Sunday, 14 October 2018

Ewanchyna hits 1,000-yard mark in Hilltops’ regular season finale

Josh Ewanchyna surpasses 1,000 rushing on this carry.
    Josh Ewanchyna obtained what seemed like the unachievable milestone.
    On Sunday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the third-year Saskatoon Hilltops running back piled up 177 yards rushing on 24 carries and scored four touchdowns as the Hilltops romped to a 48-7 victory over the Winnipeg Rifles in the CJFL regular season finale for both sides. Thanks to that effort, Ewanchyna eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark in rushing for the season.
    The graduate of Saskatoon’s Holy Cross High School Crusaders football team carried the ball 134 times for 1,007 yards and scored 14 touchdowns appearing in seven of the Hilltops eight regular season games. He missed the Toppers first regular season game with a minor injury.
    After eclipsing 1,000 yards rushing near the midway point of the fourth quarter, Ewanchyna was taken out of the game to polite applause, and he received an embrace from Hilltops receiver, former Holy Cross teammate and good friend David Solie.
    “I didn’t think it was a realistic at the start of the season,” said Ewanchyna, who stands 5-foot-10 and weighs 195 pounds. “With our O-line up front, they made it happen for me, so it was awesome.”
David Solie (#2) embraces Josh Ewanchyna.
    Having missed the Hilltops regular season opener, Ewanchyna’s odds of rushing for over 1,000 yards were long, but could be accomplished with some big outings. He made the big games happen being named the offensive player of the week three times in the Prairie Football Conference.
    With those efforts, the 20-year-old still needed to gain 170 yards rushing on Sunday to hit the 1,000 yard rushing mark. 
    After hitting that accomplishment, Ewanchyna was pumped about that development and the fact the team’s coaches let him go after that milestone.
    “It feels unreal,” said Ewanchyna, who led the PFC in rushing yards. “I expected it to happen a little sooner.
    “I wanted to get off as soon as possible. We ended up getting it. It was a great feeling.
    “My O-line stayed out there with me to help us get to that milestone. I can’t thank those guys enough for doing that, and even the coaches putting enough trust in me just to get those yards and get out of there without any injuries or anything extra done to me.”
Josh Ewanchyna ran for 177 yards and four TDs on Sunday.
    Ewanchyna became the first Hilltops running back to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season since Wayndel Lewis in 2014. Lewis was in his fifth and final season with the Hilltops in that campaign, and he carried the ball 130 times for 1063 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He was named the offensive player of the year for the CJFL in 2014.
    Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant said it isn’t easy to surpass 1,000 yards rushing in a season.
    “It is real special in the fact that he didn’t play in the first game,” said Sargeant. “He got hurt in the alumni game, so he has been battling an injury all year.
    “The look in his eye he really wanted it. It is my job as a coach when players want things you coach into it.
    “The offensive line wanted it just as bad for Josh (Ewanchyna). It is a team accomplishment. It is something that people can put on the mantle.”
    The Hilltops piled up a number of milestones with Sunday’s victory. With the win, they finish the regular season with a perfect 8-0 record having outscored the opposition 402-70 in those contests.
QB Jordan Walls (#19) surpassed 2,000 yards passing.
    In 2018, Saskatoon has trailed on the scoreboard for just a total of 81 seconds.
    Star quarterback Jordan Walls completed 15-of-20 passes for 277 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on Sunday. On the season, Walls surpassed 2,000 yards in passing completing 122-of-197 passes for 2,010 yards, 18 touchdowns and four interceptions.
    Solie, who is the Hilltops kicker, surpassed 100 points in scoring piling up 107 points coming off two touchdowns for 12 points, 16 field goals for 48 points, 46 converts worth one point and one rouge.
    Fifth-year star receiver Jason Price hauled in five passes for 123 yards. He topped the PFC in receiving yards at 709 coming off 31 catches, and he scored four touchdowns.
    On the defensive side of the ball, defensive tackle Garth Knittig had a pair of sacks on Sunday, while defensive tackle Jesse McNabb, and defensive ends Tristan Hering, Connor Guillet and Connor Delahey each had one sack.
    Knittig, who has been dubbed “the Delisle Destroyer” by Hilltops play-by-play voice Drew Wilson, has 3.5 sacks this season to go with 19 solo tackles, and he has enjoyed the fact he has made those contributions to the team.
DT Garth Knittig, left, tracks down a sack for the Hilltops on Sunday.
    “It was fun,” said Knittig. “I have to give thanks to my partner inside there Jesse (McNabb).
    “We take turns flushing each other to the quarterback. It just works out.”
    McNabb lead the Hilltops with 4.5 sacks this season.
    The Hilltops led Sunday’s game 27-0 at halftime and 48-0 by the end of the third quarter. Ewanchyna ran in touchdowns from three, 24, 16 and one yards out. Walls hit Solie with a three-yard touchdown pass, John Brown with a 14-yard touchdown toss and Rylan Kleiter with a 50-yard touchdown strike.
    The Rifles got on the board when fifth string quarterback and regular receiver Gabriel Grenier broke a run 91 yards for a touchdown with 74 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. 
Rylan Kleiter (#7) tears downfield on a 50-yard TD reception.
    Due to injuries at the quarterback position, the Rifles started Grenier and substituted defensive back Troy Wilson in a quarterback.
    Grenier completed 12-of-27 passes for 145 yards and ran the ball eight times for 118 yards including his long touchdown scamper.
    The Rifles finished fourth in the PFC with a 3-5 record.
    The Hilltops, who topped the PFC, and Rifles will go at it again in a conference semifinal playoff game this coming Sunday at SFM Field at 1 p.m.
    Also on Sunday, the Hilltops honoured fifth-year players Adam Benkic, Adam Ewanchyna, Bobby Ehman, Cody Peters, Guillet, Price, Walls and Kirk Simonsen with the team’s traditional walk out of the tunnel with their parents.
OL Kirk Simonsen (#51) walks out of the tunnel with his parents.
    In the two other PFC games on Sunday, the Regina Thunder traveled to Calgary and dumped the Colts 70-6, and the Huskies downed the Wildcats 42-17 in an all-Edmonton clash in the Alberta capital.
    The Huskies (6-2) finish second in the PFC and will host the Thunder (5-3) in the other conference semifinal this coming Sunday.
    The Wildcats (2-6) and Colts (0-8) finish out of the playoff picture at fifth and sixth in the conference respectively.
    The Hilltops are trying to win the CJFL title for an unprecedented fifth straight year and for the seventh time in the last eight years. Knittig can’t wait to start playing in the single elimination post-season games.
The Hilltops celebrate finishing the regular season 8-0.
    “It definitely amps it up a little bit,” said Knittig. “You get a little more nervous for games, but we’ve been in these situations before. We’re ready to go.”

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