Tag: Sudbury Spartans

Bittersweet end to Spartans season

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Original article: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2018/07/29/bittersweet-end-to-spartans-season

By Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star

Hunter Holub could have found reasons to hang his head Saturday night.

His Sudbury Spartans had just dropped a heartbreaker 21-14 decision to the Ottawa Sooners in their Northern Football Conference quarter-final, in a game the Nickel City squad may have won, if not for a dropped TD, a pair of missed field goals and a late fumble.

But Holub’s gaze was straight ahead, to what he hopes will be an even brighter future for semi-pro football in Sudbury.

“It’s sort of bittersweet,” Holub said. “We didn’t play that well in the first half and we know we can play well, we know we can compete with the good teams like Ottawa. They went 5-3 this year and they were ranked like third in the league, they’re a very good team, so to come out and almost have a comeback, even with the mistakes we made, seeing how we can play and finishing off a game like that, I think it’s good.”

Holub threw a touchdown pass to Justin Poirier and ran for a TD of his own Saturday night to cap a strong rookie season. He’s already looking forward to his sophomore campaign.

“I plan to keep playing,” he said. “Looking at these older guys, Matt Furino, Red (Erik Conrad), Whitey (Kevin White), they have a great bond with each other and with the team and they’re encouraging all the young people to come out, so I plan to play in the future, and hopefully, more people do, too.”

Hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2015, the Spartans had a slow start against the Sooners, who were missing a couple of strong starters, but remained a quality club on both sides of the ball.

They showed that when quarterback Danny Mullins led a long first-quarter drive and finished with a short keeper for a TD. The ensuing convert made it 7-0.

Ottawa’s offence sputtered deep in its own end near the midway mark of the second frame, however, allowing Sudbury to take over at the visitors’ 34-yard line. A 14-yard catch and run by Josh Cuomo put the locals inside the 20, where they came within a hair of scoring a major of their own when Holub found James Howatt open in the end zone, but Howatt couldn’t quite hold onto the pass.

Spartans kicker Massimo Cimino then attempted a field goal, but booted it just wide.

Sudbury’s defence stymied Ottawa on another drive down the field, sacking Mullins to end the half.

Holub had just missed Poirier with a long pass when the first-year quarterback aired it out for No. 20 again, this time connecting for a 87-yard score and bringing the crowd to its feet. Cimino’s PAT tied the score, 7-7, with 7:50 left in the third quarter.

The Spartans missed on another field goal attempt later in the third.

Ottawa restored its lead won Daniel McGrowder’s eight-yard reception in the fourth quarter, then scored again on an option pitch to Mike Leno.

The Spartans embarked on a strong drive late in the contest that culminated in Holub’s wild scramble for a 21-yard TD, narrowing the score to 21-14, but could come no closer.

“Losing is never a positive thing,” Spartans head coach Junior Labrosse said. “But the thing you can take out of this loss, as a coach, is the fact the guys didn’t give up. They scored, but we hung in there. Offence had to do certain things, we had trouble moving the ball, but some adjustments were made.”

Early on, he saw the same signs of panic that marked the Spartans’ early games this season, but the players “snapped out of it.”

“As coaches, that’s what you want. Play the game, don’t just say we can’t do this or can’t do that – eventually, it will happen, and if we can’t do that, we’ll do something else, and in the second half, we hit Justin on that big one.

“Ottawa came to play, but we missed a touchdown in the end zone, two field goals, and that’s the game. In my mind, we won that game, but on paper, on record, it doesn’t show. Howatt makes that catch, Massimo hits those field goals, and we win it. And this is a strong Ottawa team, coming from a community where they have a strong football background. We showed them that guys up north, and hopefully, a lot of fans or young players who are out there wondering, is this league garbage, as has been spread around for a long time, it’s a beer league, it’s a bunch of old guys, it’s all of this, maybe there have been some eyes opened, going, wow, there’s some good football here.”

The season was certainly an eye-opener for Holub, who was out of the game for three years after a successful run with the Lively Hawks high school team and Sudbury Gladiators varsity squad, before signing with the Spartans this past spring.

By Saturday, he was playing with noticeable confidence and plenty of poise.

“I knew at the start, I would be a bit rusty, after never playing and not throwing a ball in years competitively, and I knew there would be kinks to work out,” Holub said. “I think it was the Sault game, when we played there about halfway through the season, that was when I felt like this is who I am, this is what I’m going to be. Ever since then, it has gone uphill and I feel like I have finished on a peak.”

Like Holub, Labrosse’s mind was already turning to next season.

“Now, things are going to start again, go back to the drawing board,” Sudbury’s coach said. “What do we need to tweak? What do we need to adjust? The biggest thing is we need more players.”

