Langley Rams, Saskatoon Hilltops set to battle for Canada's top junior football prize
It is just another football game.
That is the mentality Langley Rams coach Jeff Alamolhoda is instilling in his players as they gear up for the 2012 Canadian Bowl.
“They have to stay focused on the goal of winning a football game,” the second-year coach said.
“It is not to win a national championship, it is not to have all the hype around you, it is just about winning another football game which has a lot at stake.”
The Rams, the B.C. Football Conference champions, host the Prairie Football Conference champion Saskatoon Hilltops in the Canadian Bowl on Saturday (Nov. 10, 1 p.m. at McLeod Athletic Park).
The Hilltops also happen to be the two-time defending Canadian champions.
“We can’t get wrapped up in ‘it’s the national championship game’,” warned Alamolhoda.
“At the end of the day, the reality for us is we have a really good opponent coming into our house to play us.
“The stakes are definitely higher, but we just need to execute and play that football game like we have played every other game this year, with the sense of urgency and the physical play that we come with.”
The Rams face a formidable foe in the Hilltops, who like Langley, were the second-place finishers in their league during the regular season before capturing the conference crown.
“They are a team that has shown they can be one of the best in the country, year after year,” Alamolhoda said
“We have worked real hard to put ourselves in this position,” said the Hilltops’ Tom Sargeant, the team’s head coach for the past 15 years. He has been involved on the coaching staff for 26 years.
The team has won 15 national championships, including six in the last 11 years.
“A lot of my coaches have been around for the championships, so it is nothing new for us,” he said.
“We are programmed to get to these opportunities and it is up to the players to take advantage of them.”
Sargeant said it is a bit of an unknown facing Langley.
“But after watching game tape, we know just how explosive they are,” he said.
The Rams boasted the league’s top defence, which is sure to be tested by the Hilltops ground game.
“We have established a pretty good identity over the last month that we run the ball really well,” Sargeant said.
In Saskatoon’s 37-0 victory over the Regina Thunder in the title game, the Hilltops running backs combined for 309 yards on 43 carries for four touchdowns.
With the BCFC hosting the Canadian Bowl — the three Canadian junior leagues rotate on a yearly basis who hosts with the other two playing in the Jostens Cup, a national semifinal — Saskatoon defeated the Ontario Football Conference champion London Beefeaters 51-7 for the right to come west.
And against London, the running backs rushed for another 256 yards and a pair of scores.
The Rams offence is equally adept at running and throwing the ball.
The ground game is led by the duo of Kyle Albertini and Daniel Xavier, while quarterback Greg Bowcott also has weapons on the outside in receivers Malcolm Williams and Nick Downey.
Downey is also the top kick returner in Canadian junior football history.
Alamolhoda said his team needs to stay balanced mentally.
“It is going to take (keeping) our emotions in check,” he said. “Stay calm and keep or minds about us so that we can execute the way that we need to execute.”
He added that his players are well aware of the magnitude of the game.
“They understand the significance, but for some of the younger guys on the team, they might not understand that is really hard to get back to this spot,” Alamolhoda said.
“What they have to understand and get a grasp on is that these opportunities don’t happen every day; it is a once in a lifetime opportunity.”