Thursday, 31 October 2019

Haight family tradition nearing a close on field with Hilltops

Caleb Haight has been a great Hilltops ambassador on and off the field.
    Caleb Haight believes his mom, Lana, might go through the toughest Saskatoon Hilltops withdrawl, when his career with the team comes to a close.
    Caleb is playing out his final campaign of CJFL eligibility with the Hilltops, and he has just two possible games remaining with the five-time defending CJFL champions.
    On Saturday, the Hilltops (10-0 overall) travel to London, Ont., to face the London Beefeaters (8-2 overall) in a CJFL semifinal contest. The winner advances to the CJFL national championship game – the Canadian Bowl – to be played Nov. 16 at the winner of the British Columbia Football Conference championship game.
    The BCFC title game will be held Saturday, when the Langley Rams (11-0 overall) face the Langford based Westshore Rebels (9-2 overall) in Langley.
    Caleb has suited up at defensive end for the Hilltops since the beginning of the 2017 campaign. He followed his three older brothers to the club, who suited up for the Hilltops at different times from 2009 to 2014.
Caleb Haight (#53) runs down a Huskies receiver.
    Caleb’s oldest brother, Aaron, was the first to come to the ’Toppers playing slotback for three seasons. Jared and Joel followed Aaron to the venerable junior club.
Jared played four seasons on the defensive line and Joel suited up for four campaigns as a defensive back.
    “It has been a family tradition,” said Caleb. “To play for another team would certainly feel weird.
    “You talk about being in the last few games, it is going to feel weird for my mom, because we have no more home games. That is the end of Haight’s playing at Gordie Howe Bowl (which is now Saskatoon Minor Football Field). Coming out of high school, it was really the only option.
    “It was the only team I thought I wanted to play for. They wanted me, because I knew some coaches. It has been a good experience.”
    Caleb Haight was a graduate of the Clavet School Cougars six-man high school football team in Clavet, Sask. After graduating from high school, he took a year off to travel and spent a following year rehabbing an injury.
    Along with healing up an injury, Haight worked out and believes he came to the Hilltops physically stronger than he would have been right out of high school.
Caleb Haight (#53) runs down an Edmonton Wildcats ball carrier.
    “It ended up being a blessing,” said Haight, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 260 pounds. “Coming a little bit later, it meant that I’ve traveled or dressed for every single game except one in my rookie year.
    “That is a unique blessing that a lot of guys I guess don’t get.”
    Helping the Hilltops win CJFL titles in each of the past two years, Haight said his time with the team has flown by.
    “It is crazy,” said the 22-year-old. “I don’t know how long I have been playing organized football.
    “I think (Hilltops defensive coordinator) Jeff Yausie coached me when I was probably eight or nine. I’ve thrown the ball with my brothers as soon as I could walk. To think that I might not be playing football again after this weekend or in three weeks, it is emotional.
    “Obviously, I will miss it, but there is a time for everything, so I just want to embrace the last few games and make the most of it.”
    Haight had a huge outing in the Hilltops PFC final win on Sunday over the Huskies recording three defensive tackles, two defensive tackle assists, one special teams tackle and one quarterback sack. 
Caleb Haight (#53) had a big performance in the PFC final.
    Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant was pumped about Haight’s performance.
    “I said in front of the team he had his best game in the uniform and played inspired football and helped to motivate our team,” said Sargeant. “It is great to see a guy in his fifth year on limited time come out and play with such energy and passion.
    “He just played smart. He red the scenarios and got himself in all the right spots and made his plays. As I said, that Edmonton Huskies offence is certainly a good offence.
    “Caleb (Haight) was a massive part in helping us shut them down.”
    Away from the football field, Haight engages in numerous community initiatives with the club. He claimed the PFC’s Al Park Community Service awards this season.
    Sargeant said all the members of the Haight family who have played for the Hilltops have been high character persons.
    “Number one, Caleb he comes from such a great family,” said Sargeant. “We had all the other boys in our program, so the Haight family has certainly been a big part of the fabric of the Saskatoon Hilltops.
Caleb Haight (#53) walks to the field with parent Lana and Jeff.
    “Great parents (in Jeff and Lana) who do a great job of modeling, and they teach them the proper things about service. He (Caleb Haight) certainly gives back, and as I said, those are the players that we look for within our roster.
    “As I said, he deserves a lot of credit for who he is and what he has been doing.”
    The community work has become such a lifestyle thing with Haight that he can’t really put a finger on how many things he has been involved with.
    “It is hard to number,” said Haight, who usually is supported by a huge contingent of family and friends at each Hilltops game. “Obviously with the Hilltops, there have been a lot of things whether it has been the punt, pass or kick (or) a couple of high school camps.
    “In the community, I’ve been involved with a lot of church related stuff whether it is youth groups or chaperoning high school students on trips. I guess my family in general has always been big into volunteering and everything.”
Haight family gatherings are a common site at Hilltops games.
    Haight said he encountered a high from his community work this season, and it didn’t involve him getting the PFC’s community service award.
    “It has always meant a lot to volunteer,” said Haight. “Actually, a really cool moment is I helped lead a youth group two years ago to church.
    “This year one of the guys that I had in my youth group (linebacker Abe Fimbo) won the rookie of the year out in the B.C. Conference. That was actually a really cool moment is seeing a guy that I mentored and watching him grow in football and having him play really well in Kamloops (with the Broncos).
    “That is a pretty cool thing that came with that award.”
    Haight is looking forward to Saturday’s clash with the Beefeaters. He adds film study can only tell you so much and there is always an element of mystery, when the Hilltops play clubs from the other conferences in the CJFL.
Caleb Haight won the community service award for the PFC.
    “In that first quarter, that is really going to tell us a lot in terms of how physical they are,” said Haight. “They have a lot of really good athletes.
    “They have a running back specifically where I’ve seen some plays and been very impressed. They have an O-lineman who came down from the college ranks where he was a really dominant player. We give them a lot of respect.
    “It should be a good battle on Saturday.”
    The Hilltops have a number of milestones on the line too. They have won their last 29 overall games in a row including action in the regular season and playoffs, claimed victory in a CJFL record 18 straight post-season games and have won their last 27 contests in a row on the road including action in the regular season and post-season.
    Saskatoon is trying to extend its current run of winning five straight CJFL titles. Sargeant needs one more win to pass retired Regina Rams head coach Frank McCrystal for the most career head coach victories in Canada’s amateur post-secondary football ranks.
    Sargeant has a career 208-30-2 record in the regular season and playoffs since becoming the Hilltops head coach before the start of the 1998 campaign. McCrystal compiled a 208-104-2 record in the regular season and playoffs guiding the Rams as head coach from 1984 to 2014 including 15 campaigns in the CJFL and 16 seasons in U Sports as the University of Regina Rams.
Caleb Haight (#53) pictured with the Hilltops D-line after the PFC final.
    Once again, Sargeant said he is not a guy that tracks numbers.
    “I’m just one piece of any puzzle,” said Sargeant. “It is just the Hilltops.
    “Every one of my coaches has a job to do. Every one of my players has a job to do. We have to go out there and do the best job that we possibly can to make sure our fifth-year players leave as champions that is what it is all about.
    “As I said, I’m blessed to be the head coach of the Saskatoon Hilltops. That provides me with a lot of pride and adds a lot of confidence with what I am doing with the men I am doing it with. As I said, I just can’t wait to play Saturday night and go out and play our best game of the year.”

