Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Hilltops’ focus incredible so far in “drive for five”

The Hilltops celebrate with the PFC championship trophy last Sunday.
    Saskatoon Hilltops most impressive statistical accomplishment so far this season involves the number 81.
    Between the regular season and playoffs, the Hilltops have trailed on the scoreboard for a total of 81 seconds in all their games building a 10-0 record in the 2018 campaign. On Sept. 22, the Regina Thunder held a 17-16 edge over their archrivals late in the first half in a clash at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    The Thunder’s lead lasted for a stretch of 81 seconds. They were forced to relinquish the lead, when they have to give up a safety due to bad field position to fall behind 18-17.
    Saskatoon hit high gear from that point surging to a 48-24 victory.
    Last Sunday, the Hilltops improved to 10-0 downing the Edmonton Huskies 28-9 in the Prairie Football Conference final at SMF Field. That marked the fifth straight year the Hilltops have won the PFC title.
    With that victory, the Hilltops will host the Canadian Junior Football League championship game – the Canadian Bowl – on Saturday, Nov. 17 at 1 p.m. at SMF Field. Saskatoon will try to win an unprecedented fifth straight CJFL championship in that contest.
QB Jordan Walls piled up the PFC awards.
    The Hilltops will face the winner of a CJFL semifinal contest to be played this coming Saturday between the Ontario Football Conference champion Hamilton Hurricanes and the British Columbia Football Conference champion Langley Rams in Langley, B.C.
    Saskatoon’s focus has been incredible so far this season. The coaches, staff and players have lived each day for that day as the season has gone on.
    Collectively, they have embraced and enjoyed each moment as it has come.
    They focused on letting this season write its own story. As a result, the team will get a chance to win a fifth straight CJFL title.
    The Hilltops had to do the same thing last year in becoming the first team to win four straight CJFL titles. In the 2017 campaign, no one really talked openly about winning a fourth straight CJFL title until the Toppers locked up a spot in the Canadian Bowl.
    Knowing the PFC champion would host the Canadian Bowl this season, it would be safe to say winning a CJFL title for the fifth straight year was in the back of everyone’s mind that is part of the Hilltops organization. A veteran team was returning as well to take a crack at a fifth straight national championship.
Bobby Ehman (#48) and the Hilltops defence have been solid this season.
    A total of eight players in their fifth-years with the team will have the chance to hold the distinction of being part of a CJFL national championship club in every season they played with the Hilltops. All of those returning fifth-year players are key members of the team.
    Quarterback Jordan Walls racked up the PFC awards being named an all-star, the most outstanding quarterback, the most outstanding offensive player of the year and the most valuable player.
    Receiver Jason Price was named a PFC all-star and the most outstanding receiver for the conference. Offensive lineman Kirk Simonsen was named a PFC all-star and receiver Adam Ewanchyna was named a PFC all-star as a return specialist.
    Linebacker Cody Peters had a big haul of PFC honours being named an all-star, the most outstanding linebacker and most outstanding defensive player.
    Bobby Ehman did an admirable job taking over at middle linebacker from Cameron Schnitzler, who starred at that position and graduated after last season.
RB Josh Ewanchyna, right, jets to the end zone for a touchdown.
    Adam Benkic proved he could still fly around at outside linebacker and on special teams. He was named the special teams player of the week for the PFC after the Hilltops won the conference title.
    Defensive end Connor Guillet was dogged by injury all last season and returned to record 2.5 sacks appearing in six of the Hilltops eight regular season games this season. He has played so well you wonder what he might have been able to do had he not been injured.
    The Hilltops swept the PFC player of the week awards after the conference title victory with third-year running back Josh Ewanchyna taking offensive player of the week honours and fourth-year defensive tackle Garth Knittig being named the defensive player of the week.
    Ewanchyna was named a PFC all-star and the conference’s most outstanding offensive back, and Knittig was named a PFC all-star and the conference’s most outstanding defensive lineman.
    Head coach Tom Sargeant got his due being named the PFC’s coach of the year. Sargeant and his coaching staff might have pulled off one of their best jobs ever with how well they have guided this year’s team.
Hilltops HC Tom Sargeant, middle, is the PFC coach of the year.
    The fact the players have stayed focused on the task at hand is a credit to the work of the coaches.
    With such a group of super people in the fold, it is only human to envision what it would be like to win a fifth straight CJFL title from time to time.
    Because of the day-to-day work put in this season, the Hilltops can embrace the fact they have a chance to do something uncommon and win a fifth straight CJFL championship in their next game. If they pull off that victory, a whole host of other milestones will come.
    They would cap the run of five straight championships with a perfect season, which would be the fourth in team history and first since going 12-0 in 2003. In 2003, the Hilltops crushed the Victoria Rebels 59-0 in the Canadian Bowl in Chilliwack, B.C.
    The current Hilltops can keep building on their current overall winning streak of 18 games and post-season winning streak of 15 games.
    They are also trying to capture their eighth CJFL championship in the last nine years and 21st CJFL title in team history.
    While the Toppers will work to stay focused in a break of 19 days between games before taking the field on Nov. 17, that break might provide a chance to turn the end of the season into a celebration of the venerable CJFL team attracting many alums and supporters of the club.
The Hilltops are looking to draw a big crowd for the Canadian Bowl.
    The lengthy stretch off between games will allow alums who live outside of Saskatoon to potentially make plans to venture back to “The Bridge City” to see the Toppers play in a Saturday CJFL championship game. You only have to hang around the Hilltops for a short time to realize a lot of people hold the squad close to their hearts.
    The Nov. 17 contest will allow supporters from all points on the map to make plans to return for this title tilt.
    The 2018 campaign has been special for the Hilltops. All that is left is to make one big splash with a final send off.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Sunday, 28 October 2018

