Sunday 15 October 2023

Hilltops crush Colts 53-2

Saskatoon to host PFC final versus rival Thunder

Hilltops DB Jace Mowles breaks up a Colts pass attempt.
The Saskatoon Hilltops defence looks ready to build off its historic run in the regular season.

The ’Toppers offence appears intent on giving the defence lots of breathing room in case there is any error. That combination spelled doom for the Calgary Colts.

On Sunday playing before 886 spectators at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, the Hilltops crushed the Colts 53-2 in a PFC semifinal contest. The Hilltops ran their overall record to 9-0 on the campaign, while the Colts, who had the second high scoring offence in the PFC during the regular season, finished out with a 3-6 overall mark.

With the win, the Hilltops advance in the CJFL playoffs to host their provincial rivals the Regina Thunder, who are 7-2 overall, in the PFC final this coming Sunday at 1 p.m. at SMF Field. Thunder rallied past the Edmonton Huskies 20-17 in the other PFC semifinal played on Sunday at Leibel Field in Regina. The Huskies finish with a 4-5 overall mark.

Wade Keating returns an interception 26 yards for a touchdown.
During their eight regular season games, the Hilltops allowed 51 total points against, which is the lowest total for the club dating back to 1949 when Canadian Football Hall of Fame defensive lineman Ron Atchison played for the storied squad. Saskatoon was also plus-25 in the takeaway-giveaway department, which was tops in the PFC.

Against the Colts on Sunday, the Hilltops played to form.

The Hilltops defence held the high-powered Colts offence to 91 yards rushing and 149 yards passing. Saskatoon intercepted the ball seven times and forced Calgary to turn the ball over on downs on three occasions. The Hilltops turned the ball over only once on a fumble.

To start the contest, the Hilltops kicked off to allow the defence to set the tone. That first series ended with Colts quarterback Caine Harrison being picked off by Hilltops rising star safety Dalton Urban.

Wade Keating, right, reacts to scoring on a pick six.
From that point, the Hilltops rolled off 27 straight points to lead 27-0 with 24 of those points coming off turnovers.

“What they’ve been doing all year is what they did today,” said legendary Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant. “They are just on board.

“They’re a special group. That is why we made sure we kicked the ball off to get them on the field and let them set the tone. They certainly did that today.

“Then the offence got their legs underneath them. We’re just flowing and going. Everyone was feeling good, and the plays were the plays. The players made the plays today. It was fun to watch.”

Matt Wist had eight total tackles and an interception for the Hilltops.
Following Urban’s opening series interception, the Colts defence was able to rally and hold the Hilltops to connecting on a 19-yard field goal from kicker Teijon Abel-Douglas, which gave the hosts a 3-0 lead.

Just before 11 minutes had expired in the first quarter, the Colts had to fall on the ball due to a bad punt snap resulting in a turnover on downs. The Hilltops concluded the ensuing offensive series with a one-yard touchdown run from star power running back Boston Davidsen to lead 10-0.

On the final play of the first quarter, Abel-Douglas connected on a field goal from 46 yards out to put the Hilltops lead out to 13-0.

Dalton Urban runs back a first quarter interception.
At the 5:55 mark of the second quarter, Hilltops outside linebacker Wade Keating, who is playing out his final season of CJFL eligibility, intercepted Harrison and ran it back 26 yards for a touchdown to push the host side’s lead out to 20-0.

“That was the first one in CJFL history for me in my fifth year, so that is pretty awesome,” said Keating about his pick six. “You know what? I had some good blocks to get it to the end zone too.”

Right before he made his pick six, Keating said he heard Sargeant calling that it was going to the veteran’s turn to make a big play.

“I heard the big man saying it,” said Keating. “He was calling it out that it was coming to me and just to be ready.

The Hilltops celebrate a second interception from Jace Mowles (#23).
“It came to me, and I was ready.”

Shortly after Keating’s score, the Colts turned the ball over in downs again after having to jump on a loose ball from another bad long snap on a punting situation.

On the ensuing offensive series, Hilltops starting quarterback Trey Reider hit third-year receiver Noah Flaman with a six-yard touchdown pass to give the hosts a huge 27-0 lead.

