Sunday, 29 September 2019

Mantyka rises quickly up Hilltops ranks - Saskatoon locks up first in PFC in Edmonton

Evan Mantyka, middle, runs an interception back for the Hilltops.
    Evan Mantyka believes family linage helped link him to the Saskatoon Hilltops.
    Long before the second year defensive back joined the Canadian Junior Football League powerhouse squad, Mantyka’s grandfather, Don, was a Hilltops head coach. Don guided the Hilltops in the late 1970s and resigned following the 1980 campaign.
    In hearing stories from his grandfather, Evan Mantyka thought he would fit in quickly with the team.
    “It just seemed like a really good atmosphere around here,” said Mantyka. “My grandpa used to coach for the team, so I already had like a little bit of an idea of what it was like.
    “I came to summer camp a couple of times, and I just loved the atmosphere.”
    Mantyka turned heads last year earning honours as the team’s rookie of the year. He had his biggest highlight game on Oct. 7, 2018 posting a pair of interceptions in a 53-0 road victory over the Edmonton Wildcats.
    On Sunday, Mantyka and the Hilltops were in Edmonton again taking on the Wildcats in a much more competitive CJFL regular season contest. Saskatoon held a slim 15-10 advantage early in the third quarter before rolling to a 38-10 victory.
Evan Mantyka was the Hilltops rookie of the year in 2018.
    With the win, the Hilltops improved to 6-0 and locked up first place in the Prairie Football Conference for a seventh straight year. The Wildcats fell to 2-4 to hold fourth place and the final playoff berth in the PFC.
    Mantyka, who played high school football with Saskatoon’s Evan Hardy Collegiate Souls, said he got a good grasp of the junior game quickly due to the fact the Hilltops coaches are good teachers.
    “It was a pretty big jump at first,” said Mantyka. “The coaches are good at getting everyone adjusted pretty quick, and then it starts coming easy.”
    Working with defensive backs coach Brent Turkington, Mantyka found himself getting increased playing time as his rookie campaign moved on. He is now starting in the defensive secondary in his second season with the team.
    Mantyka said he cherished the time he got on the field.
    “It was good,” said Mantyka, who stands 5-foot-8 and weighs 160 pounds. “It was fun.
    “All that time in practice was starting to play off, when you get on the field more and play with the guys.”
    Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant said Mantyka has earned is playing time with his work in practice and in games.
    “You have to remember at the end of last year he was our rookie of the year, so we identified him as our top rookie though his performance and through his play,” said Sargeant. “He has just continued to build.
    “He has a lot of confidence. He is a motivated kid. He is hungry, and coach (Brent) Turkington has done a good job of developing him.
Evan Mantyka has build a reputation for being a playmaker.
    “He is just a natural playmaker. He has good eyes and good ball sense. What I love about him is he finishes his plays.”
    Mantyka hit the highlight reel, when the Hilltops thumped the Calgary Colts 53-6 on Sept. 22 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The 19-year-old intercepted Colts quarterback Cole Belway and returned the ball 58 yards for a touchdown.
    Besides that moment, Mantyka came up with a huge performance making 11 tackles in the Hilltops 24-22 victory over the Edmonton Huskies in the Alberta capital on Sept. 1.
    Sargeant said the team loves it when young players like Mantyka step up and make plays.
    “It is always great,” said Sargeant. “That is why we were so excited after the Calgary Colts game.
    “Our young players played unbelievable. The level didn’t drop, so the coaches are feeling good because what you see is what you want to coach. We’re seeing that.
    “As long as Evan (Mantyka) keeps doing what coach (Brent) Turkington is telling him to do, he is going to be a high end player. No one develops his football players as good as coach (Brent) Turkington, and all my coaches have that ability to keep making players get better and improve. When they think they are there and they’ve arrived, we expect more than that.”
    Looking back at helping the Hilltops win a fifth consecutive CJFL title last season, Mantyka wasn’t expecting to be named the team’s rookie of the year.
    “It was just fantastic getting recognized like that,” said Mantyka. “It makes you feel good.”
Evan Mantyka listens to a play call coming from the sidelines.
    Mantyka said he enjoyed getting into the end zone against the Colts noting it had been some time since he scored a touchdown. As the season keeps going, he wants ensure he keeps the trust of the Hilltops coaches.
    “I was just hoping to keep playing and get more playing time,” said Mantyka. “It has worked out so far, so I am just looking to keep that going.”
    When it comes to winning another CJFL title, Mantyka said he hasn’t thought that far ahead. He said he is focused on the present.
    “We just have to keep rolling through the rest of our regular season here,” said Mantyka. “We have a couple of games left, so just keep winning.”
    Against the Wildcats on Sunday at Clarke Park, the Hilltops held a 15-9 lead at halftime, and the Wildcats drove deep into the Saskatoon end early in the third quarter.
    The Hilltops defence caused the Wildcats drive to stall forcing the Edmonton side to try a short 16-yard field goal. Wildcats kicker Sebastien Fritsen missed the attempt, but the kick resulted in a single cut the Hilltops edge to 15-10.
    The Hilltops took the ball on their own 35 yard line and drove 75 yards the other way concluding with a 33-yard touchdown toss from quarterback Tyler Hermann to receiver Keegan Dicks. The point after attempt by Hilltops kicker Rylan Kleiter was blocked, but the Hilltops advantage on the scoreboard stood at 21-10.
    Saskatoon rolled off 17 points in the fourth quarter to seal the 38-10 romp.
Evan Mantyka (#15) had a big game in a win over the Edmonton Huskies.
    Hermann completed 12-of-18 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Hilltops backup quarterback Doug Fleming completed both of his pass attempts for 39 yards and one touchdown.
    Dicks topped the Hilltops with 87 yards receiving on four catches, with two of those grabs going for major scores.
    Fifth-year receiver Connor Graham made three catches for 70 yards and one touchdown for the Hilltops.
    Hilltops star power running back Ben Abrook ran the ball 22 times for 114 yards and scored one touchdown. On the season, Abrook has carried the ball 162 times for 908 yards and five touchdowns.
    Kleiter hit field goals from 42, 32 and 21 yards out and caught three passes for 51 yards for the Hilltops.
    The Hilltops received two points, when the Wildcats conceded a safety in the second quarter.
    Dante Tabacu completed 17-of-27 passes for 222 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Wildcats.
    Veteran receiver Lucas Howe caught six passes for 108 yards and one touchdown for the Wildcats. Wildcats running back Ramone English topped his side in rushing with 74 yards on 19 carries.
    The Wildcats received two points, when the Hilltops conceded a safety in the first quarter.
    On defence, Hilltops defensive end Tristan Hering had 6.5 total tackles and one sack. Linebacker Jadyn Pingue had an interception.
    Wildcats linebacker Chopper Hippe had 10.5 total tackles.
Evan Mantyka (#15) and the Hilltops aim to enjoy more big plays.
    The Hilltops ran their overall winning streak including action in the CJFL regular season and playoffs to 25 games and their road winning streak to 27 games. The road winning streak includes three victories in the CJFL title game – the Canadian Bowl.
    Due to locking up first in the PFC, the Hilltops could potential host home games every Sunday during the month of October.
    The Hilltops return to action this coming Sunday when they host the Winnipeg Rifles (1-5) at 1 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.

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