Hilltops know 10-0, claim PFC title for fifth straight year

The Hilltops raise the PFC championship trophy once again.
    Saskatoon Hilltops defence laid the hammer down to ensure the opportunity to play for a fifth straight Canadian Junior Football League title wouldn’t be denied.
    With the Hilltops having built an 18-0 first quarter lead on the Edmonton Huskies in the Prairie Football Conference final on Sunday afternoon at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, Saskatoon’s defensive unit ensured Edmonton’s offence never got on track.
    The Hilltops limited the Huskies to just 78 yards rushing and 165 yards passing in winning the PFC final 28-9 before 863 spectators. Sunday’s victory marked the fifth straight year the Hilltops have captured the PFC title.
DTs Garth Knittig, left, and Jesse McNabb, nail a Huskies QB.
    Of course after the previous four PFC championship victories, the Hilltops moved on to capture the Canadian Bowl.
    With Sunday’s win in the books, the Hilltops will host the CJFL title game on November 17 at SMF Field at a time to be announced.
    “It feels amazing,” said Hilltops star defensive tackle Jesse McNabb, who had five defensive tackles in the win. “We have a good group of guys around us.
    “We have a good group of fifth years. We all just did our job today. Offence struggled a little bit, but our defence picked it up when we needed it to.”
    The Huskies defence was stout against the Hilltops passing game.
    Saskatoon’s star quarterback Jordan Walls completed 11-of-25 passes for 145 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions. Earlier in the day, Walls was named the most outstanding quarterback, the most outstanding offensive player of the year and the most valuable player of the PFC. 
Hilltops DB Colton Holmes (#9) drills a Huskies receiver.
    Hilltops star receiver Jason Price was held to one catch for eight yards. Price was named the most outstanding receiver for the PFC earlier in the day.
    The Hilltops ground game was firing on all cylinders. Star running back Josh Ewanchyna, who was named the PFC’s most outstanding offensive back earlier in the day, ran the ball 24 times for 163 years and three touchdowns. He also hauled in two passes for 33 yards.
    In his last three outings against the Huskies, Ewanchyna has rushed for 100 or more yards in each of those contests.
    After Walls threw for 473 yards in the Hilltops 58-5 romp over the Winnipeg Rifles in a PFC semifinal contest one week earlier, Ewanchyna believed he was going to have to step up against the Huskies.
    “With Walls’ performance last week, we knew that they were going to be watching that passing game a little closer,” said Ewanchyna. “We knew the run game was going to be there.
    “It was very physical. Our ground and pound game is what we kind of pride ourselves with. We know, if we keep driving the ball, the game is going to be a little easier.
The Hilltop got great support from their faithful fans at SMF Field.
    “We are going to wear out the defence. That is what seemed to happen. When we got the ball and pounded it, things were going pretty good for us.”
    The Hilltops’ first quarter surge started with a David Solie field goal from 31 yards out, which was set up by a blocked punt by defensive end Connor Delahey. Ewanchyna ran in his first major of the game from three yards out and Solie scored a single on the ensuing kickoff to put the Hilltops up 11-0.
    Hilltops fifth-year linebacker Adam Benkic recovered a fumble on the ensuing Edmonton series. On the drive resulting from that fumble recovery, Ewanchyna ran his second major of the game in from 21 yards out on the final play of the first quarter to give the Hilltops an 18-0 lead.
RB Josh Ewanchyna scores three TDs for the Hilltops.
    From there, Edmonton tried to make a comeback but was only able to chip away at the Saskatoon lead.
    In the second quarter, the Huskies forced the Hilltops to concede a safety, received an 18-yard field goal from Cole Sabourin and a single from a missed field goal from Sabourin to cut Saskatoon’s edge to 18-6.
    Sabourin booted a 19-yard field goal in the third quarter to further trim the Hilltops advantage to 18-9.
    “Once we got ahead of them, all they could do was kick field goals,” said McNabb. “We did our job.
    “We knew we were going to keep doing our job, and they would have to pull some magic out to score on us it felt like. We just did the game plan and did our job. That is all we need to do.”
    The Huskies won turnover battle with the Hilltops 5-3, which is something the Hilltops almost never come out on the wrong end of.
    Edmonton was without starting quarterback Tommy Yanchuk due to injury. Sunday’s starter Brendan Guy left the PFC final with an injury early in the fourth quarter running for a first down on a third down gamble.
Huskies QB Brendan Guy faced constant pressure from the Hilltops defence.
    Guy completed 14-of-24 passes for 138 yards before departing the contest. Jordan Lane, who is normally Edmonton’s third string quarterback, competed 4-of-7 passes for 27 yards in relief.
    Before Guy was injured, the Huskies odds at making a comeback became a lot more difficult, when Ewanchyna ran home a major from 34 yards out near the end of the third quarter to increase the Hilltops lead to 25-9.
    After Guy left the contest, Solie booted a 27-yard field goal with 4:45 to play in the fourth quarter to seal the final outcome at 28-9 in favour of the Hilltops.
    Benkic had four defensive tackles and four special teams tackles to go along with his fumble recovery for Saskatoon.
    Defensive tackle Garth Knittig, who was named the PFC’s most outstanding defensive lineman earlier in the day, had seven defensive tackles for the Hilltops. 
The Hilltops Cheerleading team entertains at halftime.
    Linebacker Cody Peters had five defensive tackles and forced a fumble for the host side. Peters was named the PFC’s most outstanding linebacker and most outstanding defensive player earlier in the day.
    Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant said he would have liked to have seen a little more production from his team’s passing game, but when it comes to playoff football, the legendary sideline boss said all that mattered was getting the job done.
    “At the end of the day, you are just here,” said Sargeant, who was named the coach of the year in the PFC earlier in the day. “I don’t care if you win by one or win by 100.
    “You have to figure out how to win and move on. Hey, we’re going to another Canadian final. That tells you so much about this group of coaches and this group of men.
The Hilltops defence corrals Huskies receiver Sam Clayton.
    “Five in a row, you think about that. That don’t happen anywhere.”
    With the win, the Hilltops improve to 10-0 overall on the 2018 campaign. Including action in the regular season and playoffs, the Hilltops have won their last 18 games in a row. Saskatoon has won its last 15 straight post-season games in a row too.
    When the Hilltops try to win an unprecedented fifth straight CJFL title on Nov. 17, they will be trying to complete a perfect season and keep their overall and playoff winning streaks intact.
    The Huskies finished the 2018 campaign with a 7-3 overall record.
The Hilltops celebrate Josh Ewanchyna’s third quarter TD.
    The CJFL’s other two conference title games were also contested on Sunday. In the Ontario Football Conference final in Hamilton, the host Hurricanes slipped past the Windsor AKO Fratmen 28-23.
    In the British Columbia Football Conference final in Kelowna, the Langley Rams thrashed the host Okanagan Sun 39-7.
    The Rams, who are 9-3 overall, host the Hurricanes, who are 10-0 overall, in a CJFL semifinal game this coming Saturday in Langley, B.C.
    While the Hilltops will have close to three full weeks off before hosting the Canadian Bowl, McNabb is looking forward to playing the CJFL title game at home.
The Hilltops DLs and DL coach Dave Fisher pose for a memorable picture.
    “It is exciting to have it at home,” said McNabb. “We have to stay mentally prepared through those three weeks.
    “That is all we can really do is prepare for the next game whoever we play.”

