The Saskatoon Hilltops hope to make history. According to the 2017 motto, the team is "chasing 4, which has never been done before".
They have another chance to win a fourth straight Canadian Bowl title. Head Coach Tom Sargeant said on the opening night of training camp he felt they had the all the ingredients necessary for another run at the national championship.
“They’re proven winners, they’ve been around for a while, this is their team now, they’ve had such a great run last year, so we want to build on that,” said Sargeant who stressed they’ve started to pave the way toward a fourth national title which escaped them twice including in 2004 when they fell 29-10 to the Edmonton Huskies in the PFC final in their only loss of that season.
“No team ever in CJFL history has ever won four years in a row and that’s what’s right in front of us so we’re going to talk about it and we’re going to chase it.”
The Hilltops have an experienced returning core, but Sargeant pointed out there will be newcomers at key positions.
“ We’ve got some work on the offensive line, we lost three starters from last year and that’s always some heavy lifting there, but we believe we’ve got the right guys in the spots to get the work done and then there’s always some work to be done with the receiving corps,” said Sargeant who pointed out there will be another challenge.
“Hey we’ve got a new quarterback. You know, Jordan Walls, it’s time to shine, you know Jared Andreychuk was here previously, certainly got a lot of accolades and had a lot of success but you know, he had the right guy to learn from, now he’s got to take the ball, take the throttle and rock and roll, we’ve got to see what he does.”
Walls has some big cleats to fill. Andreychuk completed 124-of-200 passes through the 2016 regular season for a 62% success rate with 23 TD’s and just six interceptions. However Walls has a chance to build on a solid apprenticeship going 24-31 through the air in 2016 and his only playoff pass was a 15 yard touchdown toss.
Although training camp has just begun, Sargeant believed the solid group of returning veterans has left the coaching staff with very few decisions to make.
“For the most part we’re ready to go. I would say we’re going to make five to ten decisions, with the new clubhouse being built I’ve been told we can keep up to maybe 87-89 players and traditionally we’ve kept around 80, so if we’ve got the space, I’m from the school why wouldn’t you keep them.”
Sargeant said those decisions will sort themselves out.
“But we’ll let that play out through their energy, through their play, their character, you know, all the things our coaches are looking for, we just want to make sure we find the right ones (players) to make 2017 a special year.”
The 37-25 win over the Westshore Rebels in last November’s Canadian Bowl completed the three-peat with the first regular season game of 2017 set for Sat. Aug 12 against the Regina Thunder at Mosaic Stadium. The lone exhibition game is Thursday night in the annual alumni showdown. Opening kick-off at SMF Field is at 7 p.m
The Hilltops home opener is Sat Aug 26 against the Ottawa Sooners..