Thursday, 14 November 2019

Round 2 – Hilltops ready to rumble with Rams

Jadyn Pingue, left, makes a tackle in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    In a rare CJFL championship battle of unbeatens, Saskatoon Hilltops linebacker Jadyn Pingue said the Langley Rams are the real deal with their 12-0 mark.
    The battle for the Canadian Bowl and CJFL national title features the Hilltops, who are 11-0 overall, taking on the host Rams, who are 12-0 overall, on Saturday in Langley, B.C., at McLeod Stadium (3 p.m. Saskatchewan time, 92.9 The Bull).
    The last time two undefeated teams squared off for the CJFL title came back in 2006 in Nanaimo, B.C.
    In that year’s Canadian Bowl, the Edmonton Wildcats entered the title tilt sporting an 11-0 overall record, and they took on the Vancouver Island Raiders, who were 12-0 overall going into that contest. The Raiders pulled out a thrilling 27-26 victory to take the CJFL title.
    In this year’s battle of unbeatens, the Hilltops go into the game placing a number of streaks on the line. 
Ben Abrook charges upfield in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    They are the five time defending CJFL champions, have won their last 30 games overall including action in the regular season and post-season, won their last 28 games in a row on the road including action in the regular season and playoffs and have won a CJFL record 19 post season games in a row.
    The Hilltops are trying to finish with back-to-back perfect seasons. They were 11-0 last year after hammering the Rams 58-21 in the Canadian Bowl held at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    The Rams, who finished last season with a 10-4 overall record, would like to finish at 13-0 this season, which would in the process derail all the Hilltops impressive streaks.
    Pingue believes the Rams put in the work to get a lot better to try and avoid a repeat result from last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    “These guys are different,” said Pingue. “They are good.
    “They are very good. Their record speaks for itself. You can look at their scores.
    “They’ve been blowing everyone out. They’ve been doing everything that need to do in their conference to able to be in this spot. They have talent all across the board.”
Tyler Hermann (#12) throw a pass in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    Offensively, the Hilltops head into Saturday’s game led by fifth-year quarterback Tyler Hermann, who wants to complete a dream season as a first-year starter. He improved steadily throughout the 2019 campaign completing 123-of-192 passes for 1,908 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions appearing in all of his club’s eight regular season games.
    His two top receivers have been fifth-year clutch pass catcher Connor Graham and third-year playmaker Keegan Dicks.
    Graham caught 28 passes for 599 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season. Dicks hauled in 31 passes for 494 yards and four touchdowns in the regular campaign.
Duncan Little (#10) in action in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    The main cog in the Hilltops offence is star power running back Ben Abrook, who led the PFC in rushing yards in the regular season carrying the ball 199 times for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns.
    The Hilltops offence is powered by a veteran and elite starting offensive line that includes right tackle Jonathan Chisholm, right guard Taylon Elderkin, centre Patrick Arno, left guard Ryder Klisowsky and left tackle Mason Ochs.
    “We’re really excited honestly, because we definitely built up to a higher level here,” said Hermann. “The first game we had a little bit of a slow start, and we kind of had to grind through our first four games.
    “We feel it has really come together for us offensively. I think it couldn’t be a better time for us, so we’re excited to showcase what we have. We have a couple of new things in store.
Tato Ferreyro (#24) of the Rams in action in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    “It should be a fun one.”
    The biggest question regarding the Rams on offence circles around the availability of star quarterback Duncan Little. Little hasn’t played since injuring his knee in a 66-0 romp over the Valley Huskers on Oct. 5 in Chilliwack, B.C., in what was the ninth regular season game for both clubs.
    In nine games for the Rams this season, Little completed 100-of-168 passes for 1,866 yards and 20 touchdowns. Colby Peters paced the Rams at quarterback through the post-season.
    Star running back Andrew Pocrnic had a stellar year for the Rams in his final campaign of CJFL eligibility. 
    The graduate of the Marion Graham Collegiate Falcons program in the Saskatoon high school football ranks carried the ball 163 times for 1,199 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Rylan Kleiter (#7) in action in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    He had a receiving touchdown to post a total of 27 majors for the campaign.
    His rushing and total touchdown totals were new CJFL records for one regular season. The old records were held by Edmonton Wildcats running back Tristan Jones, who ran for 25 major scores and 26 total touchdowns in the 2006 CJFL campaign.
    Khalik Johnson topped the Rams in receiving with 32 catches for 569 yards and nine touchdowns.
    Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant said his side is working on being ready for whoever plays quarterback for the Rams.
    “We’re preparing for all scenarios,” said Sargeant. “At the end day, we got to play against him (Little) last year and seen him play some this year.
    “Compared to last year, they run the ball way more. Last year, they threw the ball more. They had (Jevon) Cottoy and some special players.
John Brown, right, in action in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    “I don’t think (Rams head) coach (Howie) Zaron is too concerned about who plays quarterback, because he has a bit of a different game plan and sort of matches us. We love to run the football, so our game plan is to get out there and try and run at anybody. I think they are trying to start to do that too.”
    On defence, Pingue was named the most outstanding defensive player and most outstanding linebacker for the Prairie Football Conference. 
    He collected 33.5 total tackles, one pass knockdown, one fumble recovery and one interception during the regular season.
    Defensive tackle Jesse McNabb, who is in his final campaign of CJFL eligibility, recorded 26.5 total tackles and three sacks for the Hilltops in the regular campaign.
    Third-year safety Brant Morrow collected 18.5 total tackles, three interceptions, two pass knockdowns, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in the regular season for Saskatoon.
Tristan Hering, right, makes a sack in last year’s Canadian Bowl.
    Riley Keating, who is a fifth-year weak side linebacker, topped the Hilltops with 46 total tackles in the regular season.
    Linebacker Cole Barron led the Rams with 28 tackles in the regular season.
    “We know how the result turned out last year, so we know they are going to be hungrier this time around,” said Hermann. “I think they are going to do a little bit different to kind of control the game in more of a sense.
    “We are preparing as though we are playing ourselves, and we are kind of trying to make sure that we are at our top level regardless of what they decide they want to do.”
    Sargeant is expecting his Hilltops will see an inspired effort from the Rams side.
    “They’ve made a lot of significant plays all throughout the year,” said Sargeant. “We have to be sharp, we have to ready.
    “They know what we are about now, so there will be no surprises.”