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Saturday, 27 October 2018

Hilltops’ O-line gets love with PFC all-star awards

RT Kirk Simonsen, right, was named a PFC all-star.
    Saskatoon Hilltops offensive line received their due for a dominate 8-0 regular season.
    On Friday, three of the Hilltops five starting offensive linemen were named to the Prairie Football Conference all-star team. Right tackle Kirk Simonsen was voted unanimously as a PFC all-star. Also receiving all-star nods were right guard Taylon Elderkin and left tackle Mason Ochs. The trio were named PFC offensive all-stars for a second straight year.
    “It is pretty good,” said Simonsen, who is in his fifth and final season with the Hilltops. “They couldn’t name five of us, but I think all five are pretty deserving of the award.
    “It is good to get the recognition out there for the three of us, but it is a five man award pretty much to me.”
    Saskatoon’s starting offensive line is rounded out by centre Patrick Arno and left guard Ryder Klisowsky. As a five-man unit, the Hilltops offensive line did earn a PFC offensive player of the week award after Saskatoon crushed the Colts in Calgary 79-7 on Sept. 15.
    The offensive linemen were joined as PFC all-star selections by the Hilltops version of “The Triplets” in quarterback Jordan Walls, running back Josh Ewanchyna and receiver Jason Price. The PFC offensive all-stars were released a day after the defensive all-stars.
    The Hilltops, who are 9-0 overall, host the PFC final against the Edmonton Huskies, who are 7-2 overall, at 1 p.m. on Sunday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    Walls, Ewanchyna and Price were all able to enjoy special seasons because of the work of the club’s O-line.
    Walls had an outstanding campaign completing 122-of-197 passes for 2,010 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions in the regular season. He topped the PFC in passing yardage.
    Ewanchyna appeared in seven regular season games carrying the ball 134 times for 1,007 yards and 14 touchdowns. He led the PFC in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns and was named the PFC’s offensive player of the week on four occasions.
    The graduate of Saskatoon’s Holy Cross High School Crusaders football team became the first Hilltops player to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season since Wayndel Lewis turned that trick back in 2014.
RG Taylon Elderkin, right, was named a PFC all-star.
    Price was by far the PFC’s most productive pass catcher. During the regular season, he hauled in 31 passes for 709 yards and scored four touchdowns. The fifth-year veteran collected the most receiving yards in the PFC.
    Walls said his team’s offensive line is the reason his club’s offensive unit can put up the points and yardage that it does.
    “They don’t get the recognition that they deserve, so when they get awards like that, it is awesome,” said Walls. “They work so hard in practice and so hard in the off-season to get themselves in playing shape, and they do their job when they get on the field.
    “I like those guys. I hang around with them lots. They are good people.
    “They are always coming to work and ready to work hard. I am super happy to have those guys there to back me and just perform like they have been performing.”
    Simonsen said continuity has been the biggest thing that has helped Saskatoon’s offensive line succeed. Klisowsky was the only new starter among the Hilltops “hogs” this season.
    “I think just knowing each other,” said Simonsen. “We’ve all played together.
    “I’ve played with Taylon (Elderkin) now for three years. You just know where he is going to be. You don’t even have to communicate.
    “He is just there, and you know how to work with each other. It helps a lot.”
    The Hilltops offensive line also takes a lot of pride in helping the club’s quarterbacks, running back and receivers have good years.
    “It is good for them,” said Simonsen. “We want to make sure that they have good years and make sure they get their awards and their goals they set for themselves at the start of the year.”
    Walls took his own all-star selection in stride.
    “It is nice,” said Walls. “I think my goal at the start of the year was just to execute and give this team a chance to win.
Mason Ochs, left, was named a PFC all-star.
    “Whether that was throwing the ball 30 times or handing the ball off 30 times, it didn’t matter to me. To get recognized is nice, but my goal is the Canadian championship. Hopefully, we can get a win this week to get there.”
    While the PFC all-star selections are great, the Hilltops have their sights set on winning an unprecedented fifth straight CJFL title. The winner of the PFC final advances to host the CJFL title game – the Canadian Bowl – on November 17.
    Walls said his team is focused on the challenge they face in the Huskies.
    “I’m very excited to get to the PFC final,” said Walls. “It is a big game.
    “It is a big stage. We like being there. I am excited.
    “I’ve got a lot of family coming down for it, so it is going to be a fun day.”

