Sunday, 29 August 2021

Last dance with Hilltops means the world to Giddings

Saskatoon surges past Colts in Calgary 35-18

Jared Giddings is pumped to be back on the field.
Jared Giddings’ last dance with the Saskatoon Hilltops has already been better than he imagined.

When the 2020 CJFL season was canceled in early August of that year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has gripped the world, Giddings wondered if his chance to play his fifth and final season with the Hilltops was gone.

On September 8, 2020, the CJFL announced players who would have been in their 22-year-old years that season would be able to play in 2021, while players who were 21-years-old in 2020 would be eligible to play through to 2022.

With that decision, Giddings was able to return to the Hilltops as a 23-year-old to play his fifth and final campaign. The Humboldt, Sask., product wasn’t going to let that opportunity pass him by.

“It means the world,” said Giddings, who also took part in the Hilltops six weeks of practice in September and October of 2020. “This program has been a big part of my life.

“Ever since high school, I’ve been here. You build bonds with these guys. I had the option to comeback with the CJFL extending eligibility.

“I just couldn’t be more thankful. I really wanted to take that opportunity to just come back and be with these guys for one more year. I made so many memories.”

On Sunday, Giddings stepped into his boundary cornerback position and helped the Hilltops down the Calgary Colts 35-18 at Shouldice Park in Calgary.

Before joining the Hilltops as a player in 2016, Giddings attended Hilltops games as his older brother, Josh, played for the team in their 2012 CJFL championship winning season and 2013.

Jared Giddings attended winter camps with the Hilltops during his high school years and earned a roster spot after attending the team’s spring camp in 2016.

Jared Giddings makes an interception at Hilltops practice.
He always cherished his time with the team helping the Hilltops win CJFL titles in his first four seasons in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. Giddings was a Prairie Football Conference all-star in 2018.

After there was no CJFL season in 2020, Giddings found he appreciated the chance to be on the team and play in the CJFL that much more. When the Hilltops took the field for their regular season opener and downed the Huskies in Edmonton 18-17, Giddings found that pre-game jitters returned.

“I was pretty nervous to be honest after a year off of football,” said Giddings, who stands 6-feet and weighs 185 pounds. “I was so excited just to be back out there.

“You never knew if it was going to happen again just because I was a little older guy. There was a little uncertainty there. I was so appreciative just to be able to step on the field.

“Just to see the atmosphere and the fans again, that was just an amazing feeling.”

Giddings is the only players on the Hilltops defensive unit who is in his fifth full season with the team.

The graduate of the nine-man Humboldt Collegiate Institute Mohawks football team is one of just three players who are in their fifth full season with the Hilltops. That short list includes a pair of offensive linemen in left tackle Mason Ochs and right tackle Jonathan Chisholm.

Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant was pumped to have Giddings back for one last season and said the defensive back’s experience is extremely valuable.

“Jared (Giddings) is a primetime player,” said Sargeant. “He is one the few all-stars we have coming back.

“He absolutely understands the game. He brings a lot of confidence and a lot of swag. He is our top lockdown cover guy.

Jared Giddings provides a steady presence on the Hilltops defence.
“In critical spots, we are putting him in those physical and aggressive spots. He seems to take advantage of it. He makes our defence a lot better, and he also brings real good leadership too.”

Sargeant said Giddings provides a calming influence to the Hilltops defensive secondary.

“He has been around here now for six years, so you look at him and you just feel good,” said Sargeant. “You feel right.

“You know he is going to do what you want him to do. You know he is going to lead the group properly. He is a pretty quiet guy, but he practices hard.

“He just makes everyone around him better, because they just have to watch his practice habits and how he conducts himself. He is a true winner and a true leader for the Hilltops.”

Giddings said the Hilltops defensive secondary has some good chemistry. He noted that fourth-year safety Brant Morrow and third-year defensive halfback Evan Mantyka were both starters in 2019.

Giddings said converted receiver Steven Gilewicz has found his groove at the field side cornerback position in his second season with the team.

“The defensive back group, it seems like we have some experience compared to the rest of the defence,” said Giddings. “Being with (Brant) Morrow and (Evan) Mantyka, we started 2019 together.

“Steveo (Gilewicz), he has been with us for a couple of years now. It felt normal out there. I feel comfortable with those guys just to be having that experience.

“I wouldn’t actually want to be with anyone else to be honest. I know what those guys are going to bring, and I know what they are going to do. We all trust each other.”

As the season marches onwards, Giddings plans to soak each day for that day. After there was no CJFL campaign in 2020, Giddings has a new appreciation of the journey through a season.

Jared Giddings has helped the Hilltops win four CJFL titles.
“Football is a grind, and sometimes coming to practice isn’t easy,” said Giddings. “Honestly, it is all just a little bit easier now.

“When we were off, you don’t know what is happening. You don’t know what is going to happen next. Every day, it is like it is a blessing.