Abrook gets weekly award in record game

Ben Abrook (#32) follows the block of Taylon Elderkin, centre.
    Saskatoon Hilltops running back Ben Abrook gained a player of the week tip of the cap after breaking a long standing playoff record.
    On Sunday, Abrook carried the ball 44 times for 246 yards and two touchdowns as the Saskatoon Hilltops downed the Edmonton Huskies 30-14 in the PFC final at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. Abrook’s 44 carried set a new record for most carries in one CJFL playoff game.
    The old mark was held by Chris Curran of the Regina Rams, who carried the ball 38 times for 225 yards on October 12, 1991 in a 22-14 victory over the Calgary Colts.
    Thanks to Abrook’s big performance on Sunday, he was named the PFC’s player of the week for a fourth time this season, when the CJFL announced its weekly awards on Wednesday.
    During the eight-game regular season, Abrook topped the PFC in rushing carrying the ball 199 times for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns. Abrook was named a PFC all-star.

Kleiter captures fifth weekly special teams award

Rylan Kleiter boots a 34 yard field goal for the Hilltops.
    Saskatoon Hilltops receiver/kicker Rylan Kleiter can pretty much keep the PFC’s weekly special teams award.
    Kleiter was named the PFC special teams player of the week for the fifth time in the last six weeks, when the CJFL announced its player of the week awards on Wednesday. The honour came due to Kleiter’s performance in the Hilltops 30-14 victory in the PFC final on Sunday against the Edmonton Huskies at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    In that win, Kleiter made all three of his field goal attempts connecting form 27, 34 and 14 yards. He also connected on all three of his conversion attempts.
    Kleiter, who is a star curling skip, punted the ball twice for an average of 31.5 yards per kick. He kicked off six times for 275 yards for an average of 45.8 yards per kick.
    Offensively, Kleiter led the Hilltops in receiving catching three passes for 47 yards.
    During the regular season, Kleiter led the PFC in scoring with two touchdowns, 18 field goals, 33 converts and one single. He was a PFC all-star at the place kicker position and was named the PFC’s most outstanding special teams player.

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Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Huskies pumped for rare home playoff game