Thunderbirds get second in Canada West on crazy comeback

Michael O’Connor guided UBC to a big comeback win.
    It seems like the football Gods love the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
    Back on Sept. 28, the Thunderbirds dropped a 26-21 decision to the University of Alberta Golden Bears in a U Sports regular season game in Edmonton, Alta. At the time, the loss dropped the Thunderbirds record to 1-4 heading into the bye week for the Canada West Conference.
    Before the Canada West teams returned to action, the University of Regina Rams self-declared they had been playing with an ineligible player. That led to the Rams forfeiting three wins including a 19-17 victory over the Thunderbirds on Sept. 14 in Regina.
    The Thunderbirds received new life improving to 2-3 with that development. UBC proceeded to down the University of Saskatchewan Huskies 20-10 on Oct. 12 and the Golden Bears 30-11 on Oct. 20 to improve to 4-3. Both those wins came in Vancouver, B.C.
    Entering play Saturday, the Thunderbirds needed to beat the University of Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg, Man., to lock up second place in Canada West and earn the right to host a Canada West semifinal playoff game. If the Thunderbirds lost, the Huskies, who posted a 5-3 regular season record, would take second place.
    The Bisons jumped out to a 31-10 lead and held a 31-13 advantage at halftime at Investors Group Field.
    The Thunderbirds rallied to claim a 38-34 victory in overtime to improve to 5-3 and take second place. The Bisons fell to 3-5 to finish fourth in Canada West and hold the conference’s last playoff berth.
    UBC claims the standings tiebreaker with U of S due to winning that Oct. 12 encounter, which was the only regular season meeting between the two sides.
    Thunderbirds star quarterback Michael O’Connor hit receiver Trivel Pinto with a 46-yard touchdown pass and running back Ben Cummings ran in a two-point convert to force a 31-31 tie with 7:30 remaining in the fourth quarter. The 46-yard reception marked Pinto’s second touchdown catch of the game.
    In overtime, Bisons kicker Brad Mikoluff hit a 50-yard field goal to put the host side up 34-31. Mikoluff had two field goals in the contest.
    On the ensuing overtime shootout possession, O’Connor hit Cummings with a two-yard touchdown pass to give the Thunderbirds their third straight victory, with every one of those wins coming after the Rams forfeited all their wins.
    O’Connor completed 36-of-49 passes for 467 yards, four touchdowns and one interception for the Thunderbirds. Bisons quarterback Jamie Ybarra, who started in place of the injured Des Catellier, completed 20-of-26 passes for 396 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
    Trey Kellogg had a touchdown catch for the Thunderbirds, while Greg Hutchins made all three of his field goal attempts. Dylan Schrot and Shai Ross had touchdown receptions for the Bisons, while Jesse Walker and Victor St. Pierre-Laviolette ran in major scores.
    The Bisons travel to Calgary, Alta., to face the University of Calgary Dinos (8-0) in one Canada West semifinal contest this coming Saturday, while the Huskies face the Thunderbirds in the other Canada West semifinal to be held in Vancouver on the same day.

Siemens leaves mark on Huskies career passing records

QB Kyle Siemens vaulted up the U of S Huskies’ all-time passing lists.
    With one great final regular season game, Kyle Siemens ensured he will go down as one of the top quarterbacks to ever play for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies.
    On Friday facing the U of Regina Rams at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, Siemens completed 21-of-31 passes for 321 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. In helping the Huskies post a 5-3 record, Siemens completed 155-of-249 passes for 2,118 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions.
    A graduate of Saskatoon’s Aden Bowman Collegiate Bears high school football team, Siemens finished the regular season portion of his five-year Huskies career completing 604-of-998 passes for 7,932 yards, 55 touchdowns and 23 interceptions.
    Siemens 604 career completions rank first on the Huskies all-time list surpassing the 586 completions of Drew Burko. Burko played from 2012 to 2016 and was a former teammate of Siemens.
    The 7,932 yards passing Siemens piled up ranks second on the Huskies all-time list surpassing 7,675 yards put up by Burko. Siemens 55 career touchdown passes equals Steve Bilan for second on the Huskies all-time list. Bilan played for the Huskies from 2001 to 2005.
    While Siemens will still get to guide the Huskies through one more venture into the U Sports playoffs, he has to be given big props for posting some lofty accomplishments.

Chow passes Siwak for third in Huskies career rushing

Tyler Chow is the Huskies third all-time career leading rusher.
    Running back Tyler Chow vaulted to a spot that will be tough for future ball carriers to hit as the sport of football continues to evolve into more of a pass heavy game.
    Chow, who is a fifth-year veteran for the U of Saskatchewan Huskies football team, finished the regular season with a strong outing carrying the ball 14 times for 99 yards and scoring one touchdown and hauling a pass for 11 yards as the Huskies thumped the U of Regina Rams 57-14 on Friday at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
    On the season, Chow carried the ball 100 times for 640 yards and scored two touchdowns to help the Huskies post a 5-3 regular season record. During his regular season career with the Huskies, Chow carried the ball 385 times for 2,372 yards and scored 13 touchdowns.
    The Calgary, Alta., product just edged Tyler Siwak for third on the Huskies career rushing yards list.
    Siwak was a red shirt during the Huskies last Vanier Cup winning season in 1998 and he carried the ball 361 times for 2,365 yards and scored 11 touchdowns during a five year career as an active player from 1999 to 2003. During his time with the Huskies, Siwak was a fan favourite due to being a power tailback that could crush up to six would be tacklers on any running attempt.
    The Prince Albert, Sask., product was a physical runner who favoured initiating contact and powering through defenders as opposed to running around them. Fans at Griffiths Stadium used to rise to their feet and cheer, when Siwak gave one of his textbook punishing runs.
    Away from the field, Siwak was a very personable, jovial and upbeat when he interacted with everyone on campus and in the city.
    Siwak had been the Huskies third all-time leading rusher since he graduated from the program. With that in mind, the fact that Chow cracked into the top three of the Huskies career rushing list is impressive.