While pleased with several of the changes since Dario Zulich and Sudbury Wolves Sports and Entertainment took ownership of the team last year, Labrosse hopes to have even more resources for recruiting in his bid to build an NFC contender.

“This isn’t hockey, where a body check might be thrown once every three shifts. These guys hit every play, so injuries happen. It doesn’t seem, numbers-wise, like it’s a long season, but it takes its toll. Football is a game where you hit every play, every practice, so we need more bodies. You never have enough. It happened tonight – we lost a lineman, then we were down to just five and you’re crossing your fingers as a coach going, I hope nobody else gets hurt.”

He hopes the positive experiences of newcomers like Holub and Matt Glass will also help in recruiting efforts.

“If I can keep this roster, but add to it, then look out, NFC.”


Twitter: @ben_leeson

Spartans’ Costello relishes game-day experience

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Original article: http://www.thesudburystar.com/2018/07/27/spartans-costello-relishes-game-day-experience

By Ben Leeson, Sudbury Star

Sudbury GM sees bright future for organization

Bill Costello’s father, the late Gary (Satch) Costello, had him well prepared for a life on the sideline with the Sudbury Spartans.

“My dad told me, ‘You’re always the first one to arrive and you’re always the last one to leave,’ ” Costello recalled. “And it’s so true.”

That goes for not only Costello, the general manager and head trainer for the local Northern Football Conference outfit, but also the likes of equipment manager Mike Lynott, trainer Al Kuzenko, water boy Alex Dodds, as well as youngsters who may rotate in and out depending on availability, but whose contributions remain vital to making game day at James Jerome Sports Complex a success.

All volunteers, they’ll be working hard as ever when the Spartans kick off the NFC post-season Saturday against the Ottawa Sooners.

Game time is 7:30 p.m.

“The staff I have are actually amazing, that they are able to do what they do,” Costello said. “It’s a lot of little tasks to be able to take care of the big event.

“All of them make sure that these guys look and feel like they’re prepared for a game. There’s a lot of time that goes in before and after the game, from taping ankles to washing uniforms a couple of days after the game.”

As much as he trusts his staff, and full as his plate may be, Costello has yet to step back and embrace a more strictly managerial role. That may happen eventually, but for now, he enjoys being immersed in the game-day experience.

“It’s kind of a tough one,” he said. “I absolutely love the game days. It’s being able to find the right type of people to surround myself with, but I would love to be able to do a little bit less. Junior (Labrosse, head coach), Wally (Wilson, special teams/offensive line coach) and Gord (Goddard, president) are actually always pushing me to do a bit less every year and you know what, sometimes the grandiose plan is to get a fully-fledged training staff and everything, but i like to lead from the front, lead by example, and I’m not willing to get someone else to do something unless I’m willing to do it myself. That’s not to say I wouldn’t give up a lot of this stuff, but hopefully each year, I can manage a little bit more and do a little bit less, not have to tape at the games, but kind of sit back and schmooze a little bit with the fans, see all my alumni that have actually come out to the games. The future’s a little bit brighter for me, with all of the stuff that has happened the last few years, and I think it will be good for the next few years.”

Among the most significant changes has been the purchase of the Spartans by local businessman Dario Zulich in spring of 2017 and their incorporation into Sudbury Wolves Sports and Entertainment, alongside the Sudbury Wolves hockey club and Sudbury Five basketball team.

Both of the sister squads will be well-represented at Saturday’s playoff game, as sponsors for the event.

Activities are to include fan giveaways, an appearance by the Sudbury Five Dance Squad and a performance by local musician Dan MacDonald.

The Dellelce Family Hospitality Tent will be open before and during the game.

“All year, it has been building to this,” Costello said. “We had our home opener and the beer tent came along, we had some SPAD (Laurentian University sports administration) students who were able to come and help out, otherwise, we wouldn’t have been able to do some of this stuff. As a solo organization, we weren’t able to do that in the past, and now, we’re actually part of a bigger organization, there’s a lot more back-room support for these types of things.

“They will feed one another. Hopefully, my players and my staff can actually go down to a Five game and maybe volunteer to do some security or some public relations stuff. There’s a little bit of give and take with that, but overall, the organization has been absolutely amazing and patient, because football is very different from hockey and basketball is very different from football. We are like a family, because a lot of the organization involves friends and families, but now the public is getting on board and seeing that it actually is quality football, and having that promotional end of it, to actually market and promote it, from the Sudbury Wolves, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”


Twitter: @ben_leeson

Late touchdowns lift Steelers

Original article:  https://www.sootoday.com/local-sports/late-touchdowns-lift-steelers-956955
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Author:  Brad Coccimiglio
Photo Credit: Donna Hopper/SooToday

A pair of late touchdowns were ultimately the difference.

