Tag: #SudburySpartans

Bulldogs look for ‘special’ finish against Spartans

North Bay regroups from Ottawa comedown, shores up onside kick strategies
Author of the article:Greg Estabrooks | North Bay Nugget
Published Jul 21, 2023

The Bulldogs men’s team tasted defeat for the first time this season in the Northern Football Conference when they coughed up a 21-0 lead and fell in Ottawa 35-33 to the Sooners.

North Bay should have an easier time at home this Saturday when they host the winless Sudbury Spartans in a game once again played at Cundari Field because their usual home, Mike O’Shea Field, is being used for a soccer festival.

What really hurt the Bulldogs last week was the play of the special teams. Ottawa recovered two onside kicks which gave them great field position and kept the Bulldogs offence on the sidelines. So, guess what they were working on at practice this week?

“100 per cent going to be addressed this week,” says quarterback and offensive coordinator Jordan Heather.

“Moving forward it has to be a focus for our team. We cannot leave special teams until a Friday (walkthrough practice) when we do not have the numbers out. We need to focus on what we must do and make it a priority.”

Would that mean using different players on special teams?

“Somewhat,” says Heather. “We must even it out, have a few more starters in there, guys who really know football that have played and know that situation. It is a scheme thing, and we do not practise it enough.”

The Bulldogs are playing a team that already handled pretty easily on the road and now they get them at home. If North Bay gets off to a big lead, they can give their backups some much needed playing time with the playoffs around the corner.

“Anytime we can get guys playing time that is the goal,” says Heather, who passed for five scores and more than 400 yards in a losing effort last week.

“Everyone pays to play here so we want to make sure we can get guys in and if we are up by a few touchdowns, it allows us to do that,” says Heather.

The Bulldogs’ loss really hurt as they were the only team in the Northern Football Conference without a defeat. Now at 4-1, North Bay is tied with two other teams with that record.

Head Coach Marc Mathon knows there are a lot of variables out there, but mission one is to win the game they are playing.

“The position could really change this weekend with Sarnia (3-2) playing Tri-City (4-1) and Sault Ste Marie (3-2) is playing the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) All-Stars (4-1) at home,” says Mathon. “We could end up in first if Sarnia beats Tri-City.”

First things first, says Mathon. “We got to do what we have to and win, and the chips will fall wherever they may.”

The kickoff is Saturday night at 7 pm.

Original Article

‘Play for pride’ — Spartans treat season as learning experience, look to finish strong

Sudbury to close out regular season in North Bay on Saturday, open playoffs next week
Author of the article:Ben Leeson | Sudbury Star
Published Jul 20, 2023

Win or lose this weekend, the Sudbury Spartans are assured of a berth in the Northern Football Conference playoffs, but head coach Junior Labrosse figures there’s still plenty to play for when the locals visit the North Bay Bulldogs this coming Saturday.

For starters, wiping the 0 from their win column would go along way toward boosting the Spartans’ confidence amid a disappointing season that has seen their roster pared by injuries and work commitments. And make no mistake, they would love to play spoiler for a Northern Ontario rival that is looking to clinch top seed in the NFC.

But a strong finish to the 2023 regular season could mean much more in the long run, Labrosse said, as the Spartans look to rebuild the winning culture that helped them reach semifinals just one year ago.

“Play like they have played — play for pride,” said Labrosse, while watching a relatively small, but hard-working group of practice