Golden Bears visit Griffiths Saturday in Canada West semi

The Huskies aim to take down the Golden Bears in the playoffs.
    Be it ever so humble, there is no place like home for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team in the 2019 U Sports campaign.
    The Huskies won all four of their regular season games at home posting a 5-3 record to finish second in the Canada West Conference. Thanks to that placing, the Huskies host the University of Alberta Golden Bears (4-4) in a Canada West semifinal contest on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Griffiths Stadium.
    The other Canada West semifinal on Saturday features the University of Calgary Dinos (6-2) taking on the University of Manitoba Bisons (4-4) in Calgary.
    A year ago, the Huskies won the Canada West championship playing all of their post-season games on the road. That marked the first time U of S claimed the Canada West title since 2006.
    Saturday’s clash with the Golden Bears will mark the second time the Huskies have hosted a post-season game since the start of the 2011 season. 
Adam Machart (#20) will try to make more big game against U of A.
    The Dogs last home playoff game came back on Nov. 7, 2014, when they fell 47-39 to the University of Manitoba Bisons at Griffiths Stadium.
    With having almost five full years pass between home playoff dates, Huskies star running back Adam Machart said his side is looking forward to playing in their regular surroundings.
    “We play good at home, so to have that and not have to travel, I think that is huge for us as a team,” said Machart. “I think we are going to rally around that fact.”
    Huskies fifth-year star defensive tackle Evan Machibroda was on the U of S roster for the squad’s last home playoff game as an injury red shirt. He watched the Huskies fall that day from the sidelines.
    Still, that memory in no way dampens his enthusiasm for his team’s home playoff game on Saturday.
Mason Nyhus had a solid campaign as the Huskies starting QB.
    “It is going to be a lot of fun,” said Machibroda. “I can’t wait for it.”
    Machibroda believes his Huskies haven’t hit their peak and still have room to get better.
    “We definitely have to keep growing as a team,” said Machibroda. “Nothing is finished yet.”
    Machart enters the contest as the Huskies biggest offensive threat. He carried the ball 156 times for 1,330 yards and eight touchdowns during the regular season. He also hauled in 20 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns through the air.
    His total of 1,330 yards rushing and 1,534 all-purpose yards are new Huskies team records for one season.
    Mason Nyhus has a solid campaign in his first season as the team’s starting quarterback. He completed 138-of-228 passes for 1,739 yards, 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Evan Machibroda has made lots of big plays.
    At receiver, two of Nyhus’s big weapons are Jesse Kuntz and Sam Baker. Kuntz caught 29 passes for 347 yards and two touchdowns in eight regular season games.
    Baker missed the Huskies first five regular season games due to injury. In the squad’s last three regular season games, Baker hauled in 15 passes for 236 yards and four touchdowns.
    The Huskies will have play without star utility player Colton Klassen, who is out for the post-season with a severely injured right leg.
    Golden Bears quarterback Brad Launhardt, who is in his second season with the team, had a strong campaign completing 174-of-284 passes for 2,328 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. He also carried the ball 50 times for 298 yards and one touchdown.
    Running back Jonathan Rosery was the Golden Bears leading rushing carrying the ball 70 times for 328 yards and one touchdown.
    Fifth-year receiver Ben Kopczynski led the Golden Bears in receiving hauling in 53 passes for 799 yards.
    On defence, super rookie outside linebacker Ramsey Derbas led the Huskies with 43 total tackles, while middle linebacker Tom Whiting and outside linebacker Ben Whiting had 40.5 and 39.5 total tackles respectively.
The Golden Bears look to get a big game from LB Jassen Brown (#41)
    Machibroda and defensive end Nicholas Dheilly each had five sacks to top the Huskies in that department, while defensive back Nelson Lokombo led U of S with four interceptions.
    For the Golden Bears, outside linebacker Josiah Schakel topped the team with 51 total defensive tackles. Middle linebacker Jassen Brown had 49 total tackles and a team high four sacks.
Safety Jayden Dalke led U of S with three interceptions.
    The Huskies and Golden Bear met twice during the regular season. The Golden Bears took the first encounter 19-17 on Sept. 21 in Edmonton. The Huskies claimed the last head-to-head contest last Saturday 22-9 at Griffiths Stadium.
Brad Launhardt (#16) had a strong season at QB for the Golden Bears.
    Huskies head coach Scott Flory said you are at the point in the season where you likely won’t be able to fool your conference rivals with something new.
    “That is a good football team,” said Flory. “They are physical.
    “They play hard. They have some big dudes. At this point, you are not going to reinvent the wheel schematically offensively and defensively and on special teams.
    “It is about execution. It is about timing and what you do. There is going to be a wrinkle here and there, but yeah, they are a good football team.”
    The weather appears it will be really good for Saturday’s game, because Environment Canada at the moment is predicting sunny conditions with a 2 C temperature.
    With that said, Environment Canada predictions can go out the window in an instant, but Machart isn’t worried about adverse conditions.
    “When you are out there, the blood is flowing, and it is not too bad,” said Machart.
Golden Bears R Ben Kopczynski (#5) will look to escape Huskies defenders.
    Machart said footing was a non-issue at Griffiths during the Huskies win over the Golden Bears last Saturday in frigid conditions.
    “It (was) actually pretty good,” said Machart. “It wasn’t too slushy.
    “That ice is not fun to fall on, but grip wise it is actually pretty good.”
    Flory said his squad will always be prepared for the weather to be at its worse this time of year.
    “We’re in Saskatchewan,” said Flory. “If you plan on playing in October and November, you better be prepared to deal with this stuff. 
Ben Whiting (#4) and U of S aim to enjoy a big play day.
    “That is what we plan ahead for. That is why we run the offence the way we run the offence. That is why we recruit the guys we recruit.
    “We’ve got to be able to do that. It will be slugfest.”

