Sunday, 16 October 2016

Hilltops end up topping PFC

Saskatoon finishes first while Calgary Colts stumble

The Hilltops defence swarm in on a Rifles ball carrier.
    The stars lined up for the Saskatoon Hilltops to allow the venerable Canadian Junior Football League team to once again finish on top of the Prairie Football Conference standings.
    Heading into the final weekend of regular season play, the Hilltops needed some help when it came to finishing first in the PFC. Saskatoon needed to win its final game, while the Calgary Colts, who were holding on to top spot, needed to fall in their final outing.
    On Saturday, the Colts traveled to Edmonton and fell to the red hot Edmonton Huskies 51-35. The loss dropped the Colts to 7-2, while the Huskies improved to 6-3 riding a five-game winning streak. The Huskies last loss came back on Sept. 3, when they were thumped 43-4 by the Colts in Calgary.
    That opened the door for the Hilltops, who seized their opportunity to lock up home field advantage through the PFC portion of the post-season. On Sunday in Winnipeg at Charlie Krupp Stadium, the Hilltops thumped the Rifles 44-14. The win allowed the Hilltops, who have won six straight, to improve to 8-1 to finish on top of the PFC standings.
Hilltops quarterback Jared Andreychuk stays cool under pressure.
    Saskatoon will host a PFC semifinal match this coming Sunday against their provincial rivals the Regina Thunder at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Thunder, who have won two straight, thrashed the Wildcats in Edmonton 69-18 to finish fourth in the PFC.
    Against the Rifles, the Hilltops went ahead 7-0 on their first offensive drive that was capped by a 10-yard touchdown run by star running back Logan Fischer.
    The Rifles tied things up at 7-7, when their star running back Michael Ritchott ran in a major score from 44 yards out.
    The Hilltops then proceeded to quickly put an end to the competitive part of the game at that point. Before the first quarter ended, they surged ahead 21-7. First, quarterback Jared Andreychuk connected with receiver Jason Price on a 22-yard touchdown strike, and then Fischer ran in a major from a yard out for his second touchdown of the day.
    In the second quarter, Andreychuk found receiver Ryan Turple for a 27-yard touchdown toss, and fullback Colin Stumborg ran in a score from five yards out to put the visitors up 35-7. The Hilltops began to liberally substitute in all their backup players from that point.
Jason Price (#83) had a 22-yard TD catch for the Hilltops.
    Saskatoon’s scoring was rounded out in the second half by a pair of field goals from James Vause, a punt single from Des Vessey and a conceded safety by the Rifles. Ritchott ran in a major score from 16 yards out to complete the Rifles scoring.
    Andreychuk completed 6-of-9 passes for 121 yards and two touchdown passes. He surpassed the 2,000 yard mark in passing for the season before being relieved by backup quarterback Jordan Walls late in the second quarter.
    Fischer piled up 57 yards rushing on eight carries in the win. Rookie Joshua Ewanchyna led the Hilltops with 104 yards rushing on 12 carries.
    Price had 134 yards receiving on four catches for Saskatoon.
    The Hilltops enter the post-season trying to win the Canadian Bowl for a third year in a row and also become the first team in history to win six CJFL titles in seven years.
Logan Fischer (#21) ran in a pair of touchdowns for the Hilltops.
    They won both their head-to-head meetings with the Thunder this season, but both encounters were tight. On Sept. 10 in Saskatoon, the Hilltops slipped past the Thunder 20-18. On Oct. 1 at old Mosaic Stadium in Regina, the Hilltops trailed the Thunder 26-16 with 2:21 to play in the fourth quarter but rallied for a 30-26 victory.
    This coming Sunday, the second place Colts host the other PFC semifinal against the third place Huskies. The Rifles missed the playoffs finishing fifth in the PFC at 2-7, while the Wildcats finished last with an 0-9 mark.

Back in the Express with the Benkics

Adam Benkic (#40) celebrates returning a fumble for a touchdown.
    I was back in the Saskatoon Express this past week with a story on brothers Adam and Cole Benkic of the Saskatoon Hilltops.
    The story focused more on Adam, who went from playing quarterback in high school to outside linebacker with the Hilltops. Adam is in his third year with the Hilltops and has seen his role with the club increase in starting most of the team’s games.
    Cole is in his fifth and final season with the Hilltops. Last year, he was named the CJFL’s defensive player of the year, and coming into this season, he was rated number one in a promotion that listed the league’s top 50 players.
    Unfortunately for Cole, he injured his leg in a pedal bike crash in the off-season, and hasn’t suited up for any of the Hilltops regular season games. He is close to returning, but is still officially week-to-week.
Cole Benkic in action for the Hilltops last season.
    Cole has been at all the Hilltops practices and games helping the rest of the team’s linebackers with coaching tips. In his absence, middle linebacker Cameron Schnitzler and outside linebackers Cody Peters, Bobby Ehman and Adam Benkic have all improved greatly.
    Schnitzler and Peters have both had stellar seasons. Peters had really become a beast on the outside.
    When Cole returns, the Hilltops linebackers will become that much stronger.
    The story on the Benkic brothers can be found right here.

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