Spartans focus on details ahead of visit to Sault

‘We’ve got a lot to work on, but we’re going to take it one step at a time and we’re going to pick apart the mistakes and the issues we had last week’

Author of the article:Ben Leeson | The Sudbury Star

Suddenly a decade into his Sudbury Spartans career, hard-hitting linebacker Eric Breau has embraced a leadership role with the Northern Football Conference club — leadership that will be vital as the locals look to rebound from a season-opening loss to the Sault Steelers this past weekend.

“I was just talking with my wife about this and I think it’s my 10th year,” Breau said with a smile. “I had to coach one year, just because of work commitments, but I have played the other nine. It has been a while, but I’m still enjoying it, so until I stop enjoying it, I’ll be here.”

Breau and company will look to avenge their Week 1 defeat on Saturday, when they head to Sault Ste. Marie for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff. Their game will cap a triple-header between representatives of the Nickel and Lock cities, following clashes between their respective entries in the Ontario Summer Football League’s U16 and U18 divisions.

“As the veterans on the team, we’re always trying to encourage the young people to put in the work at practice, to get that commitment out of everybody,” Breau said during a practice at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School on Wednesday evening. “I know sometimes life gets in the way, but if we’re at practice and we’ve all got jobs and other commitments, then we show that’s how you get better. It’s trying to lead by example, whether it be at practice, on the field or on the sidelines.”

He was encouraged, then, to see a healthy turnout at St. Bens for the second straight week, made possible in part through a pre-season shuffle in the team’s practice schedule, and was hopeful that more reps would lead to more consistency and, ultimately, a much better overall outing at Rocky DiPietro Field come Saturday.

“We’ve got a lot to work on, but we’re going to take it one step at a time and we’re going to pick apart the mistakes and the issues we had last week,” Breau explained. “We’re going to take it one play at a time and get it done. We’re going to do whatever we need to prepare, so the next game has a better outcome.

“Consistency at practice is key. If you don’t have all your people, you can’t make all the changes and you can’t make the improvements and you can’t put in the different plays you want to do.”

While Junior Labrosse and his staff were by no means looking to reinvent the wheel this week, Sudbury’s head coach could identify areas for improvement in every aspect of the Spartans’ game, and made it a point to visit with each of their positional groups near the start of Wednesday’s session.

“The little things,” Labrosse said. “We have to clean up the little things. It’s not like you set to panic mode and stuff. Yes, it was a loss, but if we fix a lot of the little things, the outcome will be different.”

Asked to elaborate, Sudbury’s sideline boss pointed to examples on defence, offence and special teams. Returners cannot hesitate on kicks or punts, allowing them to go out of bounds and giving their team poor field position. Defenders need to shed blocks and make better reads, linebackers to flow to the play. Receivers must be more crisp in running their routes, while running backs have to hit their holes as instructed, trusting in their linemen to clear a path.

While giving the Sault full credit for a hard-fought victory, Labrosse refused last weekend to make any excuses for a rather unpolished performance on home turf, saying the Sault squad “beat us, plain and simple” and had been “a better team” that night.

He hoped his players would be just as riled by the result and would play with more intensity in the rematch.

“Play pissed off,” Labrosse said. “That’s how I would play. I don’t coach to lose and I didn’t play to lose. You play to win and that’s what I’m expecting out of these guys, saying you let them come in your house and slap you right in the face. Now, it’s time to show them that was a mistake.”

He certainly sees a lot to build on, from the athleticism or quarterback Nick Rideout and his receivers, including Week 1 standouts Tyler Bell and Victor Paajanen, to fresh-faced linebacker Bryce Desabrais, sophomore Andrew Kilby and Breau himself — among several others.

“When the O-line did execute, we were able to move the ball and we were able to throw,” Labrosse added. “When they didn’t, you see what happened. That’s what I mean by fix the little things.”

Breau was certainly encouraged by Sudbury’s progress on defence, even in defeat, pointing out that after some early hiccups, the home team did not allow a point for roughly a quarter and a half to close out last week’s contest.

“It took a little bit to get going,” Breau said. “But if we can keep up that strength going into the next game, I think we will give our offence a good opportunity to get on the field and score some more points.”

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