September 9, 2017 was a warm day in late summer.
Earlier in the evening, under the lights at Saskatoon Minor Football Field, former Saskatoon Hilltops starting quarterback Jordan Walls threw an interception within the 10-yard line to seal a Regina Thunder victory.
That was Hilltops’ last loss in more than four years, through Saturday night.
With no time left on the clock, Thunder kicker Eric Maximuik drilled a 51-yard field goal to put his team up 16-13, giving the Hilltops their first loss in 1,463 days, a winning streak that spanned 33 games. .
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“We’re going to have to get some first downs, we’re going to have to get some points on the board, and we’re going to have to play smarter, better, harder,” assessed head coach Tom Sargeant. “We deserve to feel like we feel right now, because we don’t play well, we don’t execute well and it’s not good enough. It is not up to our standards. “
The Hilltops’ stingy defense kept them in the game throughout the night, yet they were outmatched on offense, especially in the air. Regina’s Carter Shewchuk threw for 253 yards, while Doug Fleming and Damon Dutton combined for 10 completions and 148 yards.
“Many lessons were held today that I guarantee you that we can get better and better,” said Sargeant.
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The loss was revealing for the young roster of Toppers, many of whom had not lost a game in the Canadian Junior Football League.
“It gives us a good view. When I started, we still hadn’t lost a game; this opens our eyes, “said running back Carter McLean. “So we have to take this seriously and move on.”
Veteran linebacker Brady Fossen called it his “second loss in four full seasons with the team.”
“So this is one of those things that you wish you could change, but that’s the way it is and we’ve been able to be successful down the road later in the season,” Fossen said. “We’re just going to regroup and prepare for next week.”
Next week’s showdown will provide the Hilltops with a chance to avenge a loss in the second half of a back-and-forth game with the Thunder.
“I’m ready to get the bitter taste of this loss out of my mouth, and I’m ready to get revenge on Regina,” McLean said.
The Hilltops haven’t lost two games in a season since 2015, yet both losses that season were against Regina.
“Next week is a great opportunity to not make the same mistakes, to really come forward and make a statement,” Fossen said.
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