Wednesday, 16 August 2017

“Sarge” won’t let Hilltops be complacent

Hilltops HC Tom Sargeant tells it like it is.
    You have to love how Tom Sargeant doesn’t let anything slide with his Saskatoon Hilltops.
    Last Saturday, the Hilltops opened their Canadian Junior Football League regular season schedule with a 37-20 victory over the Thunder at new Mosaic Stadium in Regina. The victory was powered by the Hilltops scoring 21 points off turnovers. Besides those points, Saskatoon scored another seven points thanks to driving a shorter field due to a short Thunder punt caused by a mishandled snap.
    Sargeant, who is the Hilltops head coach, was more concerned after the contest by numerous errors committed by his side. It is common for the opening day game in any sports league to be bumpy for many reasons like the nervousness of new players or returning players getting used to new roles. Participating teams also have to get used to playing in meaningful contests again for the first time in about nine months.
    While many squads could write off a bad performance on opening day to any of those reasons, Sargeant, who has guided the Hilltops to 10 CJFL titles as head coach, wouldn’t use any of those points to take a backdoor out.
    He has a standard of wanting his team to achieve perfection each time they hit the field, and the veteran sideline boss wasn’t happen with what he saw especially with the large number of penalties the Hilltops took in the first half in Saturday’s win.
    Overall, the Hilltops took 16 penalties for 124 yards in the win over the Thunder.
    “It is not expected at all,” said Sargeant, whose club has won the last three straight CJFL titles. “It is bad coaching.
    “I saw a lot of things I don’t coach I don’t want to see. I guarantee I can’t wait to get back to business and set the tone for my expectations of how we play each and every opportunity we get when we put this uniform on.
    “This is not tolerated. You look over the last six or seven years, we’ve always been the team that has been penalized the least. That is certainly not how we played tonight.”
    You have to love the fact Sargeant expects his team to play at a high standard right out of the gate, and he tells it like it is, when he doesn’t see what he wants to see. It is also great to see the first thing he said was the coaches need to do a better job.
Hilltops HC Tom Sargeant, left, checks out a replay at new Mosaic Stadium.
    Sargeant has always been great at holding everyone accountable including himself. If he feels he didn’t do well enough in his role, he will tell you that.
    That is one of the reasons he will go down in history as one of the best coaches that has ever worked in the amateur football ranks in Saskatchewan.
    If there was a Mount Rushmore for football coaches from Saskatchewan’s amateur ranks, Sargeant would be on there with former Regina Rams head coach in the late Gord Currie, who is in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, former University of Saskatchewan Huskies head coach Brian Towriss, who will enter the Canadian Football Hall of Fame on Sept. 14, and former Rams head coach Frank McCrystal, who should be in the Canadian Football Hall of Fame.
    Sargeant is backed by a solid coaching staff and a strong leadership group within the Hilltops players. They all know the team has to keep improving. The Hilltops have done that throughout their past, and they will get better as the season goes on.
    “We can’t rest on anything like this today,” said Sargeant. “We have to move on.
    “We have to improve and get better. That is what my coaching staff and players are going to do.”
The Hilltops return to action this coming Sunday, when they travel to Winnipeg to take on the Rifles (1-0).

Fans give Toppers new Mosaic memory

The Hilltops meet their fans in the stands at new Mosaic Stadium.
    The Saskatoon Hilltops had to have come away from Saturday’s win with a new appreciation for how great their fans are.
    The Hilltops were making their first visit to Regina’s new state of the art facility on Saturday, and a healthy contingent of supporters followed them down to the provincial capital. When the Hilltops were introduced, they ran out on to the field with a really loud ovation that seemed to catch the team a bit off guard.
    “It was unreal,” said defensive back Logan Kelsey-Stern. “There are no other words that can describe it.
    “It was just unreal how nice it was.”
    When you looked into the stands, it seemed a large number of the 1,947 spectators in attendance were wearing Saskatoon’s blue and gold colours. It seemed like at least 800 to 900 of the fans were from Saskatoon. Many in the group were family and friends of the players, coaches and staff.
    New Mosaic Stadium seats 33,350, but due to how the facility is constructed, it holds noise in. When a group of 900 people cheers, it sounds a lot louder in that park than it does in any other park.
    The Saskatoon supporters could be heard throughout the game when the Hilltops made big plays. After the final seconds ticked away on the Hilltops 37-20 victory over the host Regina Thunder, the Saskatoon supporters lined the stands on the west side of the stadium.
    The Hilltops greeted their supporters after the contest, and the scene resembled the site of when the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders win a West Final on the road.
    “It makes it fun,” said Hilltops running back Adam Machart. “You come in here, and this is where the pros play.
    “It almost gives you a little bit of a kick in the butt, because you know you have to play where the big dogs play.”
    The interactions with the fans definitely made the Hilltops first visit to new Mosaic Stadium that much more memorable.

