Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Good out of the gate – Derbas vaults to star status with Huskies at age 18

Ramsey Derbas has made an immediate impact with the Huskies.
    Ramsey Derbas is the first to note he wasn’t a starter right from day one for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies football team.
    The 18-year-old rookie linebacker dressed as a defensive substitute that came off the bench and a special teams player, when the Huskies fell in their U Sports regular season opener 43- 19 against the University of Manitoba Bisons in Winnipeg, Man., on Aug. 30. The graduate of Saskatoon’s powerhouse Holy Cross Crusaders football team recorded four tackles in that setback.
    Derbas started the Huskies very next game on Sept. 6, when they dumped the visiting University of British Columbia Thunderbirds 40-7 at Griffiths Stadium. He equalled fifth-year veteran Huskies outside linebacker Ben Whiting for second on the team with six total tackles in that contest.
Ramsey Derbas, right, takes down a Thunderbirds receiver.
    Derbas has remained a starter since that time, and in the Huskies eight regular season games, he topped the squad with 43 total tackles and added in a half sack and an interception.
    “It is just everything I could have asked for,” said Derbas, who stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 210 pounds. “It has been really good.
    “The players have accepted me, and the coaches have given me opportunity to play and make mistakes and learn and grow, so it has been great.”
    On Saturday, Derbas and his Huskies, who are 6-3 overall, will travel to Calgary, Alta., to face the University of Calgary Dinos, who are 7-2 overall, in the Canada West Conference championship game – the Hardy Cup. The two sides met in last year’s Hardy Cup that was also held in Calgary, which the Huskies romped to a 43-18 victory in.
Ramsey Derbas sizes up an opposing offence.
    In his first U Sports playoff game last Saturday, Derbas came through with a big play for the Huskies. He had the second of three interceptions the Huskies had on the Golden Bears first three offensive possessions to start the second half.
    The Huskies scored 10 points off those turnovers to post a 28-23 victory.
    Early in his time with the team, Derbas got a notion from the Huskies coaches that he could have a chance to gain a starting position as a rookie.
    “I knew I would have an opportunity to come in early and play,” said Derbas. “I wasn’t sure if that would be starting or how I would manage my way into playing.
    “I just knew I would be able to play and contribute.”
    He was happy the Huskies coaches had faith in how quickly he could contribute this season.
Ramsey Derbas, in back, sets to hit a U of Regina Rams receiver.
    “It is just everything I could have asked for,” said Derbas. “It has been really good.
    “The players have accepted me, and the coaches have given me opportunity to play and make mistakes and learn and grow, so it has been great.”
    Huskies head coach Scott Flory said the team’s coaching staff was still tinkering with the roster going into the team’s first game, where Derbas didn’t start. Following that first game, Flory said the coaches knew that Derbas had to be on the field playing.
    “We definitely knew he (Derbas) was a talented player that is why he was very high on our priority list to sign as a recruit,” said Flory. “I know how talented he was and how good of a young man he was.
    “When we got a glimpse there in the spring of just what he could do, we knew he could make the transition quickly, and we knew it wouldn’t be long before he was a big contributor. He has adjusted very well.”
Ramsey Derbas, left, celebrates an interception in a Canada West semi.
    Flory said Derbas has a natural feel for the game.
    “He is around the ball,” said Flory. “He has a nose for it
    “He really does. He has a knack, and football players do. He is a football player.
    “He has just got a knack to find the ball.”
    Derbas said he felt a sense of accomplishment, when the Huskies coaches told him he would be starting. He has enjoyed being in the starting linebacker group with brothers Ben and Tom Whiting, who is in his third-year with the team.
    “Obviously, Ben is a fifth-year, and he has so much knowledge,” said Derbas. “He has been great.
    “Tom is awesome. They are an awesome linebacking combo.”
    Derbas said he was able to hit the ground running with the Huskies thanks to the tutelage he received from his high school head coach in Scott Hundseth at Holy Cross. 
Ramsey Derbas led the Huskies in total tackles.
    Hundseth played for the Huskies first Vanier Cup U Sports national championship winner in 1990.
    “It (playing at Holy Cross) definitely helped a lot just with coach (Scott) Hundseth, and how he does things,” said Derbas. “He is the head coach of that program, and he was the linebacker coach.
    “He helped me out a tonne. It definitely got me prepared to take on new challenges that presented themselves here.”
    On the academic front, Derbas said he regularly maintained an 85 per cent average at Holy Cross. He is in his first year of studies as a business major at U of S and believes he has adapted well to the work required in university.
    “It is definitely an adjustment at first,” said Derbas. “(Special teams) coach (Jerry) Friesen with his study hall, he has great resources for us, so it has definitely helped the transition.”
Ramsey Derbas (#26) aims to enjoy more big plays with the Huskies.
    Of course, Derbas is hoping to make a big impact for the Huskies in the Hardy Cup.
    “I am just super excited,” said Derbas. “There are only eight teams in the country get to be practising right now, so I am just trying to enjoy the moment and do everything I need to do to be ready to play.”
    While he is focusing on the present, Derbas is anticipating hitting bigger heights in the future. He is looking forward to crushing his off-season workouts to hit the field as a sophomore even stronger and faster than he is now.
    “I am definitely eager already for the off-season,” said Derbas. “I think there are a lot of things I need to get better at for next year.
    “I am looking forward to just all that time to being able to get my body to where it needs to be.”