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Tuesday, 29 October 2019

Klassen injury heartbreaking for football Huskies

Heart and soul player would want team to march on

Colton Klassen (#7) on the field during pre-game last Saturday.
    It was a moment where the silence might have never been more deafening at Griffith’s Stadium.
    Last Saturday during a U Sports regular season football game between the host University of Saskatchewan Huskies and University of Alberta Golden Bears, Huskies star utility player Colton Klassen was lying down on the turf injured late in the first quarter. A hush came over the 1,105 spectators in attendance as the foot on Klassen’s right leg was bending at the ankle in a direction it shouldn’t.
    The Huskies players on the field were immediate calling for the cart and trainers when Klassen went down.
    The visiting Golden Bears looked horrified.
An injured Colton Klassen about to be taken off the field on a cart.
    It was obvious that Klassen, who is a heart and soul member of the Huskies, would not only miss the upcoming U Sports playoffs, but he would be facing a long road back on the recovery trail. When Klassen gave the thumbs up to the crowd after being taken off the field on a cart, you just hoped he could make it back next year to play his fifth and final season with the team.
    The Huskies were down 8-0 at the time of Klassen’s injury, and they roared back to post a 22-9 victory.
    With the win, the Huskies finished second in the Canada West Conference with a 5-3 record.
Colton Klassen, left, pulls away from a U of Manitoba Bisons defender.
    They will host a Canada West semifinal playoff game this coming Saturday against the Golden Bears (4-4) at 3 p.m. at Griffiths Stadium.
    In the aftermath of the Huskies win last Saturday, thoughts drifted off to hoping the best for Klassen. He led the Huskies in receiving yards last season and this season. He played an instrumental role in helping the Huskies win the Canada West title a year ago, which was a first for the team since 2006.
    Huskies head coach Scott Flory said after last Saturday’s game it wasn’t right that Klassen wouldn’t be on the field for the team for the post-season.
    “My heart breaks for that young man,” said Flory. “We don’t know the extent of it right now, but it doesn’t look good.
Colton Klassen led the Huskies in receiving this season and last season.
    “Again, it is not fair, and I know he wants it more for this team than anybody else. He is a huge part of it. When he went down, it eliminated a huge chunk of the game plan.”
    Klassen is the emotional leader that makes the Huskies go. The 23-year-old is noted around the Canada West Conference for verbally engaging members of the opposition. The talk often gets under the skin of the opponents.
    Klassen, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 205 pounds, backs the talk up by making plays. The graduate of Saskatoon’s Holy Cross Crusaders High School football program has made numerous big plays for the Huskies since joining the team in 2016 after spending two campaigns starring for the Regina Thunder in the CJFL.
    For myself, Klassen reminds me a lot of a former right-winger for the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers in Derek Dorsett.
Colton Klassen comes up smiling after a TD catch last season.
    Dorsett played for the Tigers for three seasons from 2004 to 2007 and was known for getting under the skin of the opposing teams and their fans.
    In Medicine Hat, Dorsett was always given a rousing ovation befitting a hero. He put up penalty minutes, and he also put up points.
    During his final season as an assistant captain with the Tigers in their 2006-07 WHL title winning campaign, Dorsett appeared in 61 regular season games collecting 19 goals, 45 assists a plus-17 rating in the plus-minus department and 206 minutes in penalties.
    When the chips were down, Dorsett always played big for the Tigers. Actually, he gave a top effort every night.
    He would do anything on the ice to help his team whether that meant blocking wicked hard shots or taking on guys that were much bigger than him, and he was the leader in the dressing. Dorsett wouldn’t ask anything of his teammates he wasn’t willing to do himself.
Colton Klassen is an emotional leader for the Huskies.
    Off the ice, he was the best representative for the team in the community and always had time for the kids that came to watch him play. Those characteristics allowed Dorsett, who is from Kindersley, Sask., to play 11 seasons in the professional hockey ranks including the last 10 of those campaigns in the NHL with the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks.
    These days, fans from WHL centres that supported the Tigers biggest rivals still view Dorsett as the ultimate competitor – the guy you wanted on your team.
    That will likely be how Klassen is remember years after his Huskies days wrap up by fans that support the Dogs biggest rivals. Klassen will be remembered as the ultimate competitor and the guy you want on your team.
    Before joining the Huskies, Klassen had an outstanding 2015 campaign playing running back for the Thunder.
Colton Klassen will return kicks and do anything that is asked of him
    He was named the offensive player of the year for the Prairie Football Conference leading the conference with 911 yards rushing coming on 117 carries and scoring five touchdowns.
    Most running backs who have that type of season in the CJFL would insist they remain in that role in the university ranks.
    When Flory approached Klassen about moving into the slot receiver position, Klassen jumped at that chance. He put up stellar number last season hauling 38 passes for 676 yards and eight touchdowns earning accolades as a Canada West all-star.
    He had 37 catches this season for 456 yards and two touchdowns before going down.
    Klassen also blocks on running plays and returns kick offs and punts too.
Colton Klassen is a great representative for the Huskies in the community.
    “He (Klassen) is a sparkplug,” said Huskies star running back Adam Machart. “He is a heart guy.
    “We love him to death. We feel for him. That is a tough one out there, but I think we are going to rally around him.
    “We’re going to go play for number seven out there, play for those fifth-year guys, and I think all the best of him.”
    In practice and in games, Klassen is the one who can get the Huskies competitive fire going. When he leads the Ric Flair cheer of late former Huskies linebacker Justin Filteau, Klassen is able give it that right emphasis it gives you chills.
    Before Filteau passed tragically in a plane crash in June at age 26, he and Klassen coached inner city six-man youth football in Saskatoon together. One can only imagine how wired those young players were for game day with Filteau and Klassen showing the way.
Huskies fans want to see Colton Klassen (#7) return to the field. 
    Off the field, Klassen is one of those players you want representing the team in your community. He will take time to interact with kids that come to watch him play often giving the youngster “fives” before taking the field for a game.
    Huskies fifth-year star defensive tackle Evan Machibroda said Klassen always influences the team in the right way.
    “He (Klassen) is one of the hardest working guys out here,” said Machibroda. “When we see a guy like that go down, we know he wants to be here, and he wants to be playing with us.
    “We just have to do it for him. We play as a team, and we just all bind together here.”
    Klassen might not be able to dress to help the Huskies on the field, but you can bet he will still be able to give them an emotional push on their upcoming post-season run.

