Toppers tangle with the Thunder in Sunday's PFC Final.
The Saskatoon Hilltops host their biggest rival in Sunday’s Prairie Football Conference championship game.
The three-time defending PFC and Canadian Bowl champions clash with the Regina Thunder in the quest to become the first CJFL team to win four consecutive national championships.
It will also be the third meeting of the season, so Hilltops head coach Tom Sergeant doesn’t expect any surprises.
“They know us inside out and we believe we know them inside out,” said Sergeant who added the keys to victory are following the game plan and having front-line players make the big plays.
“It’s going to come down to who wants it more and who doesn’t turn over the football, so if you can keep some of those things in perspective and keep the game in front of you, I think things are going to be good.”
The teams split the season series with Saskatoon winning 37-20 on opening night, Aug. 12 in Regina, while the Thunder staged a 20-point second half comeback on Sept. 9, at SMF Field to post the 29-26 upset. Both games were physical and emotional, with several rough play penalties. Sergeant said Sunday’s game should be no different
“I’m okay if my players are going to fly around, it’s easier to pull them back than push them out, so we still want to come out as high as we can and then they (the players) have got to figure it out between the lines,” said Sergeant who pointed out energy and emotion is the foundation of their game.
“We thrive on being a physical, emotional team and when we do that it seems to be that’s when we play at a high level.”
Hilltops quarterback Jordan Walls noticed the intensity ramp up in the first place showdown with the Huskies during the final regular season game in Edmonton and during last Sunday’s semifinals against Winnipeg.
“Every game is important from here on out and we know that, there is no tomorrow if you lose, so the expectation for us is the same as it’s been all year and that’s win a championship, so these games get bigger but we have to keep a level head about it.”
Walls who completed 43-of-67 passes for 622 yards in the two games against Regina said their success would depend on running the football.
“We’ve got to be able to run the ball,” said Walls. The fourth-year Tommy Douglas graduate felt the ground game is their offensive bread-and-butter.
“I think we’re successful when we run the ball and then that opens up the passing game and if both of those things go well, then we should have a chance.”
Adam Machart came off the bench in place of the injured Logan Fischer during the second half of the Mosaic Stadium match-up and ran for 110 yards and a touchdown. Machart may be called into service again if Fischer is unable to recover from the lower-body ailment he tweaked during the second half of last Sunday’s 28-21 semifinal victory over the Rifles.
Sergeant said the status of injured receivers Ryan Turple, Jason Price and Rylan Kleiter would be determined by their practice performances. All three sat out the Winnipeg game.
The Toppers have won six of the last seven Canadian Bowl titles but Regina’s 2013 national championship broke up Saskatoon’s sensational run.
Sergeant said avenging their Sept. 9 loss at home is another reason to be ready to play Sunday.
“Hey, it’s the PFC final, who would you rather play other than the Regina Thunder, I’m sure it’s vice versa, so at the end of the day it’s good for Saskatchewan football and that certainly makes me proud to be a part of this and I can’t wait to play this game come Sunday,” said Sergeant.
Opening kick-off from Saskatoon Minor Football Field is at 3 p.m. Radio coverage on 92.9 THE BULL begins at 2;30.