Hilltops sweep player awards in CJFL semifinal win

Connor Graham hit the CJFL record books in the Hilltops last playoff win.
    A lopsided win in a CJFL semifinal contest allowed the Saskatoon Hilltops to take all the individual player awards from that contest.
    Last Saturday, the Hilltops, who are the five-time defending CJFL champions, traveled to London, Ont., and hammered the host Beefeaters 51-1. The Hilltops claimed the player of the game awards on offence, defence and special teams, which the CJFL dubbed as player of the week awards for the game on Tuesday.
    Hilltops fifth-year receiver Connor Graham was named the top offensive player for hauling in four passes for 154 yards and three touchdowns. He averaged 38.5 yards per catch to set a new CJFL interconference playoff game record for highest yards per reception average.
    The old record of 36 yards per catch was held by Rick Price of the now defunct Vancouver Meralomas that was set on Oct. 21, 1973. Price had seven catches for 252 yards in that contest.
Rylan Kleiter (#7) hit three field goals in the CJFL semifinal.
    Graham equalled the record for most touchdown receptions in a CJFL interconference playoff game with his three touchdown catches. 
    The record had been achieved on five previous occasions.
    The last of those occasions came on Oct. 27, 1984, when Geoff Hainstock caught three touchdown passes for the now defunct St. Vital Mustangs, who were based in Winnipeg, Man.
    Hilltops defensive end Tristan Hering was named the top defensive player recording three sacks, three defensive tackles and one special teams tackle.
    Hilltops receiver/kicker Rylan Kleiter took honours as the top special teams player for the game. He made all three of his field goal attempts and all six of his converts in the win. Kleiter kicked off seven times for 322 yards for an average of 46 yards per kick.
    On top of his efforts on special teams, Kleiter caught a pass for 36 yards on offence.
    The Hilltops, who are 11-0 overall, will attempt to win a sixth straight CJFL title, when they travel to Langley, B.C., on Nov. 16 to take on the host Rams, who are 12-0 overall, for the Canadian Bowl.

“Sarge” cracks on to CBC with 209th win

News of Tom Sargeant’s milestone 209th win is spreading.
    The praise and congratulations seems to be raining down from everywhere for Saskatoon Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant after he recorded his 209th career win.
    Sargeant picked up the milestone last Saturday, when the Hilltops thumped the London Beefeaters 51-1 in a CJFL semifinal in London, Ont. The total of 209 wins moves Sargeant ahead of retired Regina Rams head coach Frank McCrystal for the most wins in Canada’s amateur post-secondary football ranks.
    Sargeant has a 209-30-2 career record in CJFL regular season and post-season action since becoming the Hilltops head coach before the start of the 1998 campaign.
    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.
    The Hilltops, who are 11-0 overall, will attempt to win a sixth straight CJFL title, when they travel to Langley, B.C., on Nov. 16 to take on the host Rams, who are 12-0 overall, for the Canadian Bowl.
CBC in Saskatoon picked up on the story of Sargeant’s accomplishment. I was interviewed by Jen Quesnel for CBC Saskatoon’s radio morning show on Tuesday.
    I was also interviewed for a CBC web story by Scott Larson, who has worked in Saskatoon’s media scene for a long time as a savvy sports scribe. As usual, Larson did a great job.
    Larson’s piece can be found by clicking right here.

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