Sunday 24 September 2023

Urban arrives as Hilltops newest star on defence

Safety gets two picks to help Saskatoon go 6-0

Dalton Urban, right, has enjoyed making big plays this season.
Dalton Urban might lead the way when it comes to being the publicist for his teammates on defence.

Going into the 2023 CJFL campaign, the 20-year-old took over the starting safety spot on the Saskatoon Hilltops defensive unit from standout Evan Mantyka, who graduated at the conclusion of the 2022 campaign. Urban has made highlight plays with takeaways and hits, but he adds the rest of the defensive unit, especially the team’s front seven, have made patrolling the secondary an absolute joy.

“It has been fun,” said Urban. “When the front seven is able to get pressure on the quarterback, it makes our job easier on the back end.

“I’ve been able to make plays and then celebrate as a team. It is always good. We’re always trying to get everybody to the ball.

“When it is thrown up or there is a ball on the ground, it is just important to get on it and make a play.”

On Sunday at Jasper Place Bowl in Edmonton taking on the Huskies, the host side opened the game’s scoring with an early touchdown to take a 7-0 lead on the visiting Hilltops. With the Huskies still holding their 7-0 edge, Urban came up with an interception.

Following that play, the Hilltops went on to score 40 unanswered points to take the CJFL regular season contest 40-7. The win allowed the Hilltops to improve to 6-0 and officially lock up the right to open the CJFL playoffs at home hosting a Prairie Football Conference semifinal contest. Saskatoon can’t finish lower than second in the PFC standings.

The Huskies fell to 3-3 with the setback to sit third in the PFC.

With the Hilltops holding a 30-7 lead in the third quarter, Urban came up with his second interception of the contest. Urban has four interceptions on the campaign and returned a fumble 61 yards for a touchdown in the Hilltops 49-0 win over the Rifles in Winnipeg on August 20. The graduate of Saskatoon’s St. Joseph High School Guardians Football Team has also made a handful of big hits.

“To see his growth from day one to what he is today, he is a complete football player,” said legendary Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant. “He is smart out there.

“He puts himself in great spots. He reads the defensive sets and formations well, and he knows how to arrive. He’s made some big hits and big interceptions.

Dalton Urban has four interceptions this season.
“He has just got a real knack for getting around the ball, and when he is there, you notice him, because he is an impactful player.”

When Urban played for the Guardians, he said his main focus was being an offensive player.

“I actually played quarterback for most of my high school career,” said Urban, who stands 6-feet and weighs 180 pounds. “I backed up Trey Reider in high school, and I played a little receiver.

“I didn’t get much experience on defence until I came here, so it is good to know both sides of the ball. It has given me some helpful knowledge as I play defence now.”

On joining the Hilltops in 2021, Urban figured he was likely going to have to find a new position, if he was going to get on the field and help the team. That started to get the wheels in motion that saw Urban become a safety.

“I just wanted to put myself in a position to be able to make the team,” said Urban, who is in his third season with the Hilltops. “I talked with (Hilltops offensive coordinator) Shane Reider early on about just finding a spot on the team.

“I liked the DB that I did play in high school. I had lots of fun doing it, so then I just felt it was best for me. Ever since then, it has been my favourite position.”

After moving over to defence, Urban found he really hit it off with Hilltops defensive backs coach Brent Turkington, who was a star defensive back in the Hilltops 1985 CJFL championship team. Urban said Turkington has been one of his biggest influences in helping him out in the game.

“He (Turkington) has been super helpful,” said Urban. “I couldn’t say enough good things about him.

“He (Turkington) brings the passion every single day, which helps us just give our all every single day and makes us better. His coaching technique, he always has something or he is getting better, so that is our main goal. He is able to help us do that.”

Urban said he loves the physical aspect and the hitting part of football, so switching to defence has been a natural fit for him.

Dalton Urban has returned a fumble 61 yards for a TD this season.
“I’d say physicality is always good,” said Urban. “Being able to tackle, and then, just being able to celebrate as a team, it is a good team sport.

“There is always bonding in the locker room, and then it is just exciting to make plays.”

When it comes to how much better Urban can get when it comes to playing the game, Sargeant believes his young safety can make his way to some lofty spots in the sport.

“At the end of the day, the sky is the limit,” said Sargeant. “We’re going to get through this year.

“You always look what are some positions at the next level like the (CFL’s) Saskatchewan Roughriders are looking for. They are always looking for players in certain areas, and safety is one of them. Dalton (Urban) has a long ways to go, but he has the work ethic, the drive and desire from what we’ve seen.

“As I said, we’re just looking to him to keep playing at the level he’s playing at, because he’s starting to turn heads around the PFC.”

When it comes to the notion of potentially playing in the professional ranks one day, Urban said he isn’t looking that far ahead.

“I’m just taking it one season at a time right now,” said Urban. “When I was in high school, my goal was just to play post-secondary football.

“Now that I have this opportunity, I’m just going to run with it. In three years so far, I’ve had so much fun. I’m just going to keep playing and take it year by year.”

In Sunday’s clash with the Huskies, the Hilltops got their first two points on a safety to cut the Huskies lead to 7-2. Early in the second quarter, the Hilltops jumped ahead 9-7 thanks to a rushing touchdown from Charles Sawi.

Receiver Drake Douglas followed with a touchdown catch and star power running back Boston Davidsen put up a rushing touchdown to give the Hilltops a 23-7 advantage at halftime. In the second half, Davidsen added a second rushing touchdown, Douglas made a second touchdown catch and Teijon Abel-Douglas booted a 35-yard field goal to round out the game’s scoring.

The Hilltops return to action this coming Saturday when they host their provincial rivals the Regina Thunder (5-1) at 7 p.m. at Saskatoon Minor Football Field. 

Dalton Urban (#17) and the Hilltops have been pumped up for games.
If the Hilltops win that contest, they will lock up first place in the PFC and home field advantage through the CJFL playoffs until the Canadian Bowl, which is the circuit’s championship game.

Urban said his Hilltops have had the success they have had so far this season, because they’ve been able to stay in the moment and take things day by day. He said everyone on the team has to keep up that approach as the season moves on.

“I think that is the way you have to look at it,” said Urban. “You just try to come out to practice every single day and try to find something that you can get better at and be able to compete with the other teammates on the field.

“I think that is what has helped us so far, and that will continue to help us, if we keep up that competition.”

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.

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