Hilltops win defensive tilt to claim their sixth straight Canadian Bowl

The Saskatoon Hilltops have made it six national championships in a row.

The Hilltops squeaked out an 11-6 defensive thriller against the Langley Rams Saturday in Langley, B.C., to win the 2019 Canadian Bowl.

"It just showed the type of team we were, just the toughness, the grit, anything's necessary — these guys found a way," Tom Sargeant, head coach of the Hilltops, said, adding that the team had no quit in them.

The Hilltops got most of their points off the toe of kicker Rylan Kleiter who nailed three field goals. The Hilltops' other two points came from a Rams safety. 

The Hilltops had fought their way to an 8-0 lead in the fourth quarter before the Rams Max Joseph scored a rushing touchdown to make it 8-6.

The key play of the game came when Hilltops punter John Brown recovered his own short punt and the Hilltops then marched the ball to the Rams' 24 yard line.

Sergeant said he thought about gambling on third down in an effort to make it a two-score game but the defence was playing great and Sargeant had a lot of confidence in Kleiter.

Photo courtesy Saskatoon Hilltops

Kleiter hit his third field goal of the game in the fourth quarter to make it 11-6. The Hilltops' defence hung on the rest of the way.

"I knew once I put him out there that he was going to be gold and he was," Sargeant said of the kicker. "He's a leader, an impact player and he's a great kid to coach."

Saturday's Canadian Junior Football final was a rematch of last year where the Hilltops crushed the Rams 58-21.

This game would be much closer as neither team could mount much offence in rainy conditions.

Running back Ben Abrook provided most of the Hilltops offence rushing for 130 yards on 27 carries. Saskatoon quarterback Tyler Hermann passed for 96 yards and had one interception.

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But while the offence sputtered, the Hilltops defence was almost impenetrable.

"Defensively they were just so locked in," Sargeant said. "And you know (defensive coaches Jeff) Yausie, (Brent) Turkington and  (Dave) Fisher did a phenomenal job getting these boys to understand their roles and do what they needed to do."

That was especially evident on the Rams last gasp drive at the end of the game, which ended with an incomplete pass in the Hilltops end of the field.

"Number one the crowd was just electric and so there was a lot of energy and lots of passion," he said. "The offensive guys had trouble hearing the cadence it was that loud. 

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"And when you saw that ball hit the ground (incomplete on third down for the Rams) the reality was that we had just won six in a row which still, you know, doesn't make sense to me," Sargeant said.

"I won't forget this for a long long time just because of how hard we had to battle and you know how tough it was and how good the Langley Rams were."

Tristan Hering recorded 2.5 sacks and forced a fumble in being named the Defensive Player of the Game. Fifth-year Hilltop linebacker Jadyn Pingue, who is the CJFL Defensive Player of the Year, led the team with six tackles and recovered a fumble.  

Both teams came into the game undefeated with the Hilltops riding a 30-game win streak that dates back to 2017.

The Hilltops have now won nine of the last 10 Canadian Bowls.