Saturday, 15 September 2018

Hilltops’ Ehman takes lessons to heart from long ago rookie season, Colts crushed 79-7

LB Bobby Ehman has brought intensity and leadership to the Hilltops.
    When Bobby Ehman first joined the Saskatoon Hilltops way back in 2014, he discovered he was an immediate good fit with the team.
    “The first year feels like a long time ago, but it was awesome,” said Ehman, who is a jack of all trades linebacker. “The vets were really welcoming.
    “Right away, I felt like a part of the family. I lucked out and got to travel in my first year, and that usually doesn’t happen. I just try to make the most of it.
    “I am still here.”
    On Saturday night in Calgary, Ehman had a couple of pass knockdowns as the Hilltops improved to 4-0 in the current campaign thrashing the Colts 79-7 at McMahon Stadium. The Colts fell to 0-4.
    Now in his fifth and final season with venerable Canadian Junior Football League club, Ehman said the time has flown by. The 22-year-old graduate of Saskatoon’s Aden Bowman Collegiate has watched Saskatoon Minor Football Field undergo a totally reconstruction during his time with the Hilltops, which includes playing on a field turf field, in front new stands and press boxes and getting the opportunity to dress in a new clubhouse facility at that site.
    At the Hilltops practice field, he saw the team play their final campaign last season out of their old clubhouse and play the current campaign out of a newly built state of the art clubhouse.
    Of course, Ehman has enjoyed the fact he has helped the Hilltops win the CJFL championship in every season he has been with the team. He has stockpiled memories he will carry with him for the rest of his life in those championship journeys.
    Ehman said some of the most important lessons came out of that first season back in 2014. He was mainly playing the special teams and trying to gain a handle on the Hilltops defensive system.
    On top of that, Ehman learned how to persevere and keep working hard, when things go bad. The Hilltops started out 1-2 in the regular season in that campaign having lost twice to their provincials rivals the Regina Thunder. The Thunder were the defending CJFL champions at that time.
Bobby Ehman (#48) took over as starting middle linebacker for the Hilltops.
    It was a position the Hilltops rarely ever found themselves in and everyone on the club was doing soul searching trying to figure out what type of team they were.
    Ehman recalls that Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant wasn’t really happy at that point in time. After that slow start, the Hilltops rolled of eight straight wins between the regular season and playoffs, and that run was capped by a 39-14 victory over the host Langley Rams in the CJFL championship game, the Canadian Bowl.
    “He (Sargeant) kind of set us straight,” said Ehman. “Honestly, I think that really helped us grow as a team.
    “The vets just started leading the way, and it brought us a championship that year. I kind of figured it out pretty quickly how we are supposed to play the Hilltop way. I’d say I’ve greatly improved.”
    Now as the wily old veteran, special teams captain and starting middle linebacker, Ehman has come full circle as a player and now helps the fresh faced rookies who have joined the Toppers out of high school. Ehman said he is impressed with the skill that the newcomers have.
    “It is quite a bit different,” said Ehman. “It sounds like they played a lot more football.
    “These kids are coming in pretty talented.”
    Hilltops defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Jeff Yausie said the team has benefitted greatly from the fact Ehman has a motor that doesn’t quit. Besides being an ace on special teams, Ehman has played in every spot at the linebacker position.
    He mainly played at one of the outside spots before moving into the middle this season due to the graduation of veteran star Cameron Schnitzler.
    Yausie has been pleased with Ehman’s play and continued improvement during his time with the team.
Bobby Ehman celebrates a Hilltops big play.
    “He (Ehman) has been an emotional and energy leader for our team,” said Yausie. “It is a complicated game, especially when you move up a level and you play good opponents, and sometimes players slow down.
    “He doesn’t do that. He plays faster and brings energy and brings confidence to your team. That is the reason he excels as a leader by how he plays.”
    Away from the game, Yausie said Ehman does a great job in keeping things light and loose in the team’s clubhouse.
    “Off the field, he (Ehman) is a fun guy,” said Yausie. “He is just a natural leader, because he is always cracking jokes and he just brings a relaxed atmosphere to the team.
    “We practice hard and we coach hard. Some players quiet down and shut up, but Bobby is just Bobby. He is a leader, because he has a great personality and he is a really good person.”
    Going into this season, Ehman realizes the Hilltops can accomplish something significant, if they can win a fifth straight CJFL title. He said the team has the veteran leadership that can keep things focused on the task at hand.
    “It is in the back of my mind,” said Ehman. “It can honestly become more of an obstacle than we want it to be.
    “We really just have to stay focused.  We have the vets that have been here. We know what it takes to win.
    “We have to do that before we start worrying about the championship.”
    Ehman said he would like to keep playing next season and will keep his options open. He said he thought a lot about the fact he was going into his final CJFL campaign before the regular season started.
    After the Hilltops played their first regular season game, Ehman said he has kept his thoughts in the present from that moment on and is just enjoying the final ride.
    “I really just try to take it in each day,” said Ehman. “It is going by quick.
    “Every day is just kind of a blessing to come out with the guys. I just really try to savour every moment.”
    In Saturday’s wipeout of the Colts, the Hilltops stormed out to a 36-0 lead with 4:22 to play in the first quarter. Saskatoon romped through the rest of the game to close things out.
Bobby Ehman (#48) aims to enjoy his final CJFL season.
    The Hilltop had 363 yards rushing and 234 yards passing as a team in that contest, while the Colts had 29 yards rushing and 147 yards passing.
    Running back Joshua Ewanchyna carried the ball 17 times for 155 yards and scored three touchdowns for the Hilltops. The Toppers received a big performance from running back Ben Abrook, who carried the ball 10 times for 118 yards and scored one touchdown.
    Hilltops starting quarterback Jordan Walls completed 13-of-18 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns.
    Safety Brant Morrow and defensive back Colton Holmes each had one interception for Saskatoon. Including action in the regular season and the playoffs, the Hilltops have won their last 22 straight games on the road.
    The Hilltops return to action this coming Saturday when they host the Thunder (2-2) at 7 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.

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