Friday 15 September 2023

Hilltops on to the Wildcats

Saskatoon aims to stay even keel after win over Thunder

Ben Marce returns a fumble for the Hilltops.
Tom Sargeant is facing a welcomed challenge.

The legendary head coach’s young Saskatoon Hilltops went into this practice week sporting a 4-0 record after downing their provincial rivals the Regina Thunder 36-6 at Mosaic Stadium in “The Queen City” this past Saturday. The CJFL regular season clash was the Hilltops biggest contest up to this point of the 2023 campaign, and they gave the Thunder their first setback as the Regina side fell to 3-1. The Hilltops now sit alone in first place in the Prairie Football Conference.

Sargeant was good with everyone on the team enjoying that win for the night. The aim going into the practice week was to ensure the team stayed humble and players didn’t think they had it made for the rest of the 2023 CJFL season.

The message to the team was there was still a lot to improve on. Parts of the team’s film sessions were spent going over errors that were made in the win over Regina as the Thunder still made their share of splash plays.

“We’re excited and proud of the win,” said Sargeant. “To go into Regina, that is not an easy task to do.

“To perform the way we’ve performed, I’m very appreciative of the coaches’ effort and game planning and the players’ work ethic and desire. Ultimately, we’re striving for perfection. We’re not even close to the game plans that I need us to play with and that we’ll need to play with at the end of the year.”

Noah Flaman (#85) excepts the Wildcats to play desperate.
The Hilltops next task is to smooth out the errors they made heading into their next contest this coming Sunday when they take on the Edmonton Wildcats (0-4) at 1 p.m. at Emerald Hills Regional Park in Sherwood Park, Alta. The ’Toppers romped over the Wildcats 50-2 back on August 13 at Saskatoon Minor Football Field in the regular season opener for both sides.

“We’re on to the Edmonton Wildcats,” said Sargeant. “We know that they’re 0-4, and they’re desperate.

“We have to come out and continue to build on the things we are doing.”

Hilltops third receiver Noah Flaman said his squad is aware the Wildcats are improving. His club is gearing up to be on task once again.

“They’ve gotten way better, and we saw that on film,” said Flaman. “They have a lot of talent and good players and new coaching staff, so we have to be ready for whatever they could throw out.

“They’re 0-4, so they are going to be desperate. We have to come out and be ready for whatever they’re going to throw at us.”

Going into Sunday’s game, Hilltops star power running back Boston Davidsen is putting together an outstanding final CJFL campaign. He tops the PFC with 578 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns coming on 73 carries.

Wildcats 20-year-old linebacker Kieran Harris sits tied with Thunder linebacker Kenten Effa for second in defensive points in the PFC at 46. Harris has collected his points from 20 solo defensive tackles, two defensive tackle assists, and two special teams solo tackles.

Besides worrying about offensive and defensive schemes on Sunday, Flaman said his team wants to be better in one basic department of playing tougher physically.

Boston Davidsen leads PFC with 578 yards rushing.
“Talking back about the Regina game, we felt like even though we had a good game we got pushed around a bit and our blocking on run plays wasn’t up to where we want it to be,” said Flaman. “We’re always striving to be the best we can be.

“Whether that is backs, receivers, O-line, we all feel like we have to be better as a unit, and we will.”

Sargeant said the big focus for his team this week will be blocking and tackling. He said those were two areas his club had a drop off in the win over the Thunder.

“We need to see improvement,” said Sargeant. “I need to see improvement.

“It comes down to blocking and tackling. The focus this week is I need a team that is going to block and tackle better than what I saw last week.”

Hilltops End Zone Dinner set for Sept. 30

Jorgen Hus sets to snap the ball for the Roughriders in 2019.
The Saskatoon Hilltops End Zone Dinner is returning with a quartet of guest speakers.

The End Zone Dinner is slated for Saturday, September 30 in the main hall of the Gordie Howe Sports Centre building on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds. Doors for the dinner open at 4:15 p.m. and dinner follows at 5 p.m.

A ticket to the dinner also includes a ticket to that night’s CJFL regular season game between the Hilltops and Regina Thunder set for 7 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field.

The guest speakers include a pair of alumni from the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders in Al Johns and Carm Carteri along with current Roughriders players Jorgen Hus and Derrick Moncrief. Johns was a defensive tackle for the Roughriders from 1980 to 1987 and played for the Hilltops in the 1970s. Carteri played linebacker for the Roughriders in 1979, 1980 and 1985, and he had a long run as a colour analyst on Roughriders radio broadcasts that concluded following the 2016 campaign.

Hus is the Roughriders veteran long snapper and he played linebacker with the Hilltops from 2007 to 2009. He helped the Hilltops win a CJFL title in 2007 after graduating from St. Joseph High School.

Moncrief is a veteran linebacker with the Roughriders. He often comes out to Saskatoon to help coach with Saskatoon Minor Football’s Playground To Pros Camp that is held annually in April.

All proceeds from the End Zone Dinner will go towards the Saskatoon Hilltops Scholarship Fund. Tickets are $100 per single person or $725 for a table of eight. Tickets for the End Zone Dinner can be purchased by clicking right here.

’Toppers Wist player of the week, other notes

Matt Wist was named the PFC’s defensive player of the week.
Timely big players resulted in Saskatoon Hilltops middle Matt Wist getting a player of the week nod.

Wist was named the PFC’s defensive player of the week on Wednesday for his efforts in the Hilltops 36-6 over the Thunder at Mosaic Stadium in Regina this past Saturday. In helping the Hilltops improve to 4-0 on the campaign, Wist had two defensive solo tackles, one defensive tackle assist, one pass knockdown and one interception.

On the season, Wist sits in the top five in the PFC in defensive points at 44. He has collected his defensive points off of nine defensive solo tackles, 12 defensive tackle assists, one pass knockdown, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.

Calgary Colts receiver Nicholas Sirleaf was the PFC’s offensive player of the week on Wednesday. This past Sunday, Sirleaf caught 11 passes for 159 yards and one touchdown as the Colts downed the visiting Winnipeg Rifles 33-21 at Hellard Field.

Rifles linebacker Kyler Banfield took honours as the PFC’s special teams player of the week on Wednesday for his efforts in the setback this past Sunday to the Colts. Banfield blocked a kick and recovered it to go with three special teams solo tackles and one special teams tackle assist.

Banfield also recorded one solo defensive tackle, two defensive tackle assists, one quarterback sack, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in the loss to the Colts.

  • Saskatoon Hilltops 21-year-old quarterback Trey Reider tops the PFC with a 127.6 quarterback efficiency rating after four games. Reider has completed 64-of-100 passes for 953 yards and 11 touchdowns, while throwing one interception. Reider’s touchdown pass total also leads the PFC.
  • Calgary Colts 19-year-old quarterback Liam Oczkowski leads the PFC with 1,169 yards passing after four contests. On the season, Oczkowski has completed 87-of-137 passes including seven touchdown passes, while throwing two interceptions.
  • The Westshore Rebels and their ultra-talented quarterback Te Jessie lead the BCFC with a 6-0 record. Heading into the 2023 campaign, Jessie topped the CJFL’s annual Top 50 players to watch list. The St. Clair Saints lead the OFC standings with a 4-0 mark.
  • On September 9, I had new content appear on the Howe Happenings blog that supports the Gordie Howe Sports Complex. I put together a piece on the University of Saskatchewan Women’s Softball Program focusing on how important it has become to the sports scene in Saskatoon and province. The piece on the U of S Softball team can be found by clicking right here. I also put together a photo roundup that shows the summer season ending hot and the fall season starting with a roar. That post can be found by clicking right here.

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