“I don’t mind coming to practice and getting bruised up a bit and hitting some guys. It is a lot of fun. I think it brought the fun back into football for me personally.”

In the win over the Colts on Sunday, Hilltops kicker Teijon Abel-Douglas kicked a 14-yard field in the first quarter to give the visitors a 3-0 lead.

Early in the second quarter, running back Carter McLean ran the ball in from eight yards out for a major to give the Hilltops a 10-0 edge.

The Colts responded with quarterback Cole Belway hitting receiver Joel Pipke with a four-yard touchdown pass to cut the Hilltops lead to 10-7.

With less than three minutes to go in the second quarter, the Hilltops scored 18 straight points to go ahead 28-7.

The surge started with the Colts electing to concede a safety after being pinned deep in their own end. On the ensuing Saskatoon offensive drive, Hilltops quarterback Doug Fleming hit third-year receiver Presley Peterson with a 40-yard touchdown pass.

The Colts again got pinned in their own end, and Belway was sacked in the end zone by Mantyka for another safety score for Saskatoon. The Hilltops surge closed when Fleming scored a rushing touchdown with 20 seconds remaining in the half.

At the start of the third quarter, the Colts picked up a single as kicker Austin Griffiths booted the opening kickoff into the end zone. Griffiths hit a 31-yard field goal before the third quarter ended trimming the Hilltops lead to 28-11.

Jared Giddings has made big plays for the Hilltops.
On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Belway hit receiver Brendt Adams on an eight-yard touchdown toss for the Colts to further cut the Hilltops edge to 28-18.

Saskatoon dashed any hopes of a Calgary comeback when running back Jordan Tabin ran the ball in from five yards out to round out the scoring in the 35-18 victory causing the Colts to fall to 0-2.

Sunday’s contest was the physical one causing the Hilltops to make some regular substitutions. On the offensive line, Mitchel Clarke entered the game at left tackle replacing Ochs, who is a three-time all-Canadian all-star, and Jayson Kehler went in a right tackle for Chisholm.

Clarke is in his third full season with the Hilltops, while Kehler is in his fourth full season with the team.

The Hilltops return to action on Saturday, September, 11 at 7 p.m. hosting their home opener against their provincial rivals in the Regina Thunder. Both teams enter that contest with identical 2-0 records and the winner will sit alone in first place in the Prairie Football Conference.

’Toppers RB Tabin picked by NLL’s Rush

Jordan Tabin runs the ball for the Hilltops in 2019.
Saskatoon Hilltops running back Jordan Tabin is going to get the chance to crack the professional ranks in lacrosse.

During the National Lacrosse League Entry Draft that was held virtually on Saturday, Tabin was selected in the sixth round and 89th overall by his home province team in the Saskatchewan Rush, who are a league powerhouse. The Rush captured NLL titles in 2016 and 2018 playing out of the SaskTel Centre and when the franchise was still located in Edmonton, Alta., in 2015.

The 20-year-old Tabin plays defence for the Saskatchewan SWAT junior A lacrosse team.

On the football field, Tabin is playing in his third full season with the Hilltops having also suited up for the storied CJFL club in 2018 and 2019 CJFL championship seasons.

In the 2019 CJFL campaign, Tabin carried the ball seven times for 103 yards in the Hilltops eight regular season games and ran the ball six times for 81 yards scoring one touchdown in four post-season contests.

During the fourth quarter of the Hilltops 35-18 victory over the Colts in Calgary, Alta., at Shouldice Park, Tabin ran in a touchdown from five yards out in the fourth quarter.

Hilltops’ In The End Zone Dinner returns

A Scott Schultz card.
The Saskatoon Hilltops traditional In The End Zone Dinner to raise funds for the team’s scholarship program is returning this season.

The club wasn’t able to hold the fundraising dinner a year ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This year’s dinner will be held on September 11 at the Gordie Howe Sports Centre building on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds. The guest speakers will be a pair of former Saskatchewan Roughriders members in defensive lineman Scott Schultz and linebacker Mike McCullough.

Schultz, who is originally from Moose Jaw, Sask., played for the Roughriders from 2002 to 2009 and helped Saskatchewan win the 2007 Grey Cup as CFL champions.

McCullough suited up for the Roughriders for 11 seasons from 2003 to 2013 helping the team to Grey Cup wins in 2007 and 2013. The 2013 championship was won at the Roughriders historic home park in Taylor Field.

A Mike McCullough card.
Doors for the In The End Zone Dinner open at 4:15 p.m. with dinner to be served at 5:15 p.m.

Following dinner, the Hilltops will hold their home opener at 7 p.m. hosting their provincial rivals the Regina Thunder at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, which is right next to the Gordie Howe Sports Centre on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds.

Single tickets for the dinner are $100 or a table of eight can be bought for $725.

Tickets can be purchased online by clicking on a link right here.

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