Lloydminster’s Leif Larson, #35, poses with a few of his Saskatoon Hilltops teammates shortly after they captured the 2017 CJFL championship. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Simply taking a shot at cracking the Saskatoon Hilltops lineup has led Lloydminster’s Leif Larson to back-to-back national championships.
Larson helped the Hilltops capture their record-setting fourth straight Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) title in a 56-11 win against the Windsor AKO Fratmen on Nov. 11.
The Hilltops second-year defensive back noted their play may have produced the points on the board, but it was their previous experience and win-at-all-costs mentality that got them the championship.
“First play of the game on offence, (the Fratmen) had a high snap,” said Larson, 19. “One of our defensive linemen actually recovered the ball on their one-yard line. That was just a momentum killer for their offence. It was great for us.
“It fired up our offence. It gave them confidence that they could go in there, score the easy one-yard touchdown and then we could just get rolling again. With a team like us, we’re ready to play in those big games. We knew what it took, but it was just that spark.”
The Hilltops went 7-1 during the Prairie Football Conference (PFC) regular season with their only loss coming in a 29-26 defeat to the Regina Thunder on Sept. 9. The club then downed the Winnipeg Rifles 28-21 and the Thunder 36-24 in the playoffs to secure their berth in the CJFL championship.
Larson tried out for the Hilltops in the summer of 2016 as a way to continue playing football while he attended the University of Saskatchewan for Arts and Sciences and Kinesiology studies.
The Lloydminster Comprehensive High School graduate credits the mentorship of Barons coach Aaron Harper as well as minor football coaches Justin Kelly and Rod Kirby with helping him enjoy a successful transition to the next level of football.
“Coach Harper has done an amazing job putting a great organization together not only building great football players, but great young men,” he said.
“I think that is super important because football only lasts a small part of your life and being a great person is what it’s all about. I’m just really honoured to be a part of that. The lessons they’ve taught me there will carry on for the rest of my life, so I really appreciate that.”
The self-described seek-and-destroy hitter dressed in seven regular season games for the Hilltops in his rookie season recording 24 total tackles. He notched another 12 in three playoff games on way to his first and the Hilltops third-straight national championship.
Larson picked up 22 regular season and six playoff tackles in 11 total games during the 2017 campaign. He said finishing the season by capturing a second championship is an incredible feeling, but the focus now is to win another.
“To have a winning mentality, you got to go in there and say that’s one and on to the next,” said Larson. “My coaches are already talking about winning the next championship, so we want to go out there and put together another winning team.
“That’s pretty cool, but for me it’s honestly unbelievable. I’m so thankful and honoured to be able to be a part of the Hilltops organization, playing big games like this and winning two championships in a row.”