINA - The Saskatoon Hilltops last old Mosaic moment was a déjà vu one in the comeback department.
    On Saturday night at old Mosaic Stadium, the venerable Hilltops fell behind the host Regina Thunder 26-16 with 2:21 to play in the fourth quarter, when Thunder backup quarterback Brock Sich scored on a one-yard quarterback sneak. The Toppers were down, but not out in the Canadian Junior Football League clash.
    The visitors rallied with two touchdowns to pull out a 30-26 victory before 2,301 spectators. First, quarterback Jared Andreychuk hit receiver Sam Mike on an 18-yard touchdown toss with 1:37 to play to cut the Thunder lead to 26-23.
    After forcing the Thunder to go two-and-out on their ensuing series, the Hilltops drove down to the Regina one with the aid of three big Thunder penalties. From the one, Hilltops running back Joshua Ewanchyna ran in the winning score with 48 seconds to play.
Jared Andreychuk led another Hilltops rally.
    “It was unreal,” said Andreychuk. “We got down a little bit late.
    “Our spirits were down a little bit, but we had a shot, and we took advantage of it. We got into hurry up offence, and you don’t have to think about things. You just do it.
    “They started playing cover three (zone defence) in the fourth, and we took advantage of that, and we made some things happen.”
    The final Thunder series ended quickly. On their first play after the returning the Hilltops kickoff, Thunder starting quarterback Sawyer Buettner was intercepted by linebacker Cody Peters to seal the Saskatoon victory.
    Andreychuk had a huge night completing 21-of-43 passes for 352 yards and three touchdowns. Besides Mike’s fourth quarter catch, Andreychuk hit running back Logan Fischer for a six-yard scoring throw in the second quarter and Mike for a 14-yard scoring connection in the third quarter.
    The fifth-year signal contributions grew in importance after Fischer left the game with a lower body injury shortly before halftime.
    “We had to put the ball in Jared’s hands, and he embraced that,” said Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant. “The receivers stepped up.
    “Our passing game is getting better and better. We are ready for bigger and better things. You win these games that is character.”
Linebacker Cody Peters makes an interception for the Hilltops.
    Saskatoon’s victory at old Mosaic almost mirrored their trip to the historic facility last season. Just over a year ago on Sept. 12, 2015, the Hilltops trailed the Thunder 25-10 heading into the fourth quarter but rallied for a 26-25 victory. Andreychuk hit slotback Evan Turkington with the winning touchdown pass with 75 seconds to play in that contest, and linebacker Cole Benkic sealed the win with an interception after the Hilltops went ahead late.
    “I had déjà vu a couple of times in that game,” said Andreychuk. “Definitely that back shoulder throw to Sam (Mike) in the third quarter kind of got that going a little bit.
    “It kind of reminded me of Turk (Turkington) last year at the end of the game. It was just a fun one.”
    Buettner connected on 29-of-50 passes for 319 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions in the loss for the Thunder on Saturday. Receiver Kristopher Calcutt made an acrobatic 10-yard reception in the third quarter to account for the Thunder’s major through the air.
    The teams entered the fourth quarter locked in a 16-16 tie. Early in the fourth quarter, Thunder kicker James Reid booted a 21-yard field goal to give the hosts a 19-16 lead to set the stage for the dramatics in the final three minutes of the game.
Sawyer Buettner fires a pass downfield for the Thunder.
    Reid also hit field goals from 38, 30 and 17 yards out in the contest to round out the home side’s scoring. The Hilltops scoring was rounded out by a conceded safety by the Thunder and a long punt single by Des Vessey. The Hilltops failed to convert one of their convert attempts due to a botched snap.
    Since falling 36-21 to the Calgary Colts at Saskatoon Minor Football Field on Aug. 28, the Hilltops have won their last four straight games to improve to 6-1.
    “From the Calgary game until now, we are a totally different team,” said Sargeant. “I have a proud coaching staff.
    “They have a belief in how we do business, and the players always respond and do what we need them to do.
    “What I am so proud about is we stay the process, we believe in each other, we coach hard and they play hard and good results happen.”
Hilltops DL Dillon Buckle closes in on a Thunder ball carrier.
    With two games left on their regular season schedule, the Hilltops are ensured of at least a second place finish in the Prairie Football Conference, and they will host a first round playoff match. The Colts lead the conference standings with a 6-0 mark.
    The Thunder fall to 3-4 to sit fourth in the PFC.
    The Hilltops return to action on Oct. 9, when they host the Edmonton Wildcats at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Thunder will host the Colts at 1 p.m. at old Mosaic Stadium also on Oct. 9.

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