A 27-yard touchdown run by Josh Gauthier with 5:14 to go in the fourth quarter lifted the Sault Steelers to a 23-10 Northern Football Conference win over the Sudbury Spartans Saturday night at Rocky DiPietro field.

The major came with the Steelers trailing 10-8 at the time in a game that saw the home side fall behind 10-0 in the opening half.

“It was key,” said Steelers Coach Brandon Lewis. “It was vintage Josh.

Gauthier finished the day with 104 yards rushing on 11 carries and a pair of touchdowns.

The victory improves the Steelers record to 2-2 after a road win last weekend in North Bay.

“Everything you do in your first year is great but when you know the type of competitors we have on our team, it’s possible for us to push the best teams in this league,” Lewis said.

Sudbury opened the scoring on a 13-yard field goal in the opening quarter by Massimo Cimino.

In the final minute of the opening quarter, Sudbury’s Sean Moore caught a two-yard pass to increase the lead to 10-0.

“The first half seemed to be very tough on us, more mentally than anything,” Lewis said. “There were some mistakes and penalties to start the game. That can take a toll. We hung in.”

Steve Hiiemaa would run the ball in from 68 yards out late in the fourth quarter to seal the Steelers win.

Hiiemaa finished the day with 130 yards rushing on 10 carries.

Offensively for the Spartans, Josh Cuomo had 55 yards rushing on 15 carries.

Defensively for the Steelers, Matt Gauthier had six tackles while Dalton Povey had 5.5 tackles. Tom Twentyman had five tackles and Jon Bujold had 4.5.

Erik Conrad and Matt Furlino had six tackles each for the Spartans, who fall to 1-3.

The Steelers return to action on June 23 against the Steel City Patriots. Kickoff at Rocky DiPietro Field is set for 7 p.m.

Gauthier Gallops to Winning Score

Original article:  http://www.thesudburystar.com/2018/06/17/gauthier-gallops-to-winning-score-2
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Author and Photo Credits:  Peter Ruicci/Postmedia Network

He’s not the player he once was.

At age 35, Josh Gauthier is no longer the record-setting, championship-winning, nearly-unstoppable running back who once wreaked havoc on Northern Football Conference defences.

But he’s still awfully good.

Gauthier ran 27 yards for the go-ahead touchdown on Saturday, as the Sault Steelers rallied from a 10-0 deficit to defeat the Sudbury Spartans 23-10 at Rocky DiPietro Field.

With the home team trailing 10-8, Gauthier ran a counter, bolting nearly untouched into the Spartans end with 5:14 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Alanzo Clarke ran in a two-point conversion and the Sault had a 16-10 lead.

Seeing how hard the Spartans were pursuing on power-running plays, Gauthier said he “told Ashton to call a counter,” referring to offensive coordinator Ashton Young. “I took two or three hard steps to the right and the whole defence shifted. You could run a semi through the hole.”

He didn’t need quite that much room, however.

“But once that happened I could use my wheels,” added Gauthier, who had scored earlier on a four-yard run and finished the evening with 104 yards rushing on 11 carries.

“The Gauthier play was the key to the game,” added head coach Brandon Lewis, whose club won its second straight, improving to 2-2 on the season. “It was vintage Josh. He wasn’t going to be stopped by arm tackles. You get him the ball and magic happens. He’s not even in game shape and he’s still a dominant player – absolutely.”

According to Spartans head coach Junior Labrosse, Gauthier’s run was a game-changer.

“That broke our back,” Labrosse added. “They had Gauthier hidden inside. And he paused with the ball until things opened up.”

“I don’t have that top gear like I used to have,” Gauthier admitted. “I’m so far from being what I used to be. But game smarts is something I’ll always have.”

Meantime, three minutes later, the Steelers sealed the win with another impressive run. Stevan Hiiemaa broke a series of tackles and galloped 68 yards for another touchdown.

That made it 22-10 with 2:03 to go in regulation.

Cam Basham booted his second convert to wrap up the scoring.

Jesse Hill had the other point for the winners, nailing a punt 35 yards for a single just before halftime.

“It was a big character win,” said Steelers head coach Brandon Lewis, whose team plays host to the Steel City Patriots this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Rocky DiPietro Field. “We made some mistakes and took some penalties and the first half was very tough on us. But at halftime we talked about leaving the first half behind us.”

Lewis said he thought his team managed the ball better in the second half. And the Steelers defence “had a heck of a game,” he added.

“We were strong and we hit hard,” said first-year linebacker Tom Twentyman, who finished with five tackles. “We had a lot of guys playing a lot of snaps, but we dug deep and found a way. We’re getting better every week.”

En route to completing 9-of-23 pass attempts for 246 yards, Spartans quarterback Hunter Holub hit Sean Moore with a two-yard scoring strike. Massimo Cimino converted and also booted a 17-yard field goal.

