The Saskatoon Hilltops scored 31 unanswered points to erase a second-quarter deficit on their way to a 48-24 win over the Regina Thunder on a snowy Saturday night at SMF Field.
The Toppers took a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter scoring on their first possession as Tanner Rhode caught a 27-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Walls to cap a 64-yard drive after an attempted short opening kick-off by the Thunder gave Saskatoon good field position.
The Hilltops carried a 14-3 lead into the second quarter after Walls connected with Jason Price on a 24-yard touchdown strike with 11-seconds left in the opening quarter.
A safety gave the Toppers a 16-3 lead but the Thunder seized the momentum and the lead after two big plays. Offensive lineman Chad Teskey juggled and caught a five-yard touchdown pass after a double-reverse left him wide open in the end-zone with about 2:30 left in the first half. Brock Sich then connected with Saskatoon product Greg Lamb on a 97-yard pass and run touchdown to give Regina a 17-16 lead with just over a minute remaining before the break.
A superb John Brown punt that went out of bounds at the Regina six-yard line set up a safety to regain the lead and the Hilltops extended the lead to 21-17 after David Solie’s 21-yard field goal on the ensuing possession with six seconds left in the half.
Saskatoon dominated the second half which began with a 96-yard drive capped by Josh Ewanchyna’s nine-yard touchdown run and the Toppers kept chipping away as Solie struck field goals from 11 and 24 yards while the defense set up points by virtue of third-quarter interceptions by Jared Giddings and Evan Kretzer.
Walls salted away the game on the first play of the fourth quarter with a 33-yard touchdown toss to Keegan Dicks who returned after being carted off the field late in the first half after an out of bounds collision.
Ben Abrook powered over the goal-line from one-yard out on a third-down play midway through the fourth quarter to give the Hilltops a 41-17 lead before the Thunder engineered a late scoring drive behind backup quarterback Blake Scherle who found Micheal Letts for an eight-yard touchdown with just over a minute remaining.
Head coach Tom Sergeant felt the team responded well to adversity as it’s the first time they have trailed in a game all season but told the post-game show audience on 92.9 THE BULL, he wasn’t happy with several aspects of the game including surrendering 24 points.
The four-time defending Canadian Bowl champions now get ready to host the Edmonton Huskies next Sunday in a game that will have first place implications. The opening kick-off will be at 1 p.m. with the broadcast on 92.9 THE BULL signing on at 12:30.