Hill­tops say­ing good­bye to 10 se­niors

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - DAR­REN ZARY dzary@post­media.com Twit­ter.com/@DZfromtheSP

The Saska­toon Hill­tops ac­com­plished what they set out to do in 2017.

They’re now set to pay a heavy price, as ex­pected, with the grad­u­a­tion of 10 se­nior play­ers fol­low­ing their fourth straight Cana­dian Bowl cham­pi­onship, a 56-11 vic­tory over the Wind­sor AKO Frat­men in Wind­sor, Ont., this past week­end.

The Hill­tops bid farewell to six play­ers on of­fence and four on de­fence. Those are some big holes to fill next year.

Set­ting a new Cana­dian Ju­nior Foot­ball League record with a fourth straight Cana­dian Bowl ti­tle is well worth the price of a mission.

“We had a mission,” said Hill­tops head coach Tom Sargeant.

“We talked about it, but, in the mid­dle of the year, we didn’t talk much about it af­ter that (29-26) loss to Regina (back on Sept. 9). It was all about im­prov­ing and get­ting bet­ter. This team just kept a real unique fo­cus about them­selves — just great lead­er­ship by the fifth-year play­ers.”

The grad­u­at­ing class in­cludes linebacker Cam Sch­nit­zler, de­fen­sive end Tom Sch­nit­zler, de­fen­sive back Luke Mel­nyk and safety James Vause from the de­fen­sive side of the ball.

“Cam and Tom have been ter­rific role mod­els, great lead­ers,” said Sargeant. “They’re the rea­son we had fan­tas­tic de­fence in the PFC. Then you move back to Luke Mel­nyk and James Vause, guys who have played a lot of games and a lot of big games.

“Those four guys on de­fence have been ex­cep­tional.”

Tom Sch­nit­zler recorded five tack­les, a quar­ter­back sack, fum­ble re­cov­ery and a touch­down re­cep­tion as the un­her­alded star in Satur­day’s Cana­dian Bowl. Cam Sch­nit­zler was cred­ited with an in­ter­cep­tion. Mel­nyk, who had a pair of picks for the Hill­tops, was named the de­fen­sive MVP.

The team’s of­fence will lose of­fen­sive line­man Jack Slo­boda, re­ceivers Ryan Tur­ple and Sam Mike, plus run­ning backs Colin Stum­borg, Lo­gan Fis­cher and Liam Murphy.

“Com­ing in and mov­ing from guard to cen­tre has re­ally helped (Slo­boda) be a part of the so­lu­tion to mak­ing us run the ball bet­ter,” Sargeant said. “And then Ryan Tur­ple and Sam Mike had two ex­cel­lent years at re­ceiver. They’re just great guys to coach who make us bet­ter.

“Then you lose a set of run­ning backs. Colin Stum­borg — how good has he been the last month? He’s been mas­sive. He’s just a phe­nom­e­nal kid. I love coach­ing Colin. He’s one of my favourites.

“Then you have Lo­gan Fis­cher, who has been as much of a prime­time player in Hill­tops his­tory as any­body. And then you have Liam Murphy. He’s worked hard to re­cover from a knee in­jury, got him­self healthy and got him­self back.

“We love the core of fifth-year play­ers. They put us in a great spot to be suc­cess­ful.”

Fis­cher had 14 car­ries for 46 yards and a touch­down along with three catches for 83 yards.

Tur­ple added three catches for 38 yards and two touch­downs. Mike, a CJFL all-Cana­dian in 2016, added one catch for 21 yards.

FILES

Saska­toon Hill­tops run­ning back Lo­gan Fis­cher is one of 10 se­niors leav­ing the pro­gram af­ter help­ing the Hill­tops cap­ture four con­sec­u­tive Cana­dian Bowl cham­pi­onships, the fourth in a con­vinc­ing 56-11 win in Wind­sor.

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