Back in the Express assisting on female hockey story

Emily Clark, left, and Grace Shirley are hockey greats from Saskatoon.
    I was back in the pages of the Saskatoon Express this week helping out with a story on the growth of female hockey in Saskatoon.
    I gathered pictures and quotes from head coach Greg Slobodzian and captain Grace Shirley from the defending Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League champion Saskatoon Stars for this piece. I helped add some details for the facts that were used as well.
    Theresa Kirkpatrick, who is a veteran sportswriter, did a masterful job of crafting the piece. I was happy with how the article turned out and contributions I was able to make to it.
    The Express article can be found by clicking right here.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Friday, 26 October 2018

Klassen sparks Huskies runaway win over Rams

Colton Klassen has been a key playmaker for the Huskies.
    Colton Klassen proved he is the unselfish and consummate athlete for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team this season.
    On Friday night at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, the Huskies were stuck in first gear trailing the host University of Regina Rams 7-3 after the first quarter in a U Sports regular season clash. At that point, the game’s completion changed in lightning fashion due to Klassen.
    Facing a second and seven at their own 40 yard line, Huskies quarterback Kyle Siemens connected with Klassen on a 70-yard pass and run touchdown to put the visitors up 10-7. That sparked a surge where the Huskies outscored the Rams 24-7 in the frame to go ahead 27-14 at halftime.
    U of S cruised from that point posting a lopsided 57-14 victory. The win allowed the Huskies to finish the regular season with a 5-3 record, and they will place no lower than third in the Canada West Conference.
    The Dogs could finish second in Canada West and host a conference semifinal playoff game on Nov. 3, if the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (4-3) fall to the University of Manitoba Bisons (3-4) on Saturday in Winnipeg, Man. The Thunderbirds hold the standings tiebreaker with the Huskies winning the only head-to-head contest between the two sides 20-10 on Oct. 12 in Vancouver, B.C.
    The Rams fell to 1-7 and finished last in the six-team Canada West Conference. U of R was forced to forfeit three wins this season for using an ineligible player.
    Klassen, who is a third-year running back, has been a sparkplug for the Huskies this season. In Friday’s win over the Rams, he led the Huskies with 121 yards receiving on five catches, which included his 70-yard touchdown reception. The graduate of Saskatoon’s Holy Cross High School Crusaders football team also ran the ball five times for 21 yards.
Colton Klassen led the Huskies with eight TD catches.
    Last season, Klassen led the Huskies in rushing carrying the ball 76 times for 395 yards and three touchdowns. The alum of the Canadian Junior Football League’s Regina Thunder hauled in 21 passes for 185 yards and scored one touchdown through the air a year ago as well.
    Coming into the current campaign, Klassen found himself in a logjam at the running back position with the Huskies. Rugged star fifth-year tailback Tyler Chow was back to full health after missing half of the Huskies games last season due to injury and being limited in the other half he appeared in.
    The Huskies landed running back Adam Machart as an off-season recruit from the Saskatoon Hilltops. Machart had an outstanding 2017 campaign with the Hilltops and was a member of their CJFL championship teams in each of the past three years.
    In Klassen, Chow and Machart, the Huskies had three players who could all make plays, when they were on the field. Huskies head coach and offensive coordinator Scott Flory and his staff have to be commended for finding a way to give that trio significant field time.
    For Klassen, that meant sliding into the role of receiver, which he filled professionally. His pass catching abilities became that much more important, when the Huskies lost standout receiver Sam Baker due to injury in a 48-46 victory over the Bisons on Sept. 7 in Winnipeg.
    Klassen, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 200 pounds, ended up leading the Huskies with 676 receiving yards and eight touchdown receptions all coming on 38 catches. He wasn’t just a fill in at receiver. He became a go-to target who ensured the Huskies passing attack didn’t drop off.
    While being mainly a pass catcher, Klassen did chip in with the running game carrying the ball 14 times for 97 yards and one touchdown.
    Klassen was a key contributor in helping the Huskies return to the post-season after one-year absence. Without the numbers he put up as a receiver, the Huskies easily could have finished further down the Canada West standings.
Kyle Siemens threw four TD passes for the Huskies on Friday night.
    During Friday’s encounter with the Rams, the Huskies took a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on a 28-yard field goal from star kicker Sean Stenger.
    The Rams went ahead 7-3 on a three yard touchdown run by star fifth-year tailback Atlee Simon before the first quarter expired.
    That set the stage for the Huskies to go ahead 10-7 on Klassen’s 70-yard touchdown reception. Chow followed that score up with a 34-yard touchdown run to give the Huskies a 17-7 edge.
    The Rams cut the gap to 17-14 on a 65 yard touchdown run from Kyle Borsa.
    In the final 65 seconds of the first half, the Huskies surged ahead 27-14 on a 13 yard field goal from Stenger and a 34-yard touchdown reception from Machart.
    Early in the third quarter, the Rams conceded a safety to put the Huskies up 29-14. Siemens proceeded to throw respective touchdown passes of eight and 18 yards to Joseph Trumpy and Jesse Kuntz to give the visitors a 43-14 lead.
    Backup quarterback Mason Nyhus entered the contest in the fourth quarter and hit receiver Kyle Newton with a four-yard touchdown pass.
    Machart rounded out the scoring with a four-yard touchdown run.
    Siemens completed 21-of-31 passes for 321 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. Nyhus hit on 8-of-10 pass attempts for 104 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.
    Chow had 99 yards rushing on 14 carries to go with his major score on the ground, and Machart 86 yards rushing on 15 carries to go with his touchdown run.
    Kuntz hauled in seven passes for 106 yards to go with his receiving touchdown.
    Defensive ends Riley Pickett and Tristian Koronkiewicz each had a sack for the Huskies.
Adam Machart scored two TDs for the Huskies on Friday night.
    Colton Hippe started at quarterback for the Rams in place of injured fifth-year star Noah Picton and completed 9-of-21 passes for 51 yards. Borsa topped the Rams with 88 yards rushing on seven carries.
    Linebacker Cole Benkic, who is a Hilltops alum, led the Rams with 8.5 tackles, while U of R defensive lineman Ryan Warner had a sack.
    While the Rams season comes to an end, the Huskies play a short waiting game to see where they will begin their venture through the 2018 U Sports playoffs.
    If U of S makes any noise in the post-season, it is a safe bet to expect Klassen will play a key part in creating that noise.

