“I don’t even have words right now, it was awesome.”
All year long, Riece Kack established himself as one of the most feared tacklers in Canadian junior football but on Sunday he was rendered speechless standing on the turf at SMF Field.
The Saskatoon Hilltops defensive lineman put together a performance for the record books to help lead the ‘Toppers’ back to a game which they’ve been chasing all season.
That being the 2023 Canadian Bowl national title game.
“We’ve come so close the last two times and just to get over that hump and finally make it to the Canadian Bowl is just spectacular,” said Kack.
Hosting the St. Clair Saints out of Ontario on a chilly Sunday afternoon, the Hilltops dominated the Canadian Junior Football League semi-final tilt with timely offence and a tenacious defence rolling to a 43-0 shutout.
Part of that defence included a monster showing from Kack, who broke the CJFL single-game playoff record for sacks with six against the Saints.
“I played against him in high school, terrified of him, scared of him,” said Hilltops third-year receiver Noah Flaman. “Now, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with. Can’t say much else.”
Along with setting the new CJFL playoff standard, Kack was part of several big defensive plays including a handful of third-down stops and a fumble recovery.
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He said it was as strong of a defensive effort the Hilltops have shown all season, extending their undefeated streak to 11 games in the process.
“The defensive backs were locking up,” said Kack. “They gave me a lot of time to get after that quarterback. I definitely owe a few guys some beers.”
After running back Boston Davidsen dominated the Prairie Football Conference title game a week earlier, it was the aerial attack that came alive for Saskatoon against the Saints.
Quarterback Treyton Reider found the end zone three times in the opening half, racking up a 24-0 lead at the break, including a pair of touchdowns to Flaman.
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“We’ve gotten off to a couple slow starts as an offence,” said Flaman. “When your defence puts the ball in a spot like that, we got to get the job done. Today, we got it done and it feels really good.”
Drake Douglas, Charles Sawi and Brexton Elias also came through with touchdowns on the afternoon, marking the eighth time this season the Hilltops reached the 40-point plateau.
Saskatoon now sits one victory away from their 23rd national championship in franchise history, getting ready to head west to visit the British Columbia Football Conference champion Westshore Rebels.
“We got to get into film for sure and diagnose their strengths and weaknesses,” said Kack. “It’s going to be a heck of a game, I’m sure.”
The Hilltops have not played in the Canadian Bowl since 2019 when they defeated the Langley Rams 11-6, capping off a run of six consecutive national titles.
With plenty of roster turnover since that last Canadian Bowl victory, Flaman said the Hilltops are determined to get back to their championship pedigree and send off their seniors in style.
“We’re just playing for the old guys and getting our fifth-years that national championship,” said Flaman. “Working hard, do what we’ve been doing. The excitement level is through the roof, we’re going to be ready, we’re going to prepare.”
“Westshore is a great team with a bunch of good players, so we got to bring it.”
The Hilltops and Rebels will square off in the 115th annual Canadian Bowl on November 11 from Langford, British Columbia in a rematch of the 2016 CJFL championship game.
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