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 had 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.

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