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Thursday, 25 October 2018

Hilltops ready to rock and roll with Huskies in PFC final

Hilltops LB Cody Peters was a unanimous PFC all-star selection.
    Cody Peters can’t hide the fact that this is the time of year he and his Saskatoon Hilltops live for.
    In what will be conference champion final Sunday for the Canadian Junior Football League, the Hilltops host the Edmonton Huskies in the Prairie Football Conference final at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The Hilltops enter the PFC final sporting a 9-0 overall record and riding a 17 game winning streak including action in the regular season and playoffs.
    The Huskies are 7-2 overall and have won their last three straight including action in the regular season and playoffs.
    This will be a heavyweight tilt and the winner will host the CJFL’s national championship game – the Canadian Bowl – on November 17.
    The Hilltops have won the last four straight CJFL titles and have claimed the Canadian Bowl in seven out of the last eight years.
    Peters is pumped to get things going against the Huskies on Sunday.
    “We’re beyond excited,” said Peters. “I cannot wait for this.
    “I’m just looking forward to flying around and seeing what they want to bring to the table this time.”
    The two sides met once in the regular season with the Hilltops posting a 36-16 victory at SMF Field. That win allowed the Hilltops to clinch first in the PFC.
    The Hilltops defence was flying around in that encounter forcing the Huskies to turn the ball over 10 times on three interceptions, two fumbles and five times on downs.
    During the eight-game regular season, the Hilltops gave up the fewest points against in the PFC at 70. On Thursday, they had five players named as PFC all-stars on defence.
    Peters and defensive tackles Garth Knittig and Jesse McNabb were named unanimous selections. Defensive backs Jared Giddings and Colton Holmes were also named PFC all-stars.
    Receiver Adam Ewanchyna was named a PFC all-star as a return specialist.
    Huskies linebacker Oshane Samuels and defensive back Justin Hodinsky were selected as PFC all-stars on defence. Edmonton’s Cole Sabourin was named the PFC’s all-star punter.
    “I guess we had the most all-stars, so that is great,” said Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant. “I think that is just a credit to the scheme we have.
    “It has stood the test of time. Whatever players we put in seem to make plays. The top defence is the one that allows the least points, and that is what we did.”
Hilltops DT Garth Knittig (#59) was a unanimous PFC all-star selection.
    Sargeant gave a lot of credit to Hilltops defensive coordinator Jeff Yausie, defensive backs coach Brent Turkington and defensive line coach Dave Fisher for the success the Hilltops have had on that side of the ball resulting in the defensive all-star selections.
    Peters was humbled to be an all-star selection and was quick to add everyone on Saskatoon’s defensive unit has come up with big plays this season.
    “I’m grateful that I was named that, and that people have recognized what I have been doing on the field,” said Peters, who had 26 total tackles, 3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one interception during the regular season. “I just want to keep pushing forward and keep getting better.
    “I feel right now we are solid, and we are all working together. We are all just waiting for our moment to make a play on the field, so when it comes up, we are just ready to go. Everyone on our defence, I feel like they all should be recognized, because they all deserve like an award like that.”
    Offensively, both the Hilltops and Huskies are loaded with playmakers, who will test each sides’ respective defences.
    Saskatoon’s fifth-year star quarterback Jordan Walls had an outstanding campaign completing 122-of-197 passes for 2,010 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions in the regular season. He topped the PFC in passing yardage.
    Hilltops star running back Josh Ewanchyna appeared in seven regular season games carrying the ball 134 times for 1,007 yards and 14 touchdowns. He led the PFC in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns and was named the PFC’s offensive player of the week on four occasions.
    Saskatoon’s fifth-year star receiver Jason Price was by far the PFC’s most productive pass catcher. During the regular season, Price hauled in 31 passes for 709 yards and scored four touchdowns. He collected the most receiving yards in the PFC.
    Huskies starting quarterback Tommy Yanchuk completed 108-of-192 passes for 1,523 yards, nine touchdowns and nine interception during the regular season.
    Edmonton running back Brandt Burzuk finished second in the PFC’s regular season rushing yardage race carrying the ball 102 times for 722 yards and eight touchdowns.
    Receiver Sam Clayton was the Huskies top pass catcher hauling in 26 passes for 406 yards and four touchdowns during the regular season.
    Sargeant is expecting his side to give an effort that lives up to the Hilltops storied past.
Hilltops DT Jesse McNabb was a unanimous PFC all-star selection.
    “This is the game we wanted to be in,” said Sargeant. “We signed up for it.
    “This program traditionally signs up for that game, so I’m expecting to see them come out and play their best game of the year. Edmonton, they are a formidable opponent, they are well coached, and they have some good players on their end. Coming into our home, we worked hard to finish first, so now we need to take advantage of it.
    “Home field should mean a lot, and it is up to us to take advantage of that.”
    Sunday’s British Columbia Football Conference final sees the Langley Rams (8-3 overall) travel to Kelowna to face the Okanagan Sun (8-2-1 overall), and the Ontario Football Conference final features the Windsor AKO Fratmen (7-2 overall) traveling to Hamilton to take on the Hurricanes (9-0 overall).
    The OFC champion will travel to face the BCFC champion in a CJFL semifinal game slated for Nov. 3.

