Hilltops saying goodbye to 10 seniors
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.
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.