Monday, 9 October 2017

Hilltops show off big game mystique

Adam Machart had a big game in the Hilltops win in Edmonton.
    The Saskatoon Hilltops always rise to the occasion, when the game gets big.
    On Saturday night at Clarke Park in Edmonton, the Hilltops took on the host Huskies in a winner take all battle for first place in the Prairie Football Conference. The Huskies held a 14-10 lead at halftime, but the Hilltops scored 21 points in the third quarter to surge ahead 31-14.
    Edmonton pushed back in the final quarter, but the Hilltops came away with a gritty 38-28 victory.
    With the Hilltops victory, both teams finish with 7-1 records. The Hilltops take the standings tiebreaker for top spot due to their victory over the Huskies, which was the only head-to-head meeting between the clubs.
    In the third quarter, the Hilltops went ahead 17-14 on a touchdown run by Adam Machart and their edge extended to 31-14 thanks to a pair of rushing majors from Joshua Ewanchyna.
    The Huskies pushed back and the Hilltops lead shrank to 35-28 with 2:51 to play. A field goal from James Vause with 71 seconds to play sealed victory.
QB Jordan Walls played a game manager role on Saturday.
    Machart and Ewanchyna proved to be the huge dual punch to help the Hilltops surge out to a win. Machart carried the ball 20 times for 143 yards to go with his third quarter score. Ewanchyna piled up 100 yards on 17 carries to go with his two rushing majors.
    In the first quarter, Linebacker Riley Keating blocked a punt and fellow linebacker Adam Benkic recovered the ball to score a touchdown.
    Vause made three of his four field goal attempts and the Hilltops also received a rouge to round out their scoring.
    Quarterback Jordan Walls completed 9-of-21 passes for 132 yards.
    Defensive back Luke Melnyk had nine solo tackles and an interception for the Hilltops. Defensive lineman Tom Schnitzler had a sack for Saskatoon.
    Huskies quarterback Brad Launhardt completed 22 of 42 passes for 266 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Running back Brandt Burzuk ran the ball 14 times for 133 yards.
    Linebacker Jassen Brown had eight solo tackles for the Huskies.
    Thanks to finishing first in the PFC, the Hilltops will have home field advantage throughout their run in the Canadian Junior Football League playoffs.
    Big credit has to be given to Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant and his staff for ensuring the Hilltops are again prepared for when the big game lights shine their brightest. The Toppers consistently find another gear and play at a higher level when the opponent is tougher and the game is bigger. They thrive in that challenge. 
The Hilltops get to enjoy the spoils of another first place finish.
    The only time they wouldn’t play at home is if they make the Canadian Bowl championship game, which will be hosted by the winner of the Ontario Football Conference. Saskatoon has won the Canadian Bowl for the last three straight years and six times over the past seven years.
    The Hilltops begin their run through the playoffs this coming Sunday, when they host the Winnipeg Rifles (4-4) at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    The Huskies host the other semifinal against the Regina Thunders (5-3) also this coming Sunday.

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