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?
The Saskatoon Hilltops have won their 23rd national championship in 2023 defeating the Westshore Rebels 17-10 in a rain drenched game.
Due to the weather, it made the offences one dimensional as the passing games were slowed.
There wasn’t much scoring in the first half as both teams were trying to figure the other one out plus deal with the driving rain. The Hilltops finally opened the scoring in the second quarter when quarterback Trey Reider connected on a 35-yard touchdown strike to Noah Flaman. That would be the only scoring of the first half.
As the teams came out for the second half, the rain had eased off and on the opening kick-off Cairo Berry sprinted through a big hole and returned it 81-yards for a touchdown to light a fire under his team and the tremendous crowd that were in the stands.
Two possessions later the Rebels defence again held the Hilltops offence and forced them to punt. On the return, Berry was hit hard and fumbled and the Hilltops recovered. They worked the ball down to the four-yard line and on a third down play Boston Davidsen punch it in to give the Hilltops the lead once again.
In the fourth quarter the teams didn’t generate much, again with the rain coming down even harder and their defences settled in. The Hilltops extended their lead with a 40-yard field goal from Teijon Abel-Douglas before the Rebels answered with a 30-yard field goal of their own from Gio Linuzzi.
Defensively the Hilltops created seven turnovers and frustrated the CJFL Outstanding Offensive Player of the Year, quarterback Te Jessie. He threw a pair of interceptions and didn’t get his offence into the endzone. He completed 23 passes for 221 yards, most of those in the second half desperately trying to get his team down the field.
Linebacker Matt Wist had a marvelous game intercepting three passes, making nine solo tackles, recovered a fumble, and had four assisted stops. He was named the Defensive Player of the Game. Wade Keating was also good with eight tackles and Noah Gedir had five.
On the offensive side Davidsen became the focal point in the rain. He rushed 25 times for 157 yards and had the touchdown and was named the Offensive Player of the Game. Reider finished with 12 completions for 172 yards and the touchdown pass to Flaman.
The CJFL would like to congratulate Tom Sargeant, his coaching staff, and everyone involved in the Hilltops organization on their 23rd national championship. The CJFL would also like to thank the Rebels for hosting the Canadian Bowl festivities this weekend and on a great season.
See you in 2024!
Saskatoon Hilltops @ Westshore Rebels – Saturday November 11, 3:00pm PST – Starlight Stadium | WATCH HERE
For the third time in Canadian Bowl history the Hilltops and Rebels meet in the CJFL national final and first time since 2016.
The BC Conference champion Rebels host the Canadian Bowl like they did in 2016 after finishing with the franchise’s first undefeated 10-0 regular season. They breezed through the BC Conference playoffs beating the Langley Rams and defending national champion Okanagan Sun, interestingly enough the Rams and the Sun are the last two Canadian Bowl champs.
Their offence has been the best across the country averaging over 58-points a game with two of their players setting a new CJFL records. Two-time CJFL Outstanding Offensive Player of the Year quarterback Te Jessie set a new single season record with 41 touchdown passes, while receiver Cairo Berry hauled in a record setting 18 touchdown receptions.
While their offence gathered the headlines, their defence was the stingiest allowing 11-points a game and with a tremendous pass rush, incredible linebackers and ballhawks in the secondary. Linebacker Demar Hohnstein leads the way with a CJFL high 56 solo tackles, along with 4.5 quarterback sacks, three knockdowns and two interceptions. Nehemiah Forde-Bowen, Cody McMahon and Gio Linuzzi also played major factors during the Rebels season and will need to step up even more in the Canadian Bowl.
The Prairie Conference champion Saskatoon Hilltops are back in the Canadian Bowl for the first time since 2019 and come with the most experienced coaching staff in the CJFL. Regardless of their roster, Tom Sargeant and his staff continue to get the most out of their players and in 2023 that is no different.
Their running attack behind a big, strong and athletic offensive line was the best in the Prairies that featured First Team All-Canadian Cody Shumanski. They were able to blow open holes for All-Canadian running back Boston Davidsen to gain 1184 yards and to give quarterback Trey Reider time to throw for a Conference high 16 touchdowns and complete 64.7% of his passes.
Overall, the offence averaged the most points in the Conference with 41.8 a game. led by Davidsen and All-Canadian receiver Drake Douglas who had 42 receptions for 591 yards and four touchdowns. Receiver Noah Flaman also had a solid season with a team high six touchdowns on 21 receptions and 422 yards.
Where their offence was solid, their defence has been simply unbeatable. They allowed just over six points a game, getting pressure on the opposition quarterback seemingly on almost every play. Their defence is fast and can swarm to the ball in a blink of an eye and are led by All-Canadians Riece Kack, Matt Wist and Johnathon Stevens. Kack in particular had a standout season leading the Conference with 7.5 sacks and was the emotional leader. As a team, they led the Conference with 41 takeaways which included 20 interceptions led by Dalton Urban’s five.
This defence will be tested on Saturday because the Rebels love to stretch the field and possess a very potent passing attack led by Jessie and his record setting 41 touchdown passes.
This has all the makings of a classic Canadian Bowl and will no doubt be very entertaining.
Head-to-Head (regular season stats)
Records: Hilltops 8-0 – Rebels 10-0
Average Points For: Hilltops 41.8 – Rebels 58.3
Average Points Allowed: Hilltops 6.3 – Rebels 11.2
Passing Leaders: Trey Reider – 108 of 167 for 1571 yards, 16 touchdowns, 64.7% completions (Hilltops) – 150 of 212 for 2453 yards, 41 touchdowns, 70.8% completions (Rebels)
Rushing Leaders: Boston Davidsen – 170 carries for 1184 yards and 9 touchdowns (Hilltops) – Gerren Hardisty – 108 carries for 1084 yards and 13 touchdowns (Rebels)
Receiving Leaders: Drake Douglas – 42 receptions for 591 yards and 4 touchdowns (Hilltops) – Kieran Poissant – 54 receptions for 849 yards and 13 touchdowns (Rebels)
Leading Tacklers: Matt Wist – 22 tackles (Hilltops) – Demar Hohnstein – 56 tackles (Rebels)