Category: Team News

Patriots heading to NFC Championship with win over Sarnia

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Hamilton Today

Saturday night the Steel City Patriots punched their ticket to the 2019 Northern Football Conference Championship with a big 43-0 win over the Sarnia Imperials. The Patriots, on the road in Sarnia after a regular season loss to the Imperials, were looking to get revenge for that game and a loss to Sarnia in the 2018 NFC Semi-Final.

With a large crowd of travelling SCP fans cheering them on, the Hamilton defence took no time to set the tone of the game. Forcing multiple turnovers and not allowing the Sarnia offence get into rhythm, the Patriot defence continued their playoff shutout streak. Cornerback Tyler Bistrovich led the charge with 5 interceptions and Safety Ise Savory stripped the ball from Sarnia players to the tune of 2 fumble recoveries.

The Hamilton offense was again led by QB Graham Kelly who was 16 of 24 and 305 yards passing, 1 TD and 1 INT, and a rushing TD.

Patriot kicker Adam Pallet was 3 for 3 on field goals.

In the other NFC Semi, the GTA Allstars hosted the Ottawa Sooners with GTA coming away with a 35-13 win.

Stay tuned for 2019 NFC Championship details.

Source: Sam MacBeath

Steelers blank Bulldogs

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By – Sault Star

Next stop, Stoney Creek, Ont.

Having finished the Northern Football Conference regular season with a 29-0 victory in North Bay on Saturday, the Sault Steelers must immediately shift their attention to the start of the playoffs.

Having finished with a 4-4, win-loss record, the Sault is slated to visit the 6-2 Steel City Patriots next Saturday in Stoney Creek. The Steelers were sixth in the nine-team loop while the Patriots wound up in third place.

“They’re a good passing team with a good quarterback and a couple of good receivers,” Steelers player/coach Brandon Lewis said of the Patriots. “They’re a big team and they’re on a roll.”

In fact, the Patriots have won three straight.

In order to be competitive in Round 1 of the playoffs, “we’ll have to put everything together this week in order to go down there and be successful,” Lewis added.

That means additional numbers for a Sault which dressed just 19 players in North Bay, due, Lewis explained, to both work and family commitments.

Alanzo Clarke had a big game for the winners, running for three touchdowns while Stevan Hiiemaa ran for the other.

While game statistics weren’t available on Sunday, offensive coordinator Paul Caldbick estimated Clarke’s runs covered 55, 60 and 45 yards. Hiiemaa scored on a five-yard carry. Brady Smith converted all four TDs.

“Considering we had only 19 guys, we definitely played well,” said Lewis, whose club dropped the Bulldogs to 0-8 on the season. “We were good with Alanzo and Stevan Hiiemaa in the backfield. We had some new guys on the offensive line, but I thought the offence did quite well.”

Lewis also credited the defence, noting the strong play of linebackers Ray Duplin and Justin Cond.

“They’re amazing linebackers and our defensive backs were also solid in coverage.”

Spartans stumble late, face rematch with Sooners to open playoffs

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By Ben Leeson of the The Sudbury Star

Photo Credit: Ben Leeson

Junior Labrosse woke up Sunday morning with the same two words on his mind that had been there when he walked off the James Jerome Sports Complex turf on Saturday night.

“Six minutes.”

That’s about how much time was left on the clock when, with his Sudbury Spartans leading the Ottawa Sooners 18-7, things began to unravel for the locals.

A wild sequence that began with what should have been a game-saving stand by the Sudbury defence, which included consecutive sacks on former Spartans pivot Travis Campbell, led to a missed field goal and a single for the Sooners, then a fumble and a TD for the visiting side.

Still nursing a four-point advantage, the Spartans turned the ball over yet again when first-year quarterback Adam Rocha threw an interception, also returned for a touchdown. One more turnover eventually led to another Ottawa major and a heartbreaking 28-25 defeat for Sudbury, which gave up top seed in the Northern Football Conference West Division and a favourable first-round matchup this weekend.

Instead, the Spartans, who finished the regular-season at 5-3, will again face the Sooners again on home turf, this coming Saturday at 7 p.m.

“That game slipped away in a period of six minutes,” said Labrosse, Sudbury’s head coach and offensive co-ordinator, when reached on Sunday afternoon. “And it wasn’t the fault of the defence at all. The defence played stellar, they did what they were asked to. They played out, we got an interception, we got sacks, we put pressure on. The one thing that has to be cleaned up is the chitter-chatter after, some players have to learn to shut their mouths, and not give us costly penalties, but apart from that, they played an A-1 game.”

