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.

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