TV time would be great

Games between the Hilltops and Thunder have been great for Regina TV.
    Road trips to Regina mark the one time annually the Saskatoon Hilltops get to be on television, but you have to live in Regina or southern Saskatchewan to see them on television.
    Access 7 in Regina broadcasts all the Thunder’s home games, and they are available to any household that has Access 7 as their cable provider. Unfortunately, Access 7 doesn’t exist in Saskatoon, which means the people in “the Bridge City” don’t get to see those Hilltops visits to Regina on television. Hilltops home games aren’t aired on television locally in Saskatoon.
    Besides the fact Saskatoon residents don’t get to see the Hilltops win in Regina even on a tape delay basis, they missed seeing the thrilling comeback wins the Toppers manufactured in Regina in 2015 and 2016.
    About 20 years ago, local cable outlets seemed more inclined to share game broadcasts. The local Shaw station in Saskatoon could get tapes of Hilltops game broadcasts from Regina or other locations.
    That doesn’t happen anymore, which is too bad. Saskatoon residents would have loved to have seen those Hilltops game broadcasts that were done in Regina.

Kleiter more active in all trades

Rylan Kleiter boots a punt for the Hilltops.
    Multi-sport athlete Rylan Kleiter is talking on a larger role with the Saskatoon Hilltops in his second year with the team.
    In the Hilltops 37-20 win over the Thunder in Regina on Saturday, Kleiter handled all the punting and kickoff duties with the team. The graduate of Saskatoon’s St. Joseph High School took regular reps on offence as a receiver. On the kicking front, he was booming the football downfield.
    As a rookie last season, Kleiter, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 160 pounds, saw limited reps on all fronts. He turned head in the Prairie Football Conference final last October catching a pair of touchdowns in the Hilltops 43-31 victory over the Calgary Colts at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    Besides being talented at football, Kleiter is establishing himself as a rising star in the sport of curling. This past curling season, he skipped a foursome to the Saskatchewan under-18 title and junior title representing the Saskatoon Sutherland Curling Club.
    You can be sure he would love to be part of another Hilltops CJFL title win and follow that up claiming another Saskatchewan junior curling championship.

Burt new face with Huskies

    On Monday, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies named Shawn Burt as the program’s new chief athletics officer.
    The role is a new one in Huskie Athletics and it mostly replaces athletic director position that was held by Basil Hughton, who officially retired on June 30. The position will be geared more to focusing on the business side of the Huskies program. Burt will start in his new role on Sept. 1.
    The Huskie Athletics Board of Trustees approved the unanimous recommendation of a hiring committee that conducted a national search for the chief athletics officer position. Burt will oversee the daily operation of the athletic department.
    The 46-year-old comes to Huskie Athletics most recently from The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation in Toronto, Ont., where he was the chief hockey officer. The Kleinburg, Ont., product built from the ground up Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, which raised $16-million over six years and set two official Guinness World Records. He also worked with Ryerson University, IMG Canada Limited and Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Limited.
    Burt earned his bachelor of arts from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. At Dartmouth College, Burt played centre for the school’s Big Green men’s hockey team for four seasons from 1989 to 1993.
    On an interesting side note, Dartmouth College is also the alma mater of Sarah (Howald) Hodges, who is the long time veteran head coach of the University of Regina Cougars women’s hockey team. Hodges was a star forward for the Big Green women’s hockey team from 1992 to 1996 piling up 75 goals and 71 assists in 113 career games.

Stars players to represent Canada in exhibition series

Mackenna Parker will play for Canada in an under-18 exhibition series.
    The Saskatoon Stars female midget AAA hockey team will be well represented at an international exhibition series at Lake Placid, New York.
    Defender Willow Slobodzian and forwards Mackenna Parker and Grace Shirley will play for Hockey Canada’s under-18 women’s team that will face the United States under-18 women’s team in a three game set on Thursday, Friday and Sunday.
    Slobodzian, who just graduated from Clavet High School, had six goals and 21 assists in 28 regular season games last season for the Stars. She will play for the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Cornell University Big Red women’s hockey team in Ithaca, New York, in the upcoming season.
    Parker topped the Stars in scoring last season piling up 24 goals and 20 assists in 28 regular season games, and Shirley was second in team scoring with 21 goals and 16 assists in 28 regular season games. Both will return to the Stars for the upcoming campaign.
    That trio will be joined on the 24-player Canadian team by defender Taylor Kirwan of the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats. Last season Kirwan recorded three goals and 10 assists in 19 regular season games.
    Slobodzian, Parker, Shirley and Kirwan were selected for the Canadian roster after attending a selection camp that concluded on Sunday in Calgary that was part of Hockey Canada’s National Teams’ Summer Showcase.
    Following the series, Hockey Canada will track players that participated in the exhibition series with their respective regular teams before naming the roster that will play for Canada at the under-18 women’s world championships, which will be held Jan. 6-13, 2018 in Dmitrov, Russia.

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