Labrosse was just as pleased with the play of his offensive line, which has steadily improved over the course of the regular season, responding well to criticism by Labrosse early in the summer.

“They made holes when required,” Sudbury’s bench boss said. “Ottawa has a tough defence and we knew that and we prepped for it all week. We knew they’d bring the pressure, we knew they’d have a good front seven and a good secondary, that it was going to be a hard battle, but the O-line gave time for the quarterback to throw. They did what they were asked to.”

But Labrosse, who’s never too shy to call out a player on either side of the ball, said the wheels fell off on Saturday, at least in part, due to inexperience at the quarterback position and some questionable decision-making late in the contest.

Coaches wanted to keep the ball on the ground and to kill the clock, he explained, but their pivot had other ideas.

“He thought he knew better,” Labrosse said of Rocha. “He came to the sideline and coaches told him what to do, then he went out there and did what he thought. And that’s what drove me nuts.”

Knowing the young QB and serving as his coach in high school, Labrosse is hopeful he’ll take a lesson from the loss.

“A quarterback has got to learn if the defence is playing that well, you’ve got to help them out,” Labrosse said.

“The game plan should have been simple at that point. You’re up 18-7. Does it seem boring for a quarterback? Yes, because what does a quarterback want to do? He wants the touchdown passes, the glory, all of that. But No. 1, he has to be a leader and do what’s best for the team, period. If that means he’s got to stand there and hand off the ball 50 times in a game, if it’s going to cause us to win the game, that’s what a quarterback has go to do.”

Ottawa scored first, capping a grinding, back-and-forth first quarter with Bobby Massie’s reception, on a pass from Campbell, with 3:14 left in the opening frame. Sudbury responded in the second, however, when Rocha, who had narrowly missed connecting with Josh Duckett for an earlier TD, found his teammate in the end zone with 12:03 on the clock. Massimo Cimino, who had a strong game as both place-kicked and punter after some struggles against GTA the week before, added a field goal, then a single to give Sudbury an 11-7 halftime lead.

A fantastic TD catch by Nick Witzke, at the very back of the end zone, put the Spartans up 18-7 with 3:52 to go in the third. Sudbury nursed that lead until roughly the midway mark of the fourth, before the wild sequence that led to major scores by Ottawa’s Terrik Valcin, twice, and RJ Crisostomo.

The last of those meant Sudbury’s final drive, which ended on another touchdown pass to Witzke with no time remaining, wasn’t enough to change the outcome of the game, nor to prevent the Sarnia Imperials from leapfrogging into first in the West with their shutout of Tri-City.

Veteran defensive end Andrew Gillis said the result was a lesson not only for players on offence, but the entire team.

“It’s about playing a full 60-minute game,” Gillis said. “That’s all we can do and hopefully, we get better from there, we have a good week at practice and we can improve on the performance we put out today.”

While he acknowledged the frustration that follows when defensive players earn good field position, only to watch a team sputter on offence, Gillis said it’s important for the team to stick together and stay focused.

“You just have to go and do your job the whole game,” he said. “It’s hard to go back out there, but if you don’t, nobody else is going to, either. You just have to buckle up your chin strap, go at it and hope you can give the offence a few more chances with the ball and hope they can do something with it.”

If the team did have to lose on Saturday, Gillis said, he’s glad to have another crack at the Sooners.

“We know what they do on offence and we know what they do on defence,” he said. “It will be a completely different game after we look at film and have a good week of practice. It will be a different outcome, I’m sure.”

Labrosse, too, said for all their disappointment at missing the division title, it’s important the Spartans don’t forget the positives from their last performance and work to build on those.

“Any time you have a rematch with someone, it’s always a great opportunity,” Labrosse said. Now, let’s see what the guys have learned from this. You’re facing a team that has played you, so they’re going to make adjustments and we’re going to have to make adjustments, too. You might meet a totally different opponent. They may come with a different offensive system, and different defensive system, you don’t know, so you have to be prepared.”

Twitter: @ben_leeson

Patriots down Ottawa 28-10

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By – Hamilton Today

The Hamilton Steel City Patriots rolled over the visiting Ottawa Sooners Saturday night in Stoney Creek, 28-10. Triumphing over Ottawa for the second time this season, the Patriot organization dedicated the win to Mario Costantini, brother of team owner Phil Costantini, who passed away this week.