Machart claims Canada West player of the week honours

Adam Machart ran for 226 yards on Saturday.
    After breaking a team record that stood for 20 years, University of Saskatchewan Huskies star running back Adam Machart picked up another accolade on Monday.
    Machart was named the offensive player of the week for the Canada West Conference due to having an outstanding outing in the Huskies 22-9 victory over the University of Alberta Golden Bears last Saturday. He ran the ball 29 times for 226 yards, and he caught three passes for 46 yards to power the Huskies to victory.
    Machart’s rushing yardage total was the third highest put up by a member of the Huskies in one game in team history.
    Thanks to that performance, Machart set a new Huskies record for most rushing yards in one season. Over the Huskies eight regular season games, Machart carried the ball 156 times for 1,330 yards and scored eight touchdowns.
    The old record was held by Doug Rozon, who ran for 1,267 yards on 151 carries and scored five touchdowns in the 1999 campaign.
Adam Machart ran for 1,330 yards in the regular season.
    Besides the rushing numbers, Machart also caught 20 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns this season helping the Huskies post 5-3 record and finish second in Canada West.
    The Huskies will open the U Sports post-season hosting a Canada West semifinal game on Saturday at 3 p.m. at Griffiths Stadium against the University of Alberta Golden Bears (4-4).
    Golden Bears defensive back and kick returner Wesley Bookland was the special teams player of the week for Canada West, and defensive back Jaxon Ciraolo-Brown was the defensive player of the week for the conference.

