It has been about 18 months since the Saskatoon Hilltops took the field, claiming their sixth straight national title.
Because last season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the league decided to bump back the age of eligibility to allow the fifth-year players to play a fifth year. That will make it even harder to be a member of the blue and gold as they look to make it seven straight.
“You know you got 18- and 19-year-olds playing in their first season, so there are going to be some tough decisions, it’s going to be tough to make the football team this year,” says Hilltops head coach Tom Sargeant.
“So we got to get our lens on that to make some tough decisions to get ready for the upcoming season.”
The team is back practicing but it looks a lot different. They have defence in one session, then offence in a later session with the players split into groups of eight around the field. With safe physical distancing, there is no contact, and players and coaches are all wearing masks.
But with all that said, Sargeant said there is no reason for anyone showing up out of shape.
“Hey, at the end of the day if you haven’t gotten bigger, stronger and faster, then you’re just flat-out lazy because you had plenty of time and opportunity to do those things to put yourself in the right spot to impact the coaching staff to make the football team,” he said.
Some players are even so excited to get back on the field that they are driving in from out of town for the limited practice sessions. Like fifth-year defensive back Jared Giddings.
“We farm by Humboldt so that whereof been most of the spring I guess, so I’ll be coming in every day for practice and training so. I want to do whatever I can for my last year so that’s what I have to do.”
“We’ve been away for a year,” added Tom Sargeant.
“So, son of a gun, it’s just about getting re-acquainted. Hey, we’ve missed them, they’ve missed us. It is awesome to be back!”
The Hilltops are planning and hoping to kick off their season on Aug. 8.