Sunday, 20 October 2019

Kleiter delivers more big plays in playoff win for Hilltops

Saskatoon takes out Wildcats in PFC semifinal

Rylan Kleiter, right, celebrates one of his two TD catches.
    Rylan Kleiter seems to always be at the centre of timely big plays.
    The fourth-year receiver/kicker found himself in key moments for the Saskatoon Hilltops on Sunday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.
    Kleiter made a couple of important touchdown receptions on his only two catches and booted a field goal to allow the Hilltops to down a game Edmonton Wildcats side 31-7 in a PFC semifinal contest.
    The win allowed the Hilltops to advance in the CJFL playoffs to the PFC final for a 13th straight year.
    When the game ended, Kleiter said the Hilltops, who are the five time defending CJFL champions, were happy to get the first step on the post-season trail out of the way.
    “We didn’t come out how we wanted to,” said Kleiter. “We were able to battle through and figure out what they were doing to overcome and make us a little better too.”
Rylan Kleiter makes a sliding 30-yard TD catch for the Hilltops.
    The Hilltops, who improved to 9-0 overall on the campaign, will host the PFC final this coming Sunday against the Edmonton Huskies, who are 7-2 overall, at 1 p.m. at SMF Field.
    The Huskies traveled to Regina and downed the host Thunder in Sunday’s other PFC semifinal 20-17. The Thunder finished the 2019 campaign with a 6-3 overall record.
    In the PFC semifinal clash in Saskatoon, the Hilltops entered as huge favourites over the Wildcats, who finished the 2019 campaign with a 2-7 overall record.
    The two sides were meeting for the third time in four weeks, and the familiarity between the clubs was apparent.
    The Wildcats defence gave the Hilltops offence difficulties making reads and stopping a number of plays.
Rylan Kleiter makes a 16-yard TD catch for the Hilltops.
    “Any time you play a team three times in four weeks, you know what, there are a lot of things that go against you,” said Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant. “We’re real proud of the effort today, because that is as good of a defence as we’ve seen all year.
    “They’re physical. They’re aggressive. They’re well coached.
    “They put their players in good spots. Ultimately, we had to be real sharp, real physical. We’re able to do that today.”
    The Hilltops broke through on the scoreboard to go ahead 7-0 at the 6:45 mark of the first quarter, when Kleiter hauled in a 16-yard touchdown reception from fifth-year quarterback Tyler Hermann.
    The drive that resulted in Kleiter’s first quarter major was set up by a fumble recovery by Hilltops defensive back Jared Giddings.
    In the second quarter, the Hilltops extended their edge to 14-0, when star power running back Ben Abrook ran home a touchdown from a yard out.
Rylan Kleiter (#7) boots a 25-yard field goal for the Hilltops.
    The Wildcats didn’t go away. With 4:50 remaining in the second quarter, Wildcats quarterback Devin Desormeau hit receiver Tanner Holt with a three-yard touchdown strike to cut the Hilltops lead to 14-7.
    Saskatoon seemed set to extend its lead right before halftime. Wildcats defensive back Tony Savchuk made an interception in his own end zone off Hermann with 10.5 seconds remaining in the second quarter to ensure the Hilltops lead remained 14-7 at halftime.
    “They kind of had our number in the first half,” said Kleiter, who is a standout curling skip when he is not playing football. “We took advantage in the second half.”
Rylan Kleiter averaged 37.4 yards a punt for the Hilltops on Sunday.
    The Hilltops got motoring in the second half, when Kleiter made a baseball sliding grab for a 30-yard touchdown catch just 3:28 into the third quarter. That score gave the host side a 21-7 advantage.
Sargeant said Kleiter’s second touchdown reception was big in allowing the final outcome to unfold in favour of the Hilltops.
    “That was something that we had designed in there,” said Sargeant. “It was just the right situation arose.
    “He is just an outstanding football player and did a lot of high end things. We put him in some man-to-man scenarios, and he executed it.”
    Kleiter was pleased come through with a big play in that moment.
    “It felt pretty good,” said Kleiter, who stands 5-foot-9 and weighs 170 pounds. “It was a good designed play.
    “It is all the other guys around me that are making that play. They are opening me up. It was good.”
Tanner Holt (#3) makes a three-yard TD catch for the Wildcats.
    Shortly after Kleiter’s second touchdown catch, the Hilltops offence hit the field again after safely Brant Morrow recovered a Wildcats fumble. Saskatoon proceeded to turn that into Abrook’s second one-yard touchdown run of the afternoon to go ahead 28-7.
    Abrook finished the game carrying the ball 29 times for 153 yards to go with his two major scores.
    The Wildcats got deep into Saskatoon territory late in the third quarter, but Giddings snuffed out that drive with an end zone interception.
    Kleiter rounded out the game’s scoring in the fourth quarter with a 25-yard field goal.
    With punter John Brown out due to the fact he is undergoing concussion protocol, Kleiter is handling all of the team’s kicking duties along with his duties on offence. 
Ben Abrook ran for 153 yards and two TDs for the Hilltops.
    Kleiter averaged 37.4 yards per punt over eight attempts on Sunday.
    The 21-year-old doesn’t mind being relied upon in multiple situations.
    “It is fun,” said Kleiter. “I am enjoying it out there.
    “I’m always locked into the game that way. I’m just always busy.”
    Hermann completed 10-of-17 passes for 125 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for Saskatoon. Kleiter led all Hilltops pass catches with 46 yards receiving on his two grabs.
    Desormeau completed 24-of-34 passes for 200 yards, one touchdown and one interception for the Wildcats.
    Receiver Jacob Mihailides caught 11 passes for 74 yards for Edmonton. Running back Dustin Pawliuk topped the Wildcats with 89 yards rushing on 19 carries.
    Defensive back Evan Mantyka led the Hilltops with 8.5 total tackles. Defensive end Tristan Hering and defensive tackle Jesse McNabb shared a sack.
The Hilltops defence closes in on Wildcats RB Dustin Pawliuk (#22).
    Linebacker Ben Davidge topped the Wildcats with 7.5 total tackles. Defensive lineman Rory Bakehe had a big game for the visitors recording 6.5 total tackles and one sack.
    The Hilltops defence forced five turnovers, while the Wildcats defence caused one takeaway.
    With Sunday’s win in the books, the Hilltops extended their overall winning streak including action in the regular season and playoffs to 28 games and their CJFL record for most consecutive post-season wins to 17 games.
    The Hilltops now turn their attention to the Huskies. 
The Hilltops mark their victory over the Wildcats on Sunday.
    The two sides met in last year’s PFC final, where the Hilltops prevailed 28-9.
    “We’ve got a long ways to go, and we’re excited about it,” said Sargeant. “We’re at the point now you just have to live another week, and that is what we are doing.”

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