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Sunday, 27 October 2019

Hilltops’ mystique paves way to sixth straight PFC title

The Hilltops raise the PFC championship trophy for a sixth straight year.
    When it is crunch time, the Saskatoon Hilltops always find a way to make the plays.
    When most teams gamble on third down, they are often living on the edge. When the Hilltops gamble on third down, they see it as an opportunity to do something great.
    On Sunday before 481 spectators in somewhat cool and light snowy conditions at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, Hilltops star power running back Ben Abrook ran home a pair of touchdowns from a yard out in the second half on third-and-goal gambles. The scores allowed the Hilltops to down the Edmonton Huskies 30-14 to win the PFC final for a sixth straight year.
Ben Abrook ran the ball 44 times for 246 yards and two touchdowns.
    “It is not easy stuff to do out there,” said Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant. “That is not easy.
    “To win one is unreal. To win six in a row you don’t even understand it. There is a lot of pressure on these guys this year, lots of pressure.
    “You know what, they figured it out. That is all I know. They figured it out.”
    The Hilltops, who have won the last five straight CJFL titles, gambled on a handful of third down conversions during the contest and were successful on each attempt. The venerable CJFL club didn’t have a single turnover on downs in the contest.
    On top of those gambles, Saskatoon rode the Abrook train, and the graduate of Saskatoon’s Aden Bowman Collegiate Bears high school football team delivered lugging the ball 44 times for 246 yards to go with his two scores.
    Abrook said it energized the team, when the coaches allowed the offence to go for major scores on the two third-and-goal opportunities from the one yard line.
The Hilltops celebrate Ben Abrook’s first touchdown run.
    “It is huge for everyone on the field,” said Abrook, whose Hilltops have a 10-0 overall record so far this season. “We know when we are on the one yard line we’re going for it.
    “We’re going to score. Having that confidence behind us too just pushes over the goal-line, so it is huge definitely.”
    Most of Sunday’s contest was pretty much a slugfest. The Hilltops built 6-0 lead in the fourth quarter, when receiver/kicker Rylan Kleiter hit field goals from 27 and 34 yards out.
    Before the first quarter expired, the Huskies jumped ahead 7-6, when quarterback Declan O’Flaherty hit receiver Adner St. Hilaire with a seven-yard touchdown pass.
    Just 49 seconds into the second quarter, the Hilltops jumped back in front 13-7, when third-year receiver Keegan Dicks hauled in a 10-yard touchdown reception on a pass from fifth-year quarterback Tyler Hermann.
Keegan Dicks makes a 10-yard TD catch for the Hilltops.
    The teams proceeded to play to a stalemate on the field, before Abrook broke through with his first touchdown run on a third-and-goal gamble with 4:54 remaining in the third quarter to give Saskatoon a 20-7 advantage.
    Abrook said the Hilltops offensive line allowed the team to have success on Sunday.
    “On days like this and weather like this, you have to own the line of scrimmage,” said Abrook. “Our O-line outplayed their front seven.
    “Hands down, great game by them, and I think that was the difference maker for sure.”
    The Huskies didn’t go away. With 18.3 seconds remaining in the third quarter, O’Flaherty hit standout receiver Sam Clayton with a 17-yard touchdown pass to cut Saskatoon’s lead to 20-14.
    With the game still in the balance, the turning point came that allowed the Hilltops to ultimately seal the contest.
    With 6:40 remaining in the fourth quarter, third-year Hilltops safety Brant Morrow intercepted O’Flaherty in front of the Huskies bench.
Sam Clayton (#80) caught 10 passes for 132 yards for the Huskies.
    Morrow returned the ball seven yards before stepping out of bounds. He was hit by the Huskies, while he was out of bounds. The Huskies bench argued the call.
    The officials gave the Edmonton side 25 yards in penalties with an unnecessary roughness and objectionable conduct calls.
    That set the Hilltops up on the Huskies 23 yard-line. At first, the Huskies defence held forcing the Hilltops to try a 25-yard field goal.
    Kleiter made the kick, but he was hit by Huskies defensive back Justin Hodinsky. The officials penalized the Huskies for roughing the kicker.
    The Hilltops elected to take Kleiter’s kick off the board and continue the drive. The drive ended with Abrook’s second touchdown run from one yard out on a third-and-goal gamble giving the host side a 27-14 lead with 3:58 remaining in the fourth.
    “My coach put me in a perfect situation to make a play,” said Morrow about his interception. “I made it.
The Hilltops defence gets the clamps on Huskies RB Brandt Burzuk.
    “All I had to do was finish, and I did. Like always, they (the Hilltops offence) capitalized on turnovers with that energy that we (the Hilltops defence) gave them.”
    Despite holding a 13-point lead with under four minutes to play in the fourth quarter, Morrow said his squad stayed focused on the task at hand and never thought victory was in the bag.
    “We we’re waiting until the game was over to celebrate,” said Morrow. “Obviously, it gave us a little more confidence with the score a bit more in our favour, but we wanted to fight right to the end.”
    Kleiter rounded out the game’s scoring with a 14-yard field goal with 1:22 remaining in the fourth quarter.
    Both Abrook and Morrow were experiencing their third straight victory in the PFC final with the Hilltops, and both soaked in the moment.
Rylan Kleiter makes a 38-yard catch for the Hilltops.
    “It is an awesome feeling,” said Abrook. “It never gets old.
    “I’m super happy for the guys involved.”
    “It is amazing,” said Morrow. “It gets better every time.
    “I’m so proud of our team for fighting through a bunch of tough games during the season and through a tough one today again.”
    Hermann completed 8-of-17 passes for 124 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions for the Hilltops. Kleiter topped all Hilltops receivers with three catches for 47 yards.
    O’Flaherty completed 23-of-39 passes for 231 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the Huskies. Clayton led all receivers in the contest with 10 catches for 132 yards to go with his one major score.
    Huskies running back Brandt Burzuk, who was named the PFC’s most valuable player and most outstanding offensive player, ran the ball 18 times for 111 yards.
Caleb Haight had a sack for the Hilltops.
    Defensive end Caleb Haight had a sack for the Hilltops. Outside linebacker Riley Keating led Saskatoon with 6.5 total tackles.
    Hodinsky led the Huskies with 7.5 total tackles and one sack. Mitchel Phillips and Nahome Giorgis had interceptions for the Edmonton, while Carter Carlson had a sack.
    The Huskies finished the 2019 campaign with a 7-3 overall record.
    Sargeant was pleased to see his side gut Sunday’s game out.
    “We didn’t play great at all, but we won,” said Sargeant. “That is all we ask for.
    “I can’t wait to coach another week and get this thing figured out and do a better job. At the end of the day, look at the guts. Look at the pride.
    “They weren’t going to be denied today. That was simple.”
Brant Morrow (#22) has fun with the Hilltops DB group post-game.
    With the win, the Hilltops improved their overall winning streak to 29 games and their CJFL record winning streak in the post-season to 18 games.
    They advance to play in a CJFL semifinal contest against the Ontario Football Conference champion London Beefeaters, who are 8-2 overall, in London, Ont., this coming Saturday. The Beefeaters claimed the OFC final 28-20 on Sunday night against the Windsor AKO Fratmen in Windsor, Ont.
    “It is exciting you know being on the plane with the boys and having a good time,” said Abrook. “I’m sure Ontario is going to get ready for us.
    “They’re going to be a tough match for us, and hopefully, we can go in there and get the win.”