Hamilton fell behind early 3-0 but quickly took the lead and never looked back. SCP’s ferocious defence kept Ottawa on their heels most of the game with linebacker Jesse Willick contributing both a sack and an interception. SCP quarterback and former Montreal Alouette, Graham Kelly, passed for 3 touchdowns and ran one in himself, calling his own number late in the third quarter to seal the game.

Next Saturday, July 20 the Patriots (5-2) close the NFC regular season at home, hosting the Tricity Outlaws (1-6) at Cardinal Newman High School (127 Gray Rd, Stoney Creek) kickoff at 6pm. Gates open at 5pm, Admission is $10, Children under 12 are FREE.

Source: Sam MacBeath

Spartans shut out Bulldogs, inch closer to securing top seed

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By Ben Leeson of the The Sudbury Star

Photo Credit: Ben Leeson

If members of the Sudbury Spartans defence needed any extra motivation Saturday, maybe they found it while reading the Northern Football Conference predictions on Facebook.

The weekly feature, though light-hearted, may have struck a nerve with its playful poke at the Spartans defenders and their inability to shut out a team in the first five games of the season.

A pre-game challenge from head coach Junior Labrosse, a former standout defensive back himself, may have gone a long way, as well, ahead of Sudbury’s 70-0 thumping of the North Bay Bulldogs at Steve Omischl Sports Field Complex.

“That’s what I told them from the first day of practice this week — I want that goose egg,” said Labrosse, reached shortly after the final horn Saturday night. “I’m setting down the gauntlet, I’m calling the defence out. I told them the same thing at halftime tonight — I want that shutout. I didn’t care about the score. The biggest thing was I want that goose egg.”

And while Sudbury’s hard hat — an unofficial player-of-the-game award handed out by coaches after each contest — could have gone to one of many offensive standouts, Labrosse reserved it for hard-hustling defensive back Andrew St. Amour, who made a couple of interceptions, including one for a touchdown, and collected a fumble recovery and a handful of tackles.

“Guaranteed, he played with a chip,” Labrosse said. “He got benched last week. My philosophy has been very simple, right from Day 1 — you’re a starter, you show me what you have at practice. If you can’t make practice, I have to go with the guys who have been there. And last week, we made a decision, because for whatever reason, he couldn’t make it, so he didn’t get the start.

“For a guy who has been a league all-star, I have been in that situation, it hits you right where it hurts, right in the ego. But you come out firing, saying I’m going to show that coach that I shouldn’t be benched. But hey, if it lit a fire under his butt, then I did my job.”

Nick Rideout got the scoring started on a pass from quarterback Adam Rocha, then Derrick Rantala added a TD reception and Matt Glass scored on a fumbled kickoff return for a commanding 21-0 lead after one quarter.

Tyler Bell, with a reception, Glass, with a long run, then Massimo Cimino, with a pair of field goals and a rouge, made it 42-0 before St. Amour’s pick six that gave the locals dominant 49-0 lead at the half.

Bell had another TD catch, Glass a short run, then Josh Cuomo a 45-yard TD jaunt, while Cimino continued to split the uprights to round out the scoring.

Cuomo was another all-star who didn’t start after missing practice due to other commitments, Labrosse said, but had a strong game nonetheless.

“He’s the best running back in the league, by far,” Labrosse said.

“Sometimes, it’s a test for a player — how is he going to react to this? Is he going to pout? I have had athletes who have done it. Well, guess what? You’re going to get pulled again. You have to bounce back. An athlete should go out and prove the coach made a mistake.”

Sudbury improved to 5-1 on the season, while North Bay slipped to 0-6.

“We rotated out, everybody got a chance to play, showed the coaches what we can do, and hats off to North Bay — they played from the beginning right to the end,” Labrosse said. “They didn’t quit.

“Adam played a very good game at the pivot position, made some good reads, some good calls. Our running backs played well and the O-line made holes when necessary.”

Even in such a one-sided victory, however, Labrosse saw room for improvement — especially with a visit to the defending-champion GTA All-Stars looming this coming weekend. A win ought to secure first place in the NFC’s Western Division for Sudbury.

The Sudbury defence will need another big game, and then some, to blunt the All-Stars’ attack.

“They have to take pride,” Labrosse said. “There’s no glory, really, in defence. The glory comes when you pitch your shutout, when you’re able to stop a stud running back, to knock down the ball or shut down a quarterback, get a sack. The glory comes as an entire unit. You have to play as one — I’ve got your back, you’ve got mine.”