Slim­mer Knit­tig has found new gear for Hill­tops

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - DAR­REN ZARY dzary@post­media.com

His days as a O -line hog­gie are well be­hind him.

A slim­mer, trim­mer Garth Knit­tig has emerged on the Saska­toon Hill­tops this sea­son.

Knit­tig — who played on both sides of the ball dur­ing his high school days — has so­lid­i­fied his spot on the de­fen­sive line.

While the fourth-year Hilltop re­mains listed as an of­fen­sive line­man on the team’s web­site, he’s be­come an anchor on the D -line dur­ing the past two sea­sons at the nose tackle po­si­tion.

“That’s my spot — no­body’s tak­ing that from me,” says Knit­tig, who is listed at 5-foot-10 and 275 pounds, but has dropped 35 pounds from last sea­son. “I just want to play with a mo­tor. If you have a mo­tor, man, you can just work through guys and it’s a lot eas­ier.”

Knit­tig is see­ing the re­sults. He’s had a hand in 27 tack­les, as well as 1.5 quar­ter­back sacks, through seven games.

“It feels bet­ter,” he says of his lighter, more con­di­tioned frame. “Even the start of the year was a lot bet­ter than most years, so it was nice to get off to a fast pace.

“If I was a lit­tle heav­ier, I might not have got that guy (from the Ed­mon­ton Huskies in the last home game), but I got him.”

Top­pers head coach Tom Sargeant is cer­tainly glad he’s got Knit­tig in the fold.

“It’s been fun to have him,” said Sargeant. “Just a good guy. I love be­ing around him. He was go­ing to be our nose guard all along, to be hon­est, and he was last year, too. He’s played that for a cou­ple of years. He’s good at get­ting down and dirty. He’s good at get­ting off the ball and get­ting off blocks. He’s a pres­ence and he’s one of our main run-stop­pers.”

Sargeant re­mem­bers when Knit­tig first came to the Hill­tops as “one of those two-way play­ers” from a nine-man high school foot­ball pro­gram in Delisle. When am op­por­tu­nity arose on the D -line, Knit­tig was quick to fill the void.

“We cer­tainly had a hole in the nose guard sce­nario,” noted Sargeant. “It’s amaz­ing how, when we put Garth there and af­ter a year of devel­op­ment, he’s just taken that role over. Once again, he’s had a phe­nom­e­nal off-sea­son. He shred­ded 20-25 pounds. In one of our games, he ended up with 1516 (de­fen­sive) points. You don’ see that very of­ten from a nose tackle., that sort of play­mak­ing from the nose po­si­tion. It’s fun to watch him play. He’s key to that de­fence.”

Knit­tig says there wasn’t too much of a big tran­si­tion from nine­man high school foot­ball to ju­nior foot­ball be­cause of the good coach­ing out in Delisle.

“They set us up right and got us go­ing in the off-sea­son and re­ally en­cour­aged us to play post-sec­ondary (foot­ball),” said Knit­tig. “A lot of good guys come out of there.”

The Hill­tops, at 7-0 and dom­i­nant this sea­son in the Cana­dian Ju­nior Foot­ball League’s Prairie Foot­ball Con­fer­ence, have a lot of good guys com­ing out of their pro­gram, too. They’re shoot­ing for a fifth straight Cana­dian Bowl cham­pi­onship.

“This team is spe­cial, man,” said Knit­tig. “We’ve got a good group of guys.”

TOP-UPS: Hill­tops run­ning back Josh Ewanchyna is the PFC player of the week for the third con­sec­u­tive week. He was a ma­jor fac­tor in the Hill­tops’ sev­enth win of the sea­son with 22 car­ries for 187 yards and three touch­downs.

KAYLE NEIS

Saska­toon Hill­tops nose tackle Garth Knit­tig has had a hand in 27 tack­les this sea­son af­ter shed­ding 35 pounds from last sea­son.

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