Head Coach Tom Sargeant called the performance an example of “competitive greatness, being at your best when your best is needed.” Sergeant said an outstanding coaching staff guided the team’s steady improvement which peaked at the Canadian Bowl.
“We weren’t great at times, but we got great, everyone bought in, understood their roles and did their jobs,” said Sergeant who added players rose to the challenge every time they faced adversity.
“It’s the Hilltop way, get the job done, we don’t care about accolades, we just want to get the job done, in true fashion they did it, they put their egos in their back pockets and played Hilltop football, that is the reason we are able to call ourselves four-time national champions.”
The Hilltops road to a 20th national title included a come behind win in the final regular season game that clinched first place against the Huskies in Edmonton and an immediate rally after falling behind briefly in the second quarter of the PFC final against Regina. Sergeant said the team found a way to win.
“This team just had a resiliency and a character about it that was so unique and for them to be the first team ever to win four (straight), they’re very deserving.”
The Hilltops climbed the final hurdle to the historic fourth straight Canadian championship after two previous attempts since 2004 fell short. So how about a “drive for five”?
“I really like this team next year,” said Sergeant but the sideline general for the Hilltops over the past 20 years isn’t ready to look ahead to 2018 just yet.
“They learned a lot of lessons this year and they’ve got a chance to be good again, but we’re just going to celebrate and enjoy this with our fifth year players, going to take some time off, it’s been a long year, you know as you get older you appreciate it more, but it also grinds on you a little bit more, we’re just going to sit back and enjoy it, this has been a year to remember.”
Saturday’s Canadian Bowl defensive player of the game Luke Melnyk summed up the feeling amongst the ten fifth-year players who ended their Hilltops careers with a fourth straight national championship.
“There is no other feeling (like it) in the world,” said Melnyk.