Steelers forfeit playoff game

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By Peter Ruicci, Sault Star

Though scheduled for a playoff game on Saturday, the Sault Steelers season is over.

Due to a lack of players, the Northern Football Conference club has elected to forfeit its postseason clash against the GTA All Stars.

The teams were to meet in an NFC quarter-final at Chinguacousy Park in Brampton.

But the Steelers, who didn’t have enough players to play the second half of last Saturday’s 35-0 loss in Sarnia, were certain even fewer would be available for a clash with the 8-0 All Stars.

“I’m sad about it. It wasn’t easy for us to forfeit,” said Steelers head coach Brandon Lewis. “It was an emotional decision to make.”

The Steelers, who finished with a 3-5 record, began their regular season finale against Sarnia with only 17 players.

However, Lewis said that during the first half they lost Jon Bujold (knee), Cam Basham (knee), Andrew Jones (back) and Rico Pucci (knee).

The Steelers concern for the well-being of their remaining 13 players – the majority of whom would have been forced to go both ways — led game officials to halt the contest before the third quarter was to begin.

Asked how many players the Steelers expected to dress if they were to face GTA, Lewis said he “couldn’t put a number on it. Easily less than the 17 we went to Sarnia with.”

The 42-year-old coach, a former star defensive lineman and a sure bet, future, NFC Hall-of-Famer, spoke of how disappointed he was.

“But our hand was forced,” Lewis added. “Forfeiting was not easy. But first and foremost, this is about the safety of our players. These guys have battled short-handed for us all season.”

Steelers quarterback Alanzo Clarke said the remaining Soo players are also disappointed.

“But it’s probably the best call,” he added. “We have a lot of guys injured and we didn’t want to risk anyone else getting hurt.”

This season marked the return of the Steelers to the NFC. Due to a lack of player interest, the team asked the league for a one-year leave of absence and didn’t field an entry in 2017.

Despite the way things are ending, Lewis called 2018 a positive.

“We played some tough games that could have gone either way,” he said. “And we managed to win three games.”

Lewis said he plans to return as the team’s head coach in 2019.

Asked if he would also consider a return to the playing field, Lewis said: “That’s not in the cards right now. I just want to focus on recruiting and building the program.”