Spartans not hanging heads despite loss to Tri-City

Author of the article:Ben Leeson | The Sudbury Star
Published Jul 15, 2023

Neither a lopsided loss, nor a disappointing season has swayed Sudbury Spartans veteran Nicolson Christmas from strapping on pads each week.

“I have been playing football since I was 14,” said the defensive back turned running back, moments after a loss to the Tri-City Outlaws at James Jerome Sports Complex on Saturday night. “My teammates are like my second family and I don’t want to give that up. I enjoy it too much, so I just keep coming out.”

No surprise, then, that he found bright spots even in a 37-7 defeat against Tri-City, one of the top teams in the Northern Football Conference, which dropped the locals to 0-5 on the season. Despite fielding one of their smallest rosters this year, with only 28 men listed on the official scorer’s sheet, the Spartans managed to impress Christmas with their effort.

“Yes, absolutely,” he told The Sudbury Star, moments after the final horn on Saturday. “I trust all these guys and it’s great to play with the guys who want to be here.”

Sudbury did find the end zone first, after giving up a rouge on the opening kickoff, and Christmas capped an impressive march down the field with a three-yard TD in the first quarter.

A standout on defence for several seasons, Christmas has embraced a new role and a new position as a ball-carrier, while showing his versatility as an athlete. He netted 19 yards on the ground on Saturday, as well as eight receiving, for a Sudbury squad that frequently found itself under heavy pressure from the Outlaws’ defensive unit.

“It has been difficult — very difficult,” he said with a laugh. “I haven’t played this position in 10 years, so it’s just learning old things over again and coming in with a different mind set, but it has been fun.”

Tri-City answered with its own impressive drive and, despite an admirable goal-line stand by the Sudbury defence, punched in a short TD of its own on a carry by Brandon Metz.

Another drive by the visitors came up short of the end zone, thanks to an interception by Spartans DB Andrew St. Amour, but the hosts were forced to concede a safety just before halftime, making it 17-7 at the break.

Outlaws receiver Anthony Powless got the scoring started in the second half with a 33-yard catch. Sudbury tried to answer as quarterback Nick Rideout found the likes of Tyler Bell and Brandon Salem with passes in the third quarter, while also scrambling well for a couple of gains, only to come up short of a scoring play. Tri-City’s interception early in the fourth led to a TD catch by Connor Depodesta, this time for 38 yards, before quarterback Spencer Bollman found some space to rush in for a 19-yard major.

Richmond Nketiah’s 10-yard catch rounded out the scoring.

Despite being undermanned and clearly fatigued, the Spartans showed a glimmer or two late in the contest. Andrew Rocha entered the game at quarterback, allowing Rideout to move to receiver, and made an impressive 10-yard rush of his own. Christmas also posted his biggest gain on the ground in the final frame, for 12 yards.

“It is tough, but you do the best that you can with what you have,” said Christmas, when asked about playing with such a short bench. “That’s all the coaches expect from us and that’s what we expect from ourselves.”

Despite their winless record, the Spartans remain alive in the NFC playoff hunt and can even rise in the standings this coming Saturday with a win over the much-improved North Bay Bulldogs, in what will serve as Sudbury’s regular-season finale.

Kickoff in the Gateway City is set for 7 p.m.

“Everyone needs to show up and have a positive mind set,” Christmas said. “If we do that and we play like we did today, I think we have a good shot.”

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