Thursday, 10 November 2016

Hilltops leader on verge of last hurrah

Andreychuk would join select company with Canadian Bowl win

Jared Andreychuk fires a pass downfield for the Hilltops.
    With another Canadian Junior Football League championship win, Jared Andreychuk will join some select company.
    The fifth-year quarterback for the Saskatoon Hilltops has built a reputation of being the ultimate gamer and leader during his CJFL career. He was a rookie back-up, when the Hilltops took the 2012 Canadian Bowl in a 23-21 thriller against the host Langley Rams.
    The graduate from Saskatoon’s Centennial High School led the Hilltops to CJFL championship in each of the past two years as the starting signal caller.
    The Hilltops (10-1 overall) are going for a third straight Canadian Bowl victory on Saturday in Langford, B.C., which is a suburb of Victoria, facing the host Westshore Rebels (10-1-1 overall).
    If Andreychuk can quarterback the Hilltops to a win in that contest, he will become one of the few signal callers to guide his team to three straight CJFL championships as a starter. It is believed only two other quarterbacks have won three straight CJFL championships as the starting signal caller including Darryl Leason, who accomplished the three-peat with the Regina Rams from 1993 to 1995, and Tony Rankel, who performed that feat with the Edmonton Huskies from 1962 to 1964.
Jared Andreychuk stands at attention during the national anthem.
    “That would be unreal,” said Andreychuk, who stands 6-feet and weighs 175 pounds. “That is kind of an expectation coming into every year with the Hilltops, especially with the good teams we’ve had in the last few years.
    “We’re at another one. Now that we’ve got here, there is nothing else to do but win the ball game. That is what we are going to try to do.”
    Back in 2013, Andreychuk almost got the Hilltop into the Canadian Bowl as a second-year player. During that year’s Prairie Football Conference final at Griffiths Stadium, the Hilltops lost then starter Matt Karpinka in the first half to injury in a battle against their provincial rivals the Regina Thunder.
    The Hilltops were trailing the Thunder, when Andreychuk entered the game. By the end of the third quarter, Regina’s lead ballooned to 21-2.
    Andreychuk and the Hilltops offence made a pile of desperation plays in the fourth quarter scoring a pair of touchdowns, but the Thunder held on for a 21-16 win. Regina would take that year’s Canadian Bowl.
    The Hilltops haven’t lost a post-season contest since falling to the Thunder in 2013 winning eight straight contests. Andreychuk started all eight of those wins. His best days have come in the Canadian Bowl.
Jared Andreychuk escapes a Calgary Colts pass rusher.
    In 2014 in Langley, B.C., Andreychuk completed 17-of-27 passes for 343 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. The Hilltops bombed the host Rams 39-14.
    Last year at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, Andreychuk connected on 18-of-23 passes for 369 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The Hilltops downed a game Kelowna, B.C., based Okanagan Sun team 38-24.
    This year, Andreychuk is enjoying what to this point has been his finest season with the Hilltops. He completed 124-of-200 passes in his team’s nine-game regular season for 2,008 yards, 23 touchdown passes and six interceptions.
    He put up those numbers after losing all but one of his group of regular season receivers due to graduation. Tyson Sawatzky was the only regular from last season’s pass catching group that was back this year.
    All-Canadian all-star Sam Mike, Jason Price, Ryan Turple and Sawatzky formed this season’s regular receiving group. Star running back Logan Fischer was also a dangerous pass catcher coming out of the backfield.
    “The guys stepped into spots for sure,” said Andreychuk. “At the start of the season regardless of how much you throw with those guys in the off-season, it is tough to build some in game chemistry. That took a couple of games to get into.
Jared Andreychuk calls signals from under centre for the Hilltops.
    “After we did, we really clicked. It has been a very successful passing season for us.”
    In this year’s playoffs, Andreychuk had to quarterback the Hilltops to victory in a couple of tight contests to reach the Canadian Bowl. They slipped past the Thunder 25-24 in the PFC semifinal and downed the Calgary Colts 43-31 in the PFC final.
    “Every year we kind of go over some bumps and stuff like that,” said Andreychuk. “I think that is good. You go through some resilience and you really kind of find your heart and find your identity.”
    If the Hilltops win on Saturday, Andreychuk will graduate the junior ranks with the distinction of never having lost a post-season start.
    Against the Rebels, the Hilltops defence will face a big challenge in running back Jamel Lyles, who was a standout with the University of Manitoba Bisons last season. Lyles topped the British Columbia Football Conference regular season in rushing piling up 1,604 yards on 187 carries, and he scored 15 touchdowns along the ground in 10 games.
Jared Andreychuk hopes to celebrate one more Canadian Bowl win.
    The Rebels tailback is arguably the fastest ball carrier in the CJFL and is extremely dangerous in the open field.
  When the final seconds of Saturday’s game tick away, Andreychuk will face the next phase of his life. He is keeping his options open to a possible chance to play in the Canadian university ranks.
    “I’m still a student,” said Andreychuk. “I have to finish up a degree. I’ve got that to worry about.
    “I am just going to enjoy my life, stay in shape and who knows what is left for me in my football career.”
    NOTES – Besides Mike, three other Hilltops have been named all-Canadians this week. Veteran offensive guard Drayke Unger made it on the offensive side of the ball, while defensive end Blake Hermann and middle linebacker Cameron Schnitzler made it on defence.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to