Photo courtesy of Louis Christ Photography
It was another outstanding season for the Saskatoon Hilltops in 2023.
Following their Prairie Conference final loss the season before, the Hilltops came back with a vengeance in 2023 and left every opponent in their dust en route to the national championship title.
They put together one of the most impressive seasons in CJFL history with an offence that could score points and a defence that didn’t give up much. They had weapons on both sides of the ball that could take over a game at any moment.
The offence averaged over 41-points a game and was led by their All-Canadian running back Boston Davidsen. Running behind a big, talented offensive line, Davidsen rushed for 1184 yards on 170 carries good for a seven-yard average. He tallied nine touchdowns on the ground while also making four receptions. Overall as a team they rushed for 1753 yards, well above the league average of 1234.
In the Canadian Bowl, Davidsen was just as dominate galloping 158 yards in the pouring rain on 25 carries and scored a third quarter touchdown. He was named the Offensive Player of the Game.
During the regular season the play of quarterback Trey Reider gave the Hilltops much more then a one-dimensional offensive push. He completed almost 65% of his passes for 1571 yards and threw a Conference high 16 touchdowns and had a passer efficiency rating of 114.6. He completed passes to 15 different receivers during the regular season, but by far his favourite target was Drake Douglas. The veteran made 42 receptions for 591 yards and caught four touchdown passes. Noah Flaman was also an important piece of their puzzle making 21 receptions for 422 yards and had a team high six majors and had a score in the Canadian Bowl.
That’s just the offence.
Over on the defensive side, they turned in one of the most dominating performances of all-time. In eight regular season games they gave up 51 points, an eye-popping average of 6.3 points a game. Including the Canadian Bowl playoffs, the defence pitched two shut outs and three times kept a team at 2-points or under.
They were simply scary to play against. Their speed, talent and anticipation made them very difficult for an opposing offence. On average they kept teams to under 100 yards a game on the ground and under 150 yards through the air.
Unbelievably the Hilltops offence ran for more yards then their defence allowed in passing!
They forced teams on average to turn the ball over 5.1 times a game. In total they took the ball away 41 times, including 20 interceptions led by Dalton Urban’s five.
Up and down their defensive roster, players contributed. Riece Kack had 7.5 sacks in the regular season, then in the national semi-final against the St. Clair Saints, he finished with six, setting a new CJFL playoff record. Matt Wist had a team high 22 solo tackles and was incredible during the Canadian Bowl making nine tackles and had three interceptions tying a national championship record. He finished the game with 36 defensive points setting a new record and was named the Defensive Player of the Game. Oh, and he also doubled as the punter.
It was indeed a magical run for the undefeated Hilltops who looked destined to win their 23rd national title in 2023 behind the magnificent career of head coach Tom Sargeant.
Now the question is, will they go for more in 2024?