The Saskatoon Hilltops climbed the mountain and reached the summit, beating the Langley Rams 58-21 Saturday at Saskatoon Minor Football Field to win its fifth consecutive Canadian Bowl.
With the win, Saskatoon became the first Canadian junior football team to win five-straight national championships.
“I can’t remember this type of dominant season in a long, long time,” head coach Tom Sargeant said of his undefeated team. “These guys were just on point. Any scenario, any situation — they were just gold.”
The 2018 Hilltops became the fourth Hilltops team to go undefeated throughout the season en route to a national championship.
“Last night when our fifth-years talked,” Sargeant said before pausing with tears in his eyes. “I knew we were ready. Honestly, we were.”
The team is graduating eight fifth-year players. Those players will share a unique bond as teammates that don’t know what it’s like to not end the season as a champion throughout their entire junior football career.
“It’s like a movie finishing up here,” graduating receiver Adam Ewanchyna said following the game.
“The eight guys that were with me all throughout the years, just to see them and their faces — happy tears — it’s the best thing to see ever.”
Fifth-year linebacker Adam Benkic said it will be tough to come back to games as a fan and no longer be on the field, but he’ll remain a part of the Hilltops for life.
“Family, that’s all I’ve gotten from this,” he said. “During the season, it’s all just been family and brotherhood.”
Saskatoon started the game with a sack near the Rams goal line on the first play from scrimmage — forcing Langley to concede two points — and never looked back from there.
The 2-0 scoreline was extended on a one-yard plunge by running back Josh Ewanchyna to take a 9-0 lead after the first quarter.
That’s when the floodgates really opened for the 21-time national champions.
Langley was helpless as the Hilltops engineered a three-play 105-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter, capped by a Jordan Walls touchdown pass to Keegan Dicks.
A blocked field goal denied the Rams any points before a Logan Bitz interception return to the endzone gave the Hilltops a 24-0 lead.
The ensuing kickoff was returned for a field goal by the Rams with 1:11 left in the first half, but Saskatoon answered back quickly for a 31-7 lead at halftime.
Things went from bad to worse for the Rams as the Hilltops were able to convert more big plays into touchdowns and knock Rams quarterback Duncan Little out of the game on a sack at the end of the third quarter before piling on more points to open the fourth quarter.
In a fitting tribute to his fifth-year players, Sargeant sent out all the graduating players for the victory formation kneels to end the game.
“That was one of those three-in-the-morning things that comes to you,” Sargeant said.
Linebacker Cody Peters was happy to get the special attention and end his career by hugging his closest teammates on the field.
“Near the end of the game I was looking around and just taking in the moment,” Peters said. “It’s been a hell of a ride.”
Sargeant now lays claim to 12 Canadian Bowl wins since being named head coach 21 years ago, but those other seven championships didn’t matter on Saturday.
“To win five, you think that’s easy? Come on now, that’s unreal because those (players) are unreal kids.”