Sunday, 24 September 2017

Big plays make Hilltops day in romp of Rifles

Jason Price jets home on a 70-yard TD reception.
    It felt like the Saskatoon Hilltops offence could blow out the lights on the scoreboard of Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    After a bit of a slow start in Sunday’s Canadian Junior Football League clash, the Hilltops fell behind the visiting Winnipeg Rifles 7-0 and proceeded to catch fire. Rolling off a number of big plays, the Hilltops stormed out to a 45-7 lead early in the third quarter and cruised to a 52-26 victory.
    When the dust settled, the Hilltops, who are the three time defending CJFL champions, piled up 344 yards of offence through the air and 326 yards along the ground.
    The 670 yards of total offence was the highest output of the season for the Hilltops, who improved 5-1.
    Fourth year star receiver Jason Price was grinning at game’s end.
    “It is a giant confidence boost both running and passing the ball,” said Price. “It felt really good to connect with each other and play as a team.”
    The Rifles hit the scoreboard first in Sunday’s contest when quarterback Jonathan Remple hit receiver Xander Tachinski with an 11-yard touchdown pass to go up 7-0.
QB Jordan Walls throws for 321 yards for the Hilltops.
    Saskatoon responded about two minutes later when running back Logan Fischer dove into the end zone to score on a 12-yard rushing major to tie the contest up at 7-7.
    At that point, the big plays really started to pour out from the Hilltops.
    Before the first quarter ended, Hilltops quarterback Jordan Walls hit sophomore receiver John Brown on a 58-yard pass to set up a two-yard touchdown run by running back Joshua Ewanchyna to put the Hilltops up 14-7.
    Early in the second quarter, Walls found Price for a long 70-yard catch and run touchdown to give the Hilltops a 21-7 lead.
    “I haven’t had a really long run like that since probably Okanagan last year,” said Price, who was referencing a 58-2 road victory over the Okanagan Sun on Sept. 17, 2017. “It felt good.
    “I was a little tired afterwards. I realized maybe I’m maybe not as in shape as I thought I was.
    “It felt really good especially to see John Brown getting a nice long run too and Turple with a few long catches. It felt really good to connect as a team.”
    The Hilltops didn’t stop there. Ewanchyna had a Barry Sanders like 53-yard touchdown run extend the home side’s advantage to 28-7, and Fischer ran in a score from 31 yards out to give Saskatoon a 35-7 advantage.
Xander Tachinski gave the Rifles a short-lived lead.
    With 20.6 seconds to play in the second quarter, Hilltops safety/kicker James Vause booted a field goal from 34 yards out to extend the Hilltops lead to 38-7.
    The surge ended when Walls found fourth-year receiver Sam Mike for a 12-yard touchdown toss on a corner pattern to give Saskatoon a 45-7 advantage.
    “I think is just we started clicking and we started making plays,” said Price. “Once the first play happened, we just kind of rolled with that momentum and just kept it going through.
    “Everybody when they got the chance to make a play made their play.”
    Walls finished the game completing 16-of-19 passes for 321 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions before giving way to the Hilltops backups. Fischer also had a monster day running for 175 yards on 20 carries while scoring his two touchdowns before being pulled for the reserves.
    The Rifles opened the fourth quarter scoring 10 straight points off a 34-yard field goal from Matias Bueno and a 30-yard interception return for a touchdown by defensive back Andrew Ricard to cut Saskatoon’s lead to 45-17. Ricard made his interception off backup quarterback Tyler Hermann.
Logan Fischer dives in for a Hilltops touchdown.
    Ewanchyna proceeded to run a major in from 12 yards out for his third score of the day to put the Hilltops up 52-17. He ran for 73 yards on just four carries.
    Winnipeg rounded out the game’s scoring with nine straight points receiving a conceded safety from the Hilltops and Remple hitting receiver Dallas Opiola on a 21-yard scoring strike.
    Remple completed 24-of-35 passes for 316 yards and two touchdown passes for Rifles. Tachinski caught eight passes for 110 yards to lead all Winnipeg pass catchers.
    Defensively, linebacker Cody Peters and Vause led the Hilltops with eight and five defensive tackles respectively. Defensive lineman Riley Pickett came away with one sack for Saskatoon.
    Linebacker Donovan Hillary topped the Rifles with seven defensive tackles, while Ricard finished the day with two interceptions for Winnipeg.
    Price believes Sunday’s game puts the Hilltops offence in a good spot going forward.
    “It is will give us a whole lot more confidence going through the weeks,” said Price. “We know that there is still a lot to build from.
    “We are just going to have to try and improve week to week like we always do.”
The Hilltops celebrate their win over the Rifles.
    With Sunday’s win, the Hilltops sit alone in second place in the Prairie Football Conference. Also on Sunday in Edmonton, the host Huskies improved to 6-0 to remain first in the PFC by surging past the Regina Thunder 62-30.
    The Thunder sit third in the PFC at 4-2, and the Rifles are fourth at 3-3. The Calgary Colts sit fifth in the PFC at 2-4, while the Edmonton Wildcats occupy the conference’s basement at 1-5.
    The top four teams in the conference advance to the Playoffs, and the Huskies and Hilltops have post-season berths mathematically locked away with two weeks to play.
    The Hilltops return to action on Sunday, Oct. 1, when they host the Wildcats at 1 p.m. at SMF Field.

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