    If you have any comments you would like to pass along about this post, feel free to email them to stankssports@gmail.com.
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Monday, 22 October 2018

Shirley passes Zary as Stars second all-time leading scorer

Grace Shirley has become the Stars second all-time leading scorer.
    Grace Shirley continued to cement her place as one of the greatest to ever play in the Saskatchewan Female Midget AAA Hockey League last weekend.
    On Saturday at Crescent Point Place in Weyburn, Shirley picked up an assist on the Saskatoon Stars first goal of the game against the host Richardson Pioneer Gold Wings to become the second all-time leading scorer in the history of the Stars program. The Stars captain teamed with offensive defender Ashley Messier to set up Anna Leschyshyn for a goal just 19 seconds into the contest to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.
    The assist on Leschyshyns marker gave Shirley 127 regular season points in her SFMAAAHL career moving her one point past Lauren Zary for second on the Stars all-time scoring list.
    Zary, who is a former Stars captain, collected her 126 points off 44 goals and 82 assists playing 103 career regular season games for the Stars from 2008 to 2012. Following her time with the Stars, Zary played for the Brown University Bears women’s hockey team in the National Collegiate Athletic Association ranks and the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team in U Sports. 
    Her 82 career assists is the Stars team record, and she is the sixth all-time leader in career regular season points in the SFMAAAHL.
    Against the Gold Wings on Saturday, Shirley, who stands 5-foot-8, piled up four goals and two assists as the Stars romped to a 14-1 victory. Thanks to that effort, Shirley, who has been a member of Canada’s national under-18 women’s hockey team, now has 77 goals and 55 assists for 132 points in 88 career SFMAAAHL regular season games.
    The 17-year-old centre vaulted to fourth on the SFMAAAHL’s career regular season points list passing Brienna Gillanders in the process. Gillanders, who is now the circuit’s fifth all-time leader in career regular season points, piled up 57 goals and 74 assists for 131 points playing 111 career regular season games from 2006 to 2010 with the Swift Current Diamond Energy Wildcats and the Notre Dame Hounds.
    She moved on to play for the University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs women’s hockey team.
Grace Shirley has scored 77 career regular season goals for the Stars.
    Shirley, who has committed to play for the NCAA’s University of Wisconsin Badgers women’s hockey team next season, jumped into third on the SFMAAAHL’s career regular season goals list as well passing Alyssa Wiebe. Wiebe piled up 74 goals and 68 assists for 142 points in 55 regular season games with the Hounds playing in the SFMAAAHL’s first two regular seasons ever from 2006 to 2008. 
    Wiebe, who moved on the play for the now defunct University of North Dakota women’s hockey team in the NCAA, is the third all-time regular season leading scorer in the SFMAAAHL.
    Former Stars superstar Mackenna Parker graduated from the club at the end of last season finishing as the second all-time leading scorer in the history of the SFMAAAHL with 158 points coming off 82 goals and 76 assists in 104 career regular season games. A former Saskatoon team captain, Parker, who now plays for the Boston University Terriers women’s hockey team in the NCAA, is the Stars all-time leading scorer.
    Sophomore 15-year-old forward Calli Arnold had a big game for the Stars on Saturday piling up three goals and three assists, while Messier recorded a goal and five assists. Defender Emily Holmes had five assists for the Stars, and forward Kaitlin Jockims had two goals and two assists.
    Kaylee Baun, Joelle Fiala and Abby DeCorby round out the goal scoring for the Stars with singles.
Kaitlyn Cadrain turned away 15 shots to pick up the win in goal for Saskatoon.
    Kira Barham had the lone reply for the Gold Wings, and her tally tied things up at 1-1 for a time in the first period.
    Amara Lewendon turned away 46 shots to take the setback in goal for the Weyburn.
Sunday’s encounter by these same two clubs in Weyburn was a lot more hotly contested. With the two teams locked in a 2-2 tie, rookie 15-year-old defender Bridget Rezansoff scored short-handed at the 7:56 mark of the second period to give the Stars a 3-2 lead.
    Rezansoff’s tally, which was her first career SFMAAAHL regular season goal, would hold up as the game winner. Jockims scored a late third period goal for Saskatoon to secure a 4-2 victory.
Makena Kushniruk and Chace Sperling both had singles for the Stars.
Grace Shirley is the SFMAAAHL’s fourth all-time leading scorer.
    Veteran netminder Arden Kliewer turned away 17 shot to pick up the win for Saskatoon. The Stars improved to 6-0 with their two victories.
    Madison Lafoy and Mahteya Dumelie replied with singles for the Gold Wings.
    Daneka Dickson stopped 39 shots to take the setback in goal for Weyburn. The Gold Wings fell to 0-6 with their two losses.
    The Gold Wings held Shirley pointless in Sunday’s contest.
    The Stars return to action on Nov. 3, when they host their home opener at 7:30 p.m. against the Battlefords Sharks at Merlis Belsher Place. That contest will mark the Stars debut at the new rink on the University of Saskatchewan campus.

