Thursday 28 September 2023

Hilltops chase first place, Davidsen on cusp of 1,000

Boston Davidsen is nearing 1,000 yards rushing.
The offensive linemen know the magic number for Boston Davidsen is 95.

The Saskatoon Hilltops 22-year-old star power running back is 95 yards away from hitting the 1,000 yard rushing plateau for the second consecutive year. Davidsen is also striving to record the 10th all-time individual 1,000 yard rushing season in regular season play in the history of the modern version of the Hilltops club, which began play in 1947.

In the team’s eight regular season games in 2022, Davidsen carried the ball 149 times for 1,037 yards and seven touchdowns for the ninth all-time individual 1,000 yard rushing season in the history of the Hilltops. His rushing yardage total in 2022 topped the Prairie Football Conference.

Over the Hilltops first six regular season games in 2023, Davidsen tops the PFC in carries (117), rushing yards (905) and rushing touchdowns (eight).

During early team practices this week, members of the Hilltops offensive line were talking about getting Davidsen that last 95 yards to hit the 1,000-yard plateau again. The graduate of Saskatoon’s Bishop James Mahoney High School Saints Football Team said it was special that his teammates felt that highly of him and the chase for the 1,000-yard rushing season.

“It is a very blessed position to be in to have teammates that care about me like that,” said Davidsen, who is playing out his final campaign of CJFL eligibility. “To have a team that wants this stat for me even though it is a team stat, we’re pursuing it together.

“At the end of the day, the win is more important. It is nice if we can shoot for accomplishments like this, but that 6-0 is what we’ve been going for, and we’re looking to keep adding to that and keep going for the rest of the season.”

To that end, the Hilltops have a huge outing coming up. After playing three straight games on the road, the Hilltops (6-0) host their provincial rivals the Regina Thunder (5-1) in a CJFL regular season contest on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. The clash is a battle between the two top teams in the PFC.

If the Hilltops win on Saturday, they will clinch first place in the PFC and lock up home field advantage through the CJFL playoffs up until the league’s championship game – the Canadian Bowl. 

Boston Davidsen has piled up 905 rushing yards this season.
The two sides met back on September 9 at Mosaic Stadium in Regina, where the Hilltops claimed a 36-6 victory. 

The Thunder need to beat the Hilltops by 31 or more points to claim the head-to-head standings tiebreaker.

The Hilltops haven’t been in the position to lock up first place in the PFC since 2019, when the team posted a 12-0 overall record and last won the CJFL title. 

Davidsen is one of five holdovers who was a rookie on that 2019 Hilltops squad and played sparingly in that campaign. He is enjoying the opportunity to play a bigger role in helping the Saskatoon side.

“It is a new experience for me to shoot for this, because when I was a rookie, I was one of the practice roster guys not playing too much,” said Davidsen. “It will be a unique experience.

“It is something that we are shooting for. We love to play at home. We think we have the best fans in Canada.

“We like that they can come out and watch our games. They fuel us.”

Of course, the Thunder are also bringing in a large number of standout players into Saturday’s clash like their star 20-year-old running back in Ryland Leichert. Leichert is also chasing the 1,000-yard rushing plateau.

Over the Thunder’s first six regular season contests, Leichert has carried the ball 114 times for 831 yards and five touchdowns. He sits second behind Davidsen in each of those statistical categories in the PFC and needs 169 yards rushing to hit the 1,000-yard mark.

On Wednesday, both Davidsen and Leichert shared PFC offensive player of the week honours for their efforts in their clubs’ respective wins this past Sunday. Davidsen carried the ball 24 times for 196 yards and two touchdowns and added two catches for 21 yards to power the Hilltops to a 40-7 victory over the Huskies in Edmonton.

Boston Davidsen wants the Hilltops keep piling up wins.
Leichert ran the ball 22 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns to allow the Thunder to stampede over the Colts in Calgary 50-14.

Tom Sargeant, who is the Hilltops legendary head coach, said his club has a lot of pride in Davidsen.

“Boston is a special player,” said Sargeant. “Last year, he sort of put the team on his back with some of his running, and he is doing the same thing this year.

“He has had a phenomenal off-season. He’s done everything right. We just trust him in all situations.

“He’s as big of a prime time player as we got. Everybody in the league knows that, but he always comes out and does his job.”

The sideline boss said his veteran running back has been businesslike and professional throughout his CJFL career.

“He (Davidsen) is not looking for a pat on the back,” said Sargeant. “He’s just a football player who knows how to play and certainly makes this football team better.

“We’re going to honour him. One of our goals is to make sure Boston (Davidsen) hits 1,000 this week. That involves the O-line, the receivers, quarterback and everybody else.

“As I said, one of the big reasons we’re 6-0 is because of Boston Davidsen.”

If both teams need to, they can take it to the air as well. Hilltops starting quarterback Trey Reider has completed 93-of-139 passes for 1,310 yards and 15 touchdowns, while throwing three interceptions. Thunder starting quarterback Carter Moberg has completed 91-of-171 passes for 1,449 yards and 13 touchdowns, while throwing eight interceptions.

On defensive, Hilltops defensive end Riece Kack leads tops the PFC with 7.5 quarterback sacks along with making two fumble recoveries and safety Dalton Urban has pulled down four interceptions and recovered one fumble. 

Boston Davidsen ran for 1,037 yards in 2022 to lead the PFC.
Thunder linebacker Stephen Smith leads the PFC with 92 defensive points collected on 41.5 total tackles, one quarterback sack, one blocked kick and one fumble recovery.

Sargeant said the Hilltops focus is always on improving and getting better, and that this week’s challenge deals with helping his players navigate through a rivalry clash. He said the games with the Thunder always give his players a good test.

“We’re very fortunate that we have Regina coming in this weekend,” said Sargeant. “They are our archrival.

“In those games, you throw out all the stats anyways. It is about who wants it more. It is going to be a real physical game, so we have to step up, show up and have a great game plan and these players need to come out and execute it.

“At the end of the day, there is lots on riding for the Thunder more than there is on us, so we know they’re going to come out guns a blazing.”

During the 2021 and 2022 campaign, the Thunder were 5-1 against the Hilltops in action that included the regular season and post-season, which included winning all three head-to-head encounters last year. 

Davidsen said the setbacks in recent years against the Thunder were in the back of the minds of the returning Hilltops players during off-season workouts, but the head-to-head record between the two clubs in 2021 and 2022 was forgotten when the 2023 campaign got going.

“It is a big rivalry when we play them,” said Davidsen, whose father, Donnie, is the Hilltops offensive line coach. “We do try to put our best foot forward.

“At the same time, we try to go into every game day with the mindset that we’re going to win. The past is in the past. If we live in the past, it is going to affect our future.

“I think that those losses did motivate us in our off-season training. This is a new season and new team. They’re a new team, and we’re look to just go out there and do whatever it takes to win.”

The Hilltops celebrate a touchdown from Boston Davidsen (#24).
NOTES – On Wednesday, Huskies defensive back Sam Kolkman was named the PFC’s defensive player of the week. Kolkman had a pair of interceptions, five solo defensive tackles and a forced fumble in his club’s loss to the Hilltops this past Sunday. Winnipeg Rifles kicker Alex Minor took honours as the PFC’s special teams player of the week making a field goal, five converts, recording a kickoff single and averaging 29.8 yards per kick on eight punts in a 39-0 win over the visiting Edmonton Wildcats this past Saturday.

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