Friday, 10 August 2018

Solie finds comfort zone quickly with Hilltops

David Solie, right, hauls in a touchdown for the current Hilltops.
    A fresh start wearing a blue and gold colour scheme seems to fit David Solie just fine.
    After spending a season with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team in the U Sports ranks, Solie elected to join the Saskatoon Hilltops, who have won the last four straight Canadian Junior Football League championships.
    On Thursday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, Solie, who is a receiver and a placekicker, showed the form that made him a star with Saskatoon’s storied Holy Cross High School Crusaders football team. 
    He booted field goals from 30 and 35 yards out and hauled in two touchdown passes for the current Hilltops, who fell to their alumni team 25-22 in the annual Hilltops Alumni Game. The alumni squad also included a number of extra additions from players who played with other post-secondary programs and now call Saskatoon home.
David Solie (#3) boots one of his two field goals for the current Hilltops.
    For Solie, he has found he has fit in easily with the current Hilltops.
    “It is a great group of guys,” said Solie, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 185 pounds. “It is nothing but fun with these guys.
    “We have our serious moments where we want to bear down and do good, but the fact of the matter is it is all about having fun. If we’re not having fun, it is probably not the right suit, but I am having lots of fun with these guys.”
    Solie, who will turn 19-years-old in just under two weeks, decided to leave the Huskies due to the fact he wasn’t sure if he was going in the right direction with regards to school. He was an arts and science major last season.
David Solie (#3) enjoys a TD with the current Hilltops
    Instead of continuing in that direction, Solie concluded it was best for him to take a step away from the U of S all together, so he could clear his mind.
    “It was mainly a head space thing,” said Solie. “I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in school.
    “It was a struggle for me to get my mind right for school and devoting my hours into football and devoting hours into school. I am just taking a step back, so I can find what I want to do so I have more motivation to do school and more motivation to play football and I can find that happy medium. That is really why I took a step back.”
    Knowing that he still wanted to play football, Solie contacted Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant about trying out for the storied CJFL team. “Sarge” was more than happy to bring Solie on board.
    “What a talented athlete,” said Sargeant. “What a great kid.
    “He asks a lot of questions. He is motivated. He understands the moments, and he loves to make plays.
    “He got a couple of touchdowns (and) a couple of field goals. It was a difference maker out there today. We’re going to keep working him hard and giving him great opportunities.”
Hilltops QB Jordan Walls has found early chemistry with R David Solie.
    In Solie, the Hilltops gained a player who has experienced a lot of big games playing for the Crusaders, and someone who has been called upon to be the kicker for Football Canada’s national team program on two occasions. Last season, Solie was the kicker for Canada’s under-19 team that fell in an International Bowl game on Jan. 20 against the United States in Arlington, Texas.
    As a receiver, Solie believes he has found chemistry with Hilltops star fifth-year quarterback Jordan Walls.
    “He gets you,” said Solie. “He knows all of his receivers and their preferences, and that is probably the greatest feeling ever.
    “You go out there, and you are comfortable. You know where he is going to throw the ball.
    “You know where you need to be. He’ll hit you whenever you need to be hit.”
    Coming to the Hilltops, Solie knew he would get a chance to be a placekicker. The Hilltops lost safety/kicker James Vause due to graduation, and third-year kicker/receiver Rylan Kleiter is still bothered by a knee injury suffered last season.
Wayndel Lewis (#22) scored on a TD run for the Hilltops alums.
    Kleiter, who punted and placekicked last season for the Hilltops, missed the team’s last four regular season games and first three post-season games due to his injury. He returned to play in the Hilltops 56-11 victory in the Canadian Bowl over the AKO Fratmen in Windsor, Ont., on Nov. 11, 2017.
    Solie’s presence means Kleiter doesn’t have to be rushed into action in the kicking game.
    “Getting to kick, that is big for me,” said Solie. “I played Team Canada.
    “I was the backup kicker with the Huskies. Coming here and getting to start kicking, it is nothing but fun.”
    Going forward, Sargeant said the Hilltops coaches believe Solie will be a player who will come through in the clutch. Solie’s first opportunity to do that might come when the Hilltops open the regular season on Aug. 18, when they travel to Regina to take on the Thunder at 7 p.m. at Mosaic Stadium.
Rod Janzen punts the ball for the Hilltops alums.
    “For us to have him when the game is on the line, we have no problem putting him in those situations,” said Sargeant. “He is going to have a productive and bright career.
    “We’re excited for him to make a difference like he did today and continue that next week in Regina - stay tuned.”
    Solie’s two field goals on Thursday gave the Hilltops an early 6-0 lead on their alums. The alums jumped ahead 7-6 shortly before halftime on a six-yard run from tailback Wayndel Lewis.
    In the second half, the alums surged ahead 25-6. First, the current Hilltops concede a safety to start the surge.
    From there, alums quarterback Jared Andreychuk hit receiver Ryan Turple with a 65-yard touchdown strike and receiver Evan Kopchynski with a 38-yard touchdown toss. The alums weren’t able to get a convert after Turple’s major score.
HC Tom Sargeant, right, shakes hands after the Hilltops Alumni Game.
    Kicker Brett Thorarinsson completed the alums’ surge kicking a 35-yard field goal.
    The current Hilltops pulled their starters after the first quarter and put them back into the contest for the fourth quarter. Running a no-huddle offence, the current Hilltops made the score close with Solie’s two touchdown catches. The current Hilltops added two-point converts after both of Solie’s major scores with conversion catches coming from receivers Adam Ewanchyna and Tanner Rhode respectively.
    The Hilltops home opener is slated for Aug. 25 at 7 p.m. against the Calgary Colts.

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