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.”