“We played three-quarters of a game,” said Labrosse, whose club fell to 1-3. “We had some mental breakdowns. Our offensive line played its best game so far this season, but penalties killed us.”

Notes: Hiiemaa ran for a game-high 130 yards on 10 carries. Clarke went 2-for-7 passing for 22 yards.

On defence, Matt Gauthier had a team-high six tackles for the Sault. Dalton Povey added 5.5 while Jon Bujold was credited with 4.5 tackles. Ron Kelly had an interception.


Spartans optimistic despite defeat

Original article:  http://www.thesudburystar.com/2018/05/27/spartans-optimistic-despite-defeat
Please like and share the original story to help local media with their coverage of NFC teams and events.

Author and Photo Credits:  Ben Leeson

His team had just suffered a season-opening defeat and man, was he sore.

But Matt Glass had reason to feel good about a gutsy performance in his Northern Football Conference debut at James Jerome Sports Complex on Saturday night.

“It was definitely a different league,” said the rookie running back/receiver, moments after the final horn sounded on a 22-7 loss to the Steel City Patriots. “I’m definitely playing with bigger and better players I’ve never played before, so the intensity of the game was higher, the hits were harder, but I enjoyed it.”

The highlight was certainly his first NFC touchdown, a pass from Hunter Holub and a short run in the second quarter of Saturday’s contest, one of Glass’s four catches for 22 yards.

“As the confidence built up, I started to get a little better, started to adjust more to this new league,” said Glass, previously a standout in the high school and summer varsity ranks.

“I started to figure out what works, what doesn’t work.”

Whether it was Glass, who also recorded 41 rushing yards, Matt Kuzenko, who led the team with four tackles, or defensive back Riley Roy, who had two interceptions and a batted ball, Spartans head coach Junior Labrosse was encouraged by the play of his newcomers and felt there was plenty to build on as the season goes along.

“Growing pains, I knew was going to happen,” Labrosse said. “Hamilton has been training indoors since January, because they have the facilities down south. We don’t have those facilities here and we basically get a month of practice outside and the city books us for an hour and a half. There’s a lot you have to do in an hour and a half, especially when you have this many rookies to this league, where they have to bond and get that connection to their receivers, their running backs, the line, the timing and all this kind of stuff.

“I knew we were going to be in tough, that it wasn’t going to be a cakewalk, and any time you play a southern Ontario team, they have a talent pool to pick from, but I guarantee you if you look at the guys who got knocked out, not our guys. Our guys can play, they hit.”

Labrosse credited the Sudbury defence, the team’s greatest strength last season, for holding them in Saturday’s game while the offence sorted things out.

That defence looked strong early, as the Patriots made their way deep into Spartans territory on the opening kickoff return, only for Sudbury’s Joe Shyminsky to sack Steel City’s Denzel Rocha for a big loss. The visitors had to settle for a single after a missed field goal.

Emotions ran high at times, with both teams giving up several yards in penalties and a good bit of talk between benches, especially in the first half.

Some untimely Patriots penalties helped Sudbury on a long drive led by Holub, Glass and Josh Cuomo, a former all-star running back who played despite a nagging injury and posted a team-high 66 yards rushing, along with 39 receiving. Glass finished things off by taking a pass from Holub near the end zone, taking a hit from a Steel City defender and stretching across the goal line for a TD.

“We haven’t been in full gear practising for more than a month, so we’re still getting everything together, but I think we played great for how much practice we had,” Glass said. “We’re ready to hit the rest of the season hard.”

The Patriots, who picked up several starters from the Oakville Longhorns in the off-season, got their offensive game going later in the second quarter and pulled ahead after a bit TD catch by Josh Vandeweerd with 1:04 left before halftime. Another pass to Cordel Lewis put them up 15-7 in the third and Holub threw an interception for a touchdown, this time by Donovan Saunders, with 3:46 left in the frame.

“Hunter threw a few picks, but it’s a fast game and he’s been out of the game for a little while, too,” Labrosse said. “A few times, there were some breakdowns on the offensive line where there was pressure. There are certain things that are going to have to be addressed, like there’s one guy in the offensive huddle that’s going to talk, and that’s the quarterback. Nobody else has an opinion. When the quarterback has to take a timeout because the offensive line is getting angry or whatever, it doesn’t matter, I’m calling it. Shut up and run the play. That’s what these guys have got to learn. If they can learn to just do as they’re told, they’re going to be great and we’re going to be fine.

“To me, everything was positive tonight. I would have liked to win, but if we can compete with a team that loaded up, took 12 players from Oakville, starters, and we gave up 22, but those were our mistakes, fixable stuff. Last year, that stuff wasn’t fixable. That’s the positive thing.”

The Spartans host the North Bay Bulldogs on June 2 at 7:30 p.m.


Twitter: @ben_leeson