“Sarge” equals McCrystal with 208 career wins

Hilltops HC Tom Sargeant, centre, picked up his 208th career win.
    Saskatoon Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant hit a milestone with his team’s 30-14 victory over the Edmonton Huskies on Sunday in the PFC final.
    That win was Sargeant’s 208th career victory between the CJFL’s regular season and post-season. With that victory, Sargeant equaled retired Regina Rams head coach Frank McCrystal for the most wins in Canadian amateur football in the post-secondary ranks.
    Sargeant became the Hilltops head coach in 1998, and he has compiled a 208-30-2 career record between the CJFL’s regular season and playoffs. He has a 155-21-2 record in the regular season and a 53-9 mark in the post-season.
    The Hilltops have won 12 CJFL titles with Sargeant guiding the team as head coach. That includes winning the last five straight CJFL championships and eight of the last nine CJFL titles.
HC Frank McCrystal on the Rams sidelines in 2000.
    McCrystal was the head coach of the Rams from 1984 to 2014, and they played 15 seasons in the CJFL and 16 campaigns in U Sports over that time as the University of Regina Rams. Over those 31 seasons, McCrystal compiled a 208-104-2 record as head coach in the regular season and post-season in both the CJFL and U Sports.
    In the CJFL, McCrystal posted a 104-17-1 record in the regular season and a 37-8 record in the post-season as the Rams head coach. The Rams won seven CJFL titles under McCrystal’s guidance in 1986, 1987, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997 and 1998.
    In U Sports, McCrystal posted a 60-67-1 record in the regular season and a 7-12 record in the post-season as the Rams head coach. The Rams made the U Sports title game – the Vanier Cup – once under McCrystal’s watch falling 42-39 in the 2000 Vanier Cup to the U of Ottawa Gee Gees.