Ochs, Kleiter named CJFL all-Canadians

Mason Ochs (#73) was named a CJFL all-Canadian all-star.
    It was a familiar honour for Mason Ochs but a new one for Rylan Kleiter.
    On Thursday, the CJFL announced its all-Canadian all-stars on the offensive side of the ball as well as the place kicker on special teams. The two members of the five time defending CJFL champion Saskatoon Hilltops both picked up all-star nods.
    For the third straight year, Ochs was named an all-Canadian all-star manning the Hilltops left tackle position in each of those campaigns.
    Ochs and the Hilltops starting offensive line played a huge part in allowing star power running back Ben Abrook carry the ball 199 times for 1,215 yards and eight touchdowns in the club’s eight regular season games.
Rylan Kleiter (#7) was named CJFL all-Canadian all-star at place kicker.
    The protection by Ochs and the offensive line allowed starting quarterback Tyler Hermann to complete 123-of-192 passes for 1,908 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions in the regular campaign.
    Kleiter was named to the CJFL all-Canadian all-star team at place kicker. He connected on 18-of-22 field goal attempts for an 81.8 per cent success rate with a long of 42 yards.
    On top of the success in the field goal department, Kleiter kicked 33 conversion attempts, recorded one rouge and hauled in two touchdown receptions as a receiver to lead the Prairie Football Conference in regular season scoring with 100 points.
    The Hilltops will try to win an unprecedented sixth straight CJFL title when they face the Langley Rams on Saturday at McLeod Stadium in Langley, B.C., at the Canadian Bowl.

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