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Sunday, 21 October 2018

Hilltops pay the Price and make Rifles hit the Rhode

Receiver Jason Price jets home on an 81-yard touchdown catch.
    Jason Price was happy he could help pull his Saskatoon Hilltops out of some doldrums.
    After the Hilltops stormed out to a 25-3 lead in the first quarter over the visiting Winnipeg Rifles in a Prairie Football Conference semifinal playoff match on Sunday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the host side stalled in the second quarter. 
    In that frame, the Hilltops scored just one point and had to concede a safety due to bad field position to see their lead sit at 26-5.
    Price, who is the club’s star fifth-year receiver, had an 81-yard touchdown reception in his side’s explosive first 15 minutes. At the 3:10 mark of the third quarter, Price hauled in a deep corner route to score a 45-yard touchdown reception to put the Hilltops up 33-5.
    That kick started the venerable Canadian Junior Football League team, and the Hilltops cruised to a 58-5 victory from that point.
Receiver Tanner Rhode reaches into the end zone for a touchdown.
    “We had kind of a rough second quarter,” said Price. “Coming into the next half, we just had to make some kind of play, and it turns out they called on my number.
    “I just had to make it, and it helped carry the team to this kind of victory.”
    Price and third-year receiver Tanner Rhode had monster games in the Hilltops romp. Price hauled in five catches for 191 yards and his two major scores. Rhode hauled in eight catches for game high 193 yards and scored one touchdown burning Rifles defensive back Troy Wilson seemingly all afternoon.
    Thanks to the big games by Price and Rhode, Hilltops fifth-year star quarterback Jordan Walls had the best statistical game of his CJFL career completing 18-of-29 passes for 473 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
    “Offensively, Wallsy did a great job of finding his receivers,” said Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant. “Tanner Rhode stepped up and had the best game I’ve seen him in our uniform.
QB Jordan Walls piled up 473 yards passing for the Hilltops.
    “Jason Price was Jason Price. (Running back) Josh Ewanchyna had a couple of big catches and big runs. It was just a great effort.”
    The Hilltops struck quickly in Sunday’s contest, when Ewanchyna ran home a touchdown from 24 yards out at the 2:04 mark of the first quarter to give the hosts a 7-0 lead.
    Winnipeg answered back with a 27-yard field goal from kicker Barrett Mueller to cut Saskatoon’s edge to 7-3.
    From that point, the Hilltops almost burned out the lights on the scoreboard at SMF Field during the rest of the first quarter.
    Receiver/kicker David Solie booted a 31 yard field goal, and punter John Brown booted a 54-yard punt single to put the Hilltops up 11-4. From there, Price hauled in his 81-yard touchdown reception to increase the Hilltops lead to 18-3.
    On the final play of the first quarter, Walls connected with Rhode on a 25-yard touchdown pass to give the Hilltops a 25-3 edge.
Josh Ewanchyna piled up 157 yards rushing for the Hilltops.
    Brown conceded a safety early in the second quarter to give Winnipeg two points to trim Solie collected a single point off a 27 yard missed field goal with 9.8 seconds remaining before halftime to give the Hilltops a 26-5 advantage.
    While Sargeant was happy with the win, the Hilltops legendary sideline boss saw too many spots - especially in the second quarter - where the Rifles could have gotten back into the game.
    “We had some good lessons to learn,” said Sargeant. “There are lots to improve and get better.
    “There are some things I am not happy about, but ultimately in playoffs, you just want to keep moving to the next week. We’ve done that, so I’m just looking forward to getting back to work next week and making this team even better.”
    Price’s early third quarter score got the Hilltops rolling in the second half.
Fans at SMF Field cheer on the Hilltops.
    Just 13 seconds into the fourth quarter, Ewanchyna took a swing pass from Walls and turned it into a 34-yard touchdown reception to put the Hilltops up 40-5. Ewanchyna carried the ball 18 times for 157 yards and hauled in three passes for 68 yards to go with his one major score on the ground and one through the air.
    Solie hit a field goal from 32 yards out and collected a single from a 31-yard missed field goal to put the Hilltops up 44-5.
    Saskatoon’s defence proceeded to get in on the scoring from that point.
    After the Rifles drove deep into Saskatoon’s end, Hilltops fourth-year defensive back Logan Kelsey-Stern picked off Rifles quarterback Riley Naujoks and ran the ball back 117 yards for a touchdown to give the Hilltops a 51-5 advantage.
DB Logan Bitz, right, defenses a pass for the Hilltops.
    Following that score, Hilltops sophomore defensive back Michael Gerber sacked Naujoks forcing a fumble. Hilltops sophomore defensive end Connor Delahey picked up the loose ball and raced 41 yards for a touchdown to round out the game’s scoring. 
    The major score was the first for Delahey in his post-secondary football career.
    “I was just worried I was going to end up tripping on the ball and falling over it and looking like an idiot,” said Delahey, who had a sack in Sunday’s win. “We were lucky.
Logan Kelsey-Stern returns a pick 117 yards for a touchdown.
    “I scooped it and scored and everyone was blocking for me, so I ended up getting into the end zone. My first touchdown and maybe my last.
    “Hopefully not, but maybe my last with the Hilltops. I have to really cherish the moment, because it might never happen again.”
    Delahey had a breakout campaign with the Hilltops making 21 total tackles and four sacks in six regular season games with the team.
    “For me personally, I think I have improved a lot,” said Delahey. “That is what is the most important to me from the start of the season to the end.
    “My pass rush has gotten better. I’ve been able to read the run. As a whole D-line, we’ve improved.
    “As the whole D-line improves, it is going to open up opportunities for me.”
    Defensive tackle Jesse McNabb had a pair of sacks for the Hilltops, and star fifth-year linebacker Cody Peters had a team-high four total tackles.
Rifles QB Riley Naujoks is sacked by Hilltops DB Michael Gerber.
    Naujoks, the Rifles regular starting quarterback who returned from injury, completed 24-of-49 passes for 341 yards, but his one interception resulted in Kelsey-Stern’s major score. Brendan Naujoks topped the Rifles in receiving hauling in nine passes for 99 yards.
    Winnipeg was held to 25 yards rushing as a team.
    Rifles defensive back Andrew Ricard led his side with eight total tackles and recovered one fumble.
    The Hilltops, who were 8-0 in the regular season, improve their overall record to 9-0. Including action in the regular season and playoffs, they have won their last 17 games in a row.
    The Rifles, who were 3-5 in the regular season, finish the 2018 campaign at 3-6 overall.
DE Connor Delahey returns a fumble 41 yards for a TD.
    In the other PFC semifinal on Sunday, the Edmonton Huskies, who were 6-2 in the regular season, downed the Regina Thunder, who were 5-3 in the regular season, 39-36 in overtime at Commonwealth Stadium in the Alberta capital.
    The Huskies, who are 7-2 overall, will travel to Saskatoon to meet the Hilltops, who have won the last four straight CJFL titles, in the PFC final set for this coming Sunday at 1 p.m. at SMF Field.
    In making his last run through the CJFL playoffs, Price wants to keep advancing and help the Hilltops win an unprecedented fifth-straight CJFL title.
    “You always want to go out on top as a fifth year,” said Price. “We have the right team for it.
    “We just have to keep playing as that Hilltop team and keep playing Hilltop football.”

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