Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Major injury didn’t keep Hilltops’ Guillet down

Defensive lineman returned for final CJFL campaign

Connor Guillet missed the 2017 season with a ruptured Achilles tendon.
    Connor Guillet wasn’t going to let a major injury rob him of time with the Saskatoon Hilltops.
    Going into his fourth season with the team a year ago, the Humboldt, Sask., product, who plays defensive end, ruptured his Achilles tendon near the end of main training camp. The injury forced Guillet, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 245 pounds, to miss all of the 2017 campaign.
    Guillet still hung around the team attending practices and making games to offer support for his teammates. He wasn’t going to allow the injury to prevent him from playing in his fifth and final season with the venerable Canadian Junior Football League club.
    While on the comeback trail, Guillet received a lot of encouragement from the Hilltops organization to make it back.
    “It is just my last year as a fifth year,” said Guillet. “The Hilltops pretty much drove me to come back.
    “It was a good off-season just to strengthen my Achilles and get into training and get back into the weight room. Two weeks after the surgery I was right back in the weight room lifting, and I was just preparing for this next season.
    “I just kind of knew that it had to be done.”
Connor Guillet (#76) charges on to the field.
    Guillet returned for the current campaign appearing in all eight of the Hilltops regular season games collecting 2.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries and five solo tackles. In Saskatoon’s two post-season games, Guillet has four solo tackles.
    He wants to help the Hilltops win an unprecedented fifth straight CJFL title.
    The Hilltops (10-0) host the CJFL championship game – the Canadian Bowl – on Saturday at 1 p.m. against the Langley Rams (10-3).
    Guillet has the chance to be one of eight fifth-year players that wins a CJFL championship in every year they were eligible to play in the league with one team. The other seven veterans who look to share in that distinction include quarterback Jordan Walls, receiver Jason Price, right tackle Kirk Simonsen, receiver Adam Ewanchyna and linebackers Adam Benkic, Bobby Ehman and Cody Peters.
    If the Hilltops can win the Canadian Bowl again, Guillet said he would be happy for the other fifth-year players and everyone else on the team.
    “It would be awesome,” said Guillet. “I would be super thankful, especially to the Hilltops organization just for kind of giving us eight guys the opportunity to come out here and play.
    “There are a lot of talented younger guys out there, and you have to hand it to them, they are really playing their roles in all of this.”
    Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant said he was proud that Guillet made to back to play his final season. The legendary sideline boss knows there are times players leave the CJFL to focus on school or work, if a major injury happens.
Hilltops DE Connor Guillet (#76) spies into the Winnipeg Rifles backfield.
    When Guillet got hurt, Sargeant said it was tough to see.
    “It was just devastating,” said Sargeant. “Guys work so hard to get ready and get going.
    “You never know when a guy takes a year off. What I like, he (Guillet) came back and wasn’t quite right, but each game he got more confident in it. He is playing at a high level.
    “He is doing what we need him to do. He is going to be an impact player come Saturday in the Canadian Bowl.”
    Guillet went through all sorts of emotions watching the team last season. He was happy to be around “the Hilltops family” and felt he acted as a good support person for the defensive lineman.
    When he saw Riley Pickett and Tom Schnitzler have outstanding seasons playing the defensive end positions, Guillet was happy for the pair,  but he wondered what could have been had he been healthy.
    “I’m not going to lie, it made me miss it quite a bit,” said Guillet, who is studying education at the University of Saskatchewan. “Hats off to those guys especially Pickett and Tommy.
    “They really stepped up I think. They just had a great year.”
Hilltops DE Connor Guillet (#76) helps stop an Edmonton Huskies runner.
    Sargeant thought Guillet performed admirably being a support person for the other Hilltops players last season and the other players were really happy he remained around the team.
    “He (Guillet) is a super kid and the guys really like him,” said Sargeant. “He is just a positive influence.
    “He is a great leader. He does everything we want a Hilltop to be. He is going to school. He works hard.
    “He has a passion for life, a passion for the game and as I said, he is just a real popular player, popular kid, who has bigger and better things in his horizon.”
    After the Hilltops won their fourth straight Canadian Bowl in 2017, Pickett joined the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team and has helped them win a Canada West conference title. Schnitzler graduated from the CJFL ranks and moved on to join the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds.
Connor Guillet listens for a play from the sidelines.
    With the departures of Pickett and Schnitzler, the competition for the Hilltops starting defensive end spots was wide open. Still, Guillet kept his hopes modest.
    “Truthfully, I had pretty low expectations,” said Guillet. “I was just coming into the season, and I was just hoping for the best.”
    He became a starter, but admits he still gets bothered by plays he missed. Taking everything into consideration, Guillet believes he had a good campaign.
    “I think it went not bad,” said Guillet. “I’m probably pretty critical, so there are definitely a couple of missed plays and a lot of things I could have improved on.
    “Overall, I can’t really complain.”
    Guillet is aiming to play his best game ever for the Hilltops in the Canadian Bowl. He expects the Rams to supply a big challenge.
    “They are just a big and talented team,” said Guillet. “I think we just have to go out there, (and) we have to just keep quiet and let them do their thing and we do our thing and just treat it like another game.”
    He also believes it is strange to think that Saturday’s CJFL title game will be his last as a player for the Hilltops.
Connor Guillet (#76) and the Hilltops D-linemen with the PFC title trophy.
  “It is crazy,” said Guillet. “I’ve been just reminiscing all the years and all the friends that I’ve made, and it just flew by.”

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