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Stop it Hilltops

By Blake Roberts 11/13/2017, 5:45pm PST

Another season done, and another Canadian Bowl for the Saskatoon Hilltops. And unless something very interesting happens the next few months, my last Monday Musings for a while. It’s Tuesday, so let’s call this version “Tuesday’s Thoughts”.

 

If you’ve been paying any attention at all you know this makes 4 straight and 7 of the last 8 seasons the Hilltops have come away as national champions. As dominating as the Hilltops program is, perhaps the more amazing dynamic is just how good Saskatchewan football is overall on the junior stage nationally. To really have our eyes opened, let’s go back to the 1968 season, that will allow us to look at the last 50 years of junior football. In that time, the CJFL has had three names, Canadian Amateur Football Association, Canadian National Junior Football League and finally since 1982 the Canadian Junior Football League. In that time, 3 different trophies have also been presented to the national champions, the Regina Leader Post Trophy, the Armadale Cup and todays Canadian Bowl which has been presented since the 1988 season.

In those 50 years 4 provinces have won the national championship with 6 competing in the national league for all or part of those 50 seasons. BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario have all been a part of the national league the full 50 seasons.

Manitoba has competed as either a stand-alone Manitoba Junior Football Conference, as part of the former Manitoba-Saskatchewan Conference or part of the Prairie Football Conference for 44 of the 50 seasons.

There was at least one team from Quebec competing in either its own conference or as part of Ontario from 1968 through 2013 with the lone exception being the 1985 season. The last remaining Quebec team (St. Leonard Cougars) left the CJFL to compete strictly provincially following the 2013 season. All told, Quebec has competed for a national championship 45 of the 50 seasons.

If was all clear as mud to you, here is how the provinces and cities have fared on the national stage west to east. This is where the dominance of Saskatchewan becomes a little mind boggling.

National titles by province;

  • British Columbia-6
    • VI Raiders 3
    • Okanagan Sun 2
    • Renfrew Trojans 1
  • Alberta-6
    • Edmonton Huskies 2
    • Edmonton Wildcats 2
    • Calgary Colts 2
  • Saskatchewan-32
    • Saskatoon Hilltops 17
    • Regina Rams 14
    • Regina Thunder 1
  • Manitoba-0
  • Ontario-6
    • Ottawa Sooners 4
    • Hamilton Hurricane 1
    • Windsor AKO Fratmen 1
  • Quebec-0

 

Full credit to the Saskatoon Hilltops, Windsor AKO President Mike Morencie perhaps insulted the club at the Banquet of Champions dinner Friday night when he referred to them as the New England Patriots of the CJFL, Brady and company could only hope to dominate the NFL the way the Hilltops do the CJFL. Still, it’s clear that football in Saskatchewan is just miles ahead of the rest of the country as the numbers above clearly show it goes beyond what the Hilltops have accomplished. Its staggering to think that the Regina Rams captured 14 national titles in just 30 seasons.

Oh well, the one thing those of us outside of Saskatchewan can say is when we win a Canadian Bowl we enjoy it to its fullest. Many watching the Hilltops on field celebrations Saturday remarked that the players almost seemed bored by the whole thing.

Hard to be excited about something that has seemingly become your divine right.

 

A competition committee meets at the CJFL annual general meetings and occasionally throughout the season to assist conferences and teams sharing ideas for recruiting, fundraising, and ultimately how to compete for a national championship. At the end of the day, this is largely born out of the Saskatchewan dominance, because let’s be honest it’s not healthy for one program to be winning all the time.

The problem is teams in Ontario talking football with the Hilltops is apples and oranges, the football climate is complete different.  As good as the Hilltops coaches may be, if they were air-lifted into a BCFC or OFC city they would be in utter shock at the lack of players and facilities available to them. High school players in Saskatoon dream of playing for the Hilltops, in Ontario they don’t really know the teams there even exist. The competition for players is entirely different due to the number of junior teams and universities both Canadian and American heavily recruiting in the area. Ultimately, what works in Saskatoon has no relevance in the OFC, a made in Ontario plan is what’s needed there to make the most of what’s available to them. They will always be a few steps behind (we all will) but closing the gap is possible to at least make upsetting the Hilltops in November less of a long shot.

