Monday, 26 August 2019

Win 200 for “Sarge” a special moment in Hilltops’ lore

Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant, right, contemplates a play call.
    REGINA, Sask. - Tom Sargeant’s 200th career win as head coach will always be a top “Mosaic Moment” in Saskatoon Hilltops lore.
    On Sunday, Sargeant picked up his 200th career victory including action in the regular season and playoffs as the Hilltops downed the host Regina Thunder 34-16 before 1,495 spectators at Mosaic Stadium. Sargeant has a 200-30-2 career record that includes a 149-21-2 mark in the regular season and a 51-9 mark in the post-season.
    Road trips to Regina are always special for the Hilltops. They always look forward to clashes with their provincial rivals in the Thunder, and there is always excitement over playing a game at the facility that is home to the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders.
Tyler Hermann hit a key long pass that started a 109-yard touchdown drive.
    The Hilltops Cheerleading team makes it down to the event as does a large following of family and friends.
    News that a Hilltops victory would give Sargeant his 200th win made this trip extra special.
    Veteran Saskatoon StarPhoenix sports scribe Kevin Mitchell broke the story last Wednesday stating Sargeant was a win away from 200. Mitchell researched Sargeant’s record since he became Hilltops head coach in 1998 and did the math on the career record.
    If it wasn’t for Mitchell’s work, no one would have been aware that milestone was near.
    I was as close to certain as you can get that Mitchell had everything bang on. I still decided to perform due diligence and double check the numbers. I confirmed that everything Mitchell put together on this front was accurate.
Ben Abrook charges downfield for the Hilltops.
    I checked in with Harvey Kehler, who is the new statistician for the CJFL. He was outstanding to deal with on this front in further confirming the numbers.
    After helping out with a clarification on one question he had, Kehler confirmed the numbers Mitchell put together, and everything was officially in line when the Hilltops and Thunder hit the field on Sunday.
    Over the years, the Hilltops and Thunder engaged in some epic clashes. In all honesty, Saskatoon’s victory on Sunday wasn’t one of those epic clashes.
    Both teams played a spotty game, where they made great plays at times and didn’t look very good at other times. The two sides combined for eight turnovers with the Thunder, who fell to 1-1, giving the ball away five times and the Hilltops, who improved to 2-0, giving it up three times.
    After the contest, Sargeant said he didn’t coach a very good game and couldn’t wait for his team to return to practice on Tuesday to get better.
Hilltops DB Kirk Morrow disrupts a Thunder pass play.
    With that said, Sargeant and his coaching staff were doing everything they could to motivate, encourage and most importantly correct errors. Saskatoon’s coaches were highly active due to the fact the Hilltops experience a lot of turnover amongst their starters resulting in a lot of new faces in new roles.
    While Sargeant said he didn’t have one of his best games, he likely did a lot better of a job than he gives himself credit for.
    Late in the first quarter, the Hilltops go the ball on their own one yard line, after defensive back Colton Holmes ripped the ball away from Thunder short yardage quarterback Carter Shewchuk.
    Sargeant, who is also Saskatoon’s offensive coordinator, called for a deep pass down the right sideline on the Hilltops ensuing offensive play. Hilltops starting quarterback Tyler Hermann completed a 37-yard pass to receiver Keegan Dicks, who had a Thunder defensive back draped all over him.
    That started an 11-play, 109-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a three-yard run by power running back Ben Abrook in the second quarter to give Saskatoon a 7-0.
Backup QB Doug Fleming, left, takes off on a 33-yard touchdown run.
    Later in the second quarter, Sargeant grilled backup running back Carter McLean for missing a block on a quarterback draw and pulled the second-year player off the field. Just seconds later, Sargeant was talking off to the side with McLean and sent him back into the game.
    Sargeant proceeded to call the same quarterback draw play with backup signal caller Doug Fleming taking the snaps. McLean made his block and Fleming raced 33 yards for the Hilltops second touchdown of the contest and a 14-2 lead.
    The Hilltops don’t usually do the ice bucket shower tradition for the head coach unless they win a CJFL championship, and Sargeant has 12 of those to his credit as a head coach to go along with two CJFL title wins as a Hilltops assistant coach and one as a Hilltops player.
The Hilltops celebrate a TD run from QB Doug Fleming (#4).
    After the clock expired on Sunday, Sargeant received the ice bucket shower fourth-year defensive tackle Jesse McNabb and fifth-year defensive back Logan Kelsey-Stern. Sargeant immediately hugged McNabb as McNabb was the nearest to him and the rest of the players piled around for a short celebration.
    Hilltops president Terry Postey collected game ball and there was glee from the Hilltops players, coaches and staffers in helping Sargeant, who is by far the CJFL’s all-time leader in career wins, obtain this special milestone.
    That added something extra to celebrating the win with the friend and family that lined the front row of the west side stands to meet the team.
Running back Carter McLean piles up some yards for the Hilltops.
    Sargeant became the second head coach to hit the 200-win barrier in Canadian amateur post-secondary football joining retired Regina Rams head coach Frank McCrystal, who piled up 208 wins from 1984 to 2014 including action in the regular season and post-season in the CJFL and U Sports ranks. The Rams joined the U Sports ranks in 1999.
    The Hilltops were formed in 1947, appeared in their first CJFL title game in 1948 and captured their first CJFL crown in 1953.
    Since that time, they have become an institution in Saskatoon winning 21 CJFL championships. In building their storied history, the Hilltops have done things the right way and with class in developing young men to have a positive impact on their communities.
    If Saskatoon as a city is going through a rough stretch, the Hilltops are seen as that reassuring positive light of what can happen when you do everything right.
The Hilltops players visit family and friends after Sunday’s win.
    In today’s world where there are challenges seemingly in every walk of life, it is reassuring for those in Saskatoon to know the Hilltops are that one team and one organization you can count on to do things the right way.
    When Sargeant picked up his 200th win, it added an ultimate moment of what can happen when things are done the right way.

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