Friday, 4 August 2017

New Hilltops starting QB a student of the game

Walls groomed and ready to lead defending CJFL champs

Jordan Walls will lead the Hilltops as starting QB in 2017.
    Jordan Walls is pumped he will finally get the chance to apply what he has learned.
    For the last three seasons, Walls was the understudy to Saskatoon Hilltops starting quarterback Jared Andreychuk and watched Andreychuk build a legacy in the Canadian Junior Football League. Andreychuk led the Hilltops to three straight CJFL championships over the past three campaigns and posted a perfect 9-0 record in the post-season as a starting quarterback.
    Coming out of Saskatoon’s Tommy Douglas Collegiate, Walls was aware players don’t normally step in and become the starting quarterback with the Hilltops. He knew he could eventually be the starter one day, if he could learn and show what he learned in the chances he received in practices and games.
Jordan Walls drops back to pass.
    Walls admitted he had a pretty good role model to watch playing behind Andreychuk and was keenly watching the veteran signal caller in all situations.
    “He (Andreychuk) was always calm,” said Walls. “He never got too excited. He never got too down.
    “He handled himself in pressure moments very well. He just knew how to handle it and how to make the big time throws.
    “I think when you watch from the sideline you learn to see the game from a different view. You get to learn behind Jared (Andreychuk), which was good for me and good for my development. To have the reins now, I am excited to go.”
    At the Hilltops Alumni Game last season, Walls started that contest and gave a glimpse of what he could do. He threw the ball well all over the field and using his eyes to move defensive backs to get receivers open.
    It took a great play by defensive back Joel Lipinski, who is a former member of the University of Regina Rams and the Saskatchewan Roughriders, to get an interception off Walls. After Walls was pulled, the Alumni team stormed to a 41-10 victory.
    During the regular season in 2016, Walls completed 24 of 31 attempts for 245 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions stepping on the field during mop up duty.
    At the Hilltops Alumni Game on Thursday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, Walls showed solid command of the offence playing the first half, which the Alumni team won 16-14. The 21-year-old signal caller throws the ball with some good authority despite being smaller in stature standing 5-foot-9 and weighing 155 points.
Jordan Walls throws downfield on the run.
    Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant said his team is pumped to have Walls leading the offence and his teammates rally around him.
    “We are excited,” said Sargeant. “Jordan is the guy. He has done everything that we’ve asked him to do.
    “He can make all the throws and all the reads, so now it is just game experience. He just got to keep playing. We have got to get him good situations and good calls.
    “He has to trust the calls. He has to trust himself, and he has to make the plays.”
    Sargeant said there are still some fine tuning things the coaching staff needs to help Walls out with. The veteran sideline boss is confident good things will result as constant improvement is made.
    “He (Walls) has a real strong arm and is accurate,” said Sargeant. “Our job is just to give him a better understanding of what he needs to do and how he needs to do it.
    “When that takes place, you’re going to see this offence blossom, and we anticipate making a lot of plays this year.”
    Walls, by his own admission, said he is working on his vision on the field.
Jordan Walls fires a pass downfield from the pocket.
    “It is getting there,” said Walls. “Obviously, we have a lot of talented players on this offence, and they get open and they find the holes.
    “You get a guy like (running back) Logan Fischer or (receiver) Sam Mike, they make your job pretty easy.”
    Before joining the Hilltops for his fourth season, Walls saw the game of football in a different light, when he became the offensive coordinator of the powerhouse Saskatoon Valkyries of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League this past spring. He was also the club’s quarterbacks coach. Walls was entrusted with helping groom the Valkyries talented and personable sophomore quarterback Alex Eyolfson.
    With the Valkyries having an elite program guided by head coach Pat Barry and defensive coordinator Jeff Yausie, who is the Hilltops defensive coordinator, Walls found a lot of what he learned in his coaching role could be transferred over to the field guiding the Hilltops as quarterback.
Jordan Walls calls signals at the goal-line.
    “You see it from a different point,” said Walls. “You get to coach with great coaches.
    “Jeff Yausie and Pat Barry, those guys have been around for ages coaching, so to sit down in the meeting rooms with them and kind of hear what they have to say really helped with understanding situations and what defences are trying to do here and there. That helped a lot.”
    Walls is looking forward to getting the regular season going. The Hilltops open the regular campaign traveling to Regina on Saturday, Aug. 12 for a 7 p.m. clash with their provincial rivals the Thunder. That contest will mark the first time both squads play at new Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
    The Hilltops are also on a quest to become the first team to win four straight championships in the history of the CJFL dating back to 1908. Saskatoon won three straight CJFL titles on two other occasions from 2002 to 2004 and 2010 to 2012, which means this will mark the third time the Hilltops will try to win four league championships in a row.
Jordan Walls (#19) is protected by running back Adam Machart (#20).
    As the season progresses, Walls said the key for his team will be to focus on the present as opposed to worrying about keeping the Canadian Bowl - the CJFL championship trophy - in Saskatoon.
    “It is daunting I guess when you start to look at the big picture of it,” said Walls. “Obviously, no one has ever done it, and we’ve had a few chances in the past to do it as the Hilltops.
    “I think you have to take it game by game and week by week and slowly work your way towards it. They are not going to be handing out the Canadian Bowl next week, so we know that and we have to stay patient.”

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