Before the second quarter ended, the Hilltops had to concede a safety due to bad field position to allow the Colts to get on the scoreboard trimming Saskatoon’s lead to 27-2. A short time later, Colts kicker James Keane was wide on a 44-yard field goal attempt, but Hilltops big play sophomore running back Charles Sawi ran the ball out of the end zone to allow the Hilltops to hold a 27-2 advantage at halftime.

Boston Davidsen ran the ball for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
Sargeant chuckled at the notion the Hilltops defence has gotten to the point of not wanting to give any points and any time.

“It is a stingy group (and) a gritty group that has come so far in a short period of time,” said Sargeant. “There are a lot of new starters out there.

“They’ve embraced their roles. They’ve embraced their jobs. As I said, the coaches put them in good spots.

“It is awesome how they react. I don’t know how many interceptions we had today, but that ball wasn’t going where they (the Colts) wanted it to go. It was exactly where our players needed to be.”

The Hilltops got the third quarter out to an explosive start with a 56-yard touchdown run by Sawi on an outside running play at the 2:08 mark of the frame. That score gave Saskatoon a 34-2 advantage.

Charles Sawi (#18) ran for 127 yards and a TD for the Hilltops.
A short time later, Davidsen scored on another one-yard plunge giving the Hilltops a 41-2 lead.

Hilltops rookie safety Zaden Taylor proceeded to make another interception for the host side. That turned into a single point from a 47-yard missed field goal by Abel-Douglas to inch the Hilltops huge lead to 42-2.

Following that score, the Hilltops pulled Reider out of the contest to allow backup Brexton Elias to get reps the rest of the way.

Right before the third quarter ended, Hilltops third-year cornerback Jace Mowles made his first of two interceptions in the contest. The ensuing offensive series went into the fourth quarter and concluded with a 23-yard field goal by Abel-Douglas to push the Hilltops lead to 45-2.

Xavier Sabo caught five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown.
At the 7:14 mark of the fourth quarter, Elias hit rookie running back Xavier Sabo with a swing pass, and Sabo took the reception 78 yards for the Hilltops final major score putting their lead up to 52-2.

With 68 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, Abel-Douglas round out the game’s scoring with a rouge off a 31-yard coffin corner punt attempt that went out of bounds one-yard in the end zone to finalize the 53-2 final outcome in Saskatoon’s favour.

Mowles recorded a sack and a pass knock down to go with his two interceptions. He said it felt good to hold the Colts to two points.

“Our defence is really good, and we want to set the tone for the game for the whole offence,” said Mowles. “We just want to do good and set the tone.”

Part of the 886 spectators who came to SMF Field on Sunday.
Offensively, the Hilltops had a big game on the ground piling up 310 yards rushing as a team.

Davidsen topped the Hilltops in rushing with 23 carries for 132 yards to go with his two rushing touchdowns. Sawi ran the ball 12 times for 127 yards to go with his major score.

Reider had more of a quiet day completing 8-of-11 passes for 65 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions. He ran the ball twice for 11 yards. Elias hit on 6-of-9 passes for 103 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

Sabo caught five passes for 101 yards and ran the ball once for 17 yards.

The Hilltop Cheerleaders perform at halftime on Sunday.
Harrison completed 12-of-23 passes for 127 yards for the Colts, while throwing six interceptions. Receiver Nicholas Sirleaf finished the contest playing quarterback in relief for the Colts in the fourth quarter completing 2-of-6 passes for 22 yards, while throwing one interception.

Hilltops star 22-year-old middle linebacker Matt Wist had a big game recording eight total tackles, an interception and a pass knockdown. Defensive back Joe Yausie had an interception for Saskatoon.

Middle linebacker Shamus Harrison had eight solo defensive tackles and a fumble recovery for the Colts.

Joe Yausie (#9) secures an interception for the Hilltops.
“We have a lot of respect for Calgary, but these guys were on point today,” said Sargeant. “They defended their home turf.

“Everything that was in front of us we knew what they did. It was fun to watch today. The players had a lot of fun.

“The coaches had a lot of fun. It was a great team win.”

Now, the Hilltops will play the PFC final at home for the first time since 2019, when they won their last CJFL championship posting a 12-0 record in that campaign. Keating was a rookie on that squad and is looking forward to playing in a home conference championship game in his final CJFL campaign.

The Hilltops mark their PFC semifinal victory over the Colts.
“It is a game changer,” said Keating. “You have all the family and friends supporting.

“The atmosphere will be great. It will be a great one.”

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