Saskatoon Hilltops set to defend national championship

A blocked field goal was turning point for the Saskatoon Hilltops in their PFC semifinal win over the Winnipeg Rifles on Oct. 18, 2015. The Hilltops begin their quest for a national championship three-peat when they open the 2016 season Sunday against the Rifles. File / Global News

When you’re the two-time defending national champs, the start of a new season can’t come soon enough.

Good news for the Saskatoon Hilltops, the wait is almost over.

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The Toppers begin their quest for a third-straight Canadian Bowl title this Sunday when they host the Winnipeg Rifles at SMF field.

The Hilltops and Rifles met in last year’s Prairie Football Conference (PFC) semifinal, a 49-21 win for Saskatoon.

That was a lot closer than their two regular season matchups, which the Toppers won by a combined score of 115-17.

But it’s a brand new season and both teams look a lot different.

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The Rifles have a new head coach in Geordie Wilson, while the Hilltops lost a number of talented players to graduation, so it may be premature to expect another blowout victory for the Toppers this weekend.

“I’ve got (Winnipeg) rated as one of the top in the league this year,” said Tom Sargeant, the Hilltops head coach.

“They had about 400 yards of offence in the semifinal game against a pretty good defence and we’ve lost a lot of players from that.”

Kickoff is at 1 p.m. CT.

Ryan Flaherty contributed to this story

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