Yes, Hilltops…we are sick of you. But take that as a compliment.

 

Quebec football is strong at the university level. And I know they have the CEGEP league there to compete with as high school works different in that province, but it’s time to get Quebec back in the CJFL.

How can there not be the desire to compete for a national championship and the ability to field a strong conference or at least a team or two if the football there is so good? Provincial junior football? Really?

Time to step back to the plate Quebec

 

Enough about CJFL history, let’s look at questions each BCFC team is facing, at least to those outside those locker rooms.

  • Westshore Rebels

Was 2016 an aberration or can the the club regain the conference title it lost this season?

The building blocks are there and head coach Charly Cardilicchia is his vocal self as he is taking full advantage of his trip to Ontario for the Canadian Bowl as conference rep for coach of the year. He has been recruiting hard there, and if you follow him on social media you will see he is not being shy about it. I know Charly has some “haters” as the term goes for his brashness, but how can you not admire a coach willing to lay it out there so to speak?

 

  • VI Raiders

Do they adjust their recruiting tactics due to the coaching change in Langley?

The Raiders had a lot of lower mainland talent on its roster the past couple seasons. This was likely a combination of its own efforts in the area but also due to the Langley Rams not working as hard in its back yard as it should have been, according to some observers at least. The Raiders have always been successful recruiting on the prairies so if they back off the Vancouver area due to the geographical advantage the Rams have it likely isn’t that big a deal to them. Will be interesting to see where their rookies come from in 2018 though.

 

  • Langley Rams

Are the Rams instantly the team to beat in the BCFC with the arrival of Matt “Snoop” Blokker on the scene?

Blokker was hugely successful with the backing of VI Raiders President Hadi Abassi in leading that club to three Canadian Bowls. Rams President Dana Matheson is a savvy businessman as well and hungry to bring a championship to Langley. Is the 2017 4th place club the team to beat in 2018? The Rams have the largest local pool of high school and midget to draw from, so the tools are there.

 

  • Valley Huskers

Do 2017’s loveable losers take a step to respectability in 2018?

Hard to believe an 0-10 club could be a feel-good story, but that was the situation this past season in Chilliwack. Perhaps it’s too soon to talk play-offs but head coach Bob Reist will be expected to have his club accomplishing more than playing with pride next season.

He will be the first to tell you that.

 

  • Okanagan Sun

Does head coach Ben Macauley return for his third season?

No reason to believe Macauley won’t be back in 2018, but this is the Okanagan where head coaching changes seem a semi-annual event. Come to think of it, recently it is with 5 coaches in the last 9 seasons.

The Sun by all accounts want Macauley back, but on more than one occasion he mentioned in the media about the rigours of coaching and having a young family. With the Sun’s BCFC competitors all essentially confirmed with their leaders in place, the Sun will want to do the same soon if they haven’t already.

 

  • Kamloops Broncos

Does the club buy shares in CN?

Does the railway exist anymore? I’m not sure come to think of it, but if it does the Broncos are likely to be a customer next season as they will be wanting to haul freight in the form of offensive linemen next year. The club was solid in most areas and have two of the most exciting players in the conference eligible to return in quarterback Colby Henkel and running back Maximillian Joseph.

The biggest issue the Broncos had was opening lanes for Joseph and protecting Henkel as they were held to under 100 yards rushing 6 times and Henkel was sacked a staggering 43 times in 2017.

 

That’s it for 2017…

We are always looking for topics, drop us a line at dieterknowsfootballathotmail.com

This column is for opinion purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the British Columbia Football Conference or its teams. 

 

 

 

 

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About the Columnist

Blake Roberts is a long time BCFC volunteer with the Okanagan Sun from 1992 through 2013. In 2016 he joined the BCFC at the conference level to work on developing and growing the brand of the British Columbia Football Conference.

The opinions he expresses are not necessarily those of the BCFC or its teams.