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Saturday, 26 October 2019

Huskies lock up home playoff game, Machart breaks team season rushing record

Adam Machart broke the Huskies record for rushing yards in a season.
    Even in the face of a major individual team record being broken, the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team’s focus was on the task at hand.
    On Saturday at Griffiths Stadium, the Huskies overcame an 8-0 first quarter deficit against the visiting University of Alberta Golden Bears, led 9-8 at halftime and cruised to a 22-9 victory in a U Sports regular season game played before 1,105 spectators in frigid conditions.
    The win allowed the Huskies to improve to 5-3 and finish second in the Canada West Conference, while the Golden Bears fell to 4-4 to place third.
    That means the Huskies, who are rated seventh in the U Sports Top 10 rankings, will host a Canada West semifinal playoff game against the Golden Bears expected to be held this coming Saturday at Griffiths at a time to be announced.
    The Huskies pulled out victory in the most recent encounter between to the two sides due to the fact star running back Adam Machart ran the ball 29 times for 226 yards.
Adam Machart ran for 226 yards in the Huskies win on Saturday.
    He had three catches for 46 yards in the receiving game too.
    Machart’s performance was the third best rushing game in the history of the program eclipsing the 219 yards he ran for in a 49-21 victory over the University of Manitoba Bisons on Oct. 4.
    He set a new Huskies record for most yards rushing in one regular season by an individual carrying the ball 156 times for 1,330 yards scoring eight touchdowns in the process.
    The old record was held by Doug Rozon, who ran for 1,267 yards on 151 carries and scored five touchdowns in the 1999 campaign.
    The former number two spot was occupied by David Stevens, who ran for 1,229 yards on 174 carried and scored 12 touchdowns in 2005.
Adam Machart carried the ball 156 times for 1,330 yards this season.
    “It is incredible,” said Machart. “You look at Doug Rozon’s numbers, and they were incredible.
    “A guy like David Stevens is just a powerhouse guy. Dave is a mentor of mine, and he has been really great to me coming up. I’ve known him for a long time, so to pass him is a huge honour.”
    When Machart was 15-years-old, he began working out at Ignite Conditioning, which is now know as Ignite Athletics. Stevens was one of the company’s founders and was still more heavily involved with training athletes there until family obligations and work as a firefighter pulled him in a different direction.
The Huskies starting offensive line helped Adam Machart set his record.
    Machart said working with Stevens was an eye-opening experience with him.
    “He (Stevens) is a guy you look up to,” said Machart, who is now 22-years-old. “He’s got that energy you know that work ethic that a young kid can learn a lot from.
    “I’ve been with him for a long time, and yeah, it is pretty cool.”
    Machart officially broke Rozon’s record on a 43-yard run late in the third quarter, but he didn’t know about what he had done until way later in the game.
    “I think it was the fourth quarter I kind heard some guys whispering,” said Machart. “No one was trying to tell me anything.
    “I didn’t know until actually later in the game. Obviously, I talked to a couple of people after the fourth quarter, and they let me know. It was pretty cool.
Adam Machart ran for eight majors on the ground this season.
    “I think they were trying to like save it for like after the game to celebrate a little bit.”
    Due to focusing on trying to capture a home playoff game, Huskies head coach Scott Flory said where Machart was in relation to the Huskies regular season rushing record slipped his mind until the final outcome in the contest was less in doubt.
    “I actually asked in the fourth quarter,” said Flory. “I asked upstairs right at the end of the game.
    “(Running backs) coach Dan Houle told me it was 229 or something like that. I was like, ‘Woo, OK.’ You know what, that is what he (Machart) has done with us all year.
    “He has made us right. He is just kind of, ‘Oh wow.’ He is phenomenal young man, and he is a phenomenal football player.”
    Flory played on the Huskies offensive line from 1994 to 1998 and blocked for Rozon and another Huskies great at the running back position in Morrie Norsten. The now Huskies sideline boss was pleased to see Machart hit such lofty statistical heights.
    “I’m just so happy and so proud of Adam (Machart),” said Flory. “He is just such an awesome young man.
The Huskies defence limited the Golden Bears to 38 yards rushing.
    “You just want success for guys like that. He works so hard, (and) he does all the right things. I’m just happy for him, and he absolutely deserves it.
    “There are some great running backs that have been through this program. For him (Machart) to do what he did this year is remarkable.”
    Machart’s run at the Huskies rushing record obviously caught the attention of the Huskies who play on the defensive side of the ball. Fifth-year defensive tackle Evan Machibroda was pleased to see Machart get the record.
    “We couldn’t be more happy for the guy,” said Machibroda, who had five total tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery on Saturday. “He’s deserved everything he has got.
Mason Nyhus threw for 226 yards for the Huskies.
    “You have to give that credit to the O-line too. They are busting their butt out there too.”
    Machart gave props to his offensive line for allowing him to get the Huskies rushing record for the season. The starters on the offensive line including left tackle Noah Zerr, left guard Mattland Riley, centre Connor Berglof, right guard Tanner Secord, right tackle Nick Summach and frequent substitute Andrew Serke blocked for most of the yardage Machart piled up.
    “Obviously our O-line, you have to thank those guys,” said Machart, who has caught 20 passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns this season. “They are warriors, and they make it happen.
    “They are humble guys, and they like to give me credit. You look at the holes I am running through, I’m breaking tackles on linebackers and DBs not on 250-pound D-lineman, so that is huge.”
    As for Saturday’s game itself, it got off to an uncertain start for the Huskies. Kicker David Solie had a 30-yard field goal taken off the scoreboard in the first quarter due to a procedure penalty against his side.
Huskies DT Evan Machibroda pressures Golden Bears QB Brad Launhardt.
    Solie missed a subsequent 35-yard attempt, and Golden Bears defensive back Wesley Bookland returned the missed kick 120 yards the other way for a touchdown to give the visitors a 7-0 edge.
    Golden Bears kicker Jonathan Giustini booted the ensuing kickoff into the end zone for a single point to give his side an 8-0 edge. U of A had the wind advantage in the first and third quarters, while U of S had the wind in its favour in the second and fourth quarters.
    The Huskies, with the wind at their backs, took the lead in the second quarter, took a 9-8 lead, when Solie hit field goals from 17, 38 and 12 yards out. The last made kick came on the final play of the first half.
    The Bears conceded a safety early in the third quarter to give the Huskies an 11-8 advantage.
Sam Baker, with ball, celebrates a TD catch for the Huskies.
    With 4:28 remaining in the third quarter, Huskies quarterback Mason Nyhus hit sure handed receiver Sam Baker with a one-yard touchdown toss on a third and goal gamble from the one yard-line to put the Huskies up 18-8.
    Guistini scored single on a 29-yard missed field goal at the 5:34 mark of the fourth quarter to cut the Huskies lead to 18-9.
    Solie rounded out the Huskies scoring with a 31-yard field goal with 36.6 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and followed that up with a rouge on a second attempt on the following kickoff. The first kickoff was called back due to an off-side penalty on the Huskies.
    “We wanted a home playoff game, and we got it,” said Machibroda. “I couldn’t be more happy for all the guys out there.
    “The offence played great. Machart had an unreal game. O-line had a great game.
Tanner Secord (#77) locks up on a block for the Huskies.
    “The DBs were flying around. It was just everyone was playing on fire today.”
    Nyhus completed 19-of-32 passes for 226 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Baker topped all Huskies receiver with six catches for 68 yards to go with his one score.
    Fourth-year quarterback Brad Launhardt completed 15-of-27 passes for 115 yards and one interception and ran the ball once for 16 yards. The Golden Bears were held to 38 yards rushing as team.
    Nelson Lokombo and Nathan Cherry each had single sacks for the Huskies, while Riley Pickett and Nicholas Dheilly shared a sack. Charlie Ringland hauled in an interception for the U of S.
Bookland, Anthony Hume and Donovan Burgmaier each had single sacks for the Golden Bears. Jayden Dalke had an interception for U of A.
Colton Klassen (#7) waits to great the Huskies fifth-years in pre-game.
    The Huskies suffered some huge bad news near the end of the first quarter, when star utility player Colton Klassen broke his right leg. The fracture was a gruesome one for those in the stadium to see, and KIassen was carted off and is out for the entire U Sports playoffs.
    Klassen led the Huskies with 456 receiving yards coming on 37 catches and he scored two touchdowns. He topped the Huskies in receiving for two straight seasons.
    “My heart breaks for that young man,” said Flory. “We don’t know the extent of it right now, but it doesn’t look good.
    “Again, it is not fair, and I know he wants it more for this team than anybody else. He is a huge part of it. When he went down, it eliminated a huge chunk of the game plan.”
The frigid Huskies faithful sing “Sweet Caroline.”
    The other Canada West semifinal will set the first place University of Calgary Dinos (6-2) host the fourth place University of Manitoba Bisons (4-4).
    The Golden Bears finished ahead of the Bisons in the standings due to winning the lone head-to-head regular season encounter between the two sides 29-26 on Sept. 13 in Edmonton, Alta.
    The University of Regina Rams (3-5) and the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds (2-6) finished fifth and sixth respectively in Canada West in missing the post-season.
    Flory was pleased his side will open the playoffs hosting a post-season game.
The Huskies are pumped about hosting a home playoff game.
    “It is important for us,” said Flory. “It is important for the university.
    “It is important for us not to travel and be home to the pre-game meal, the routine. I like wearing green instead of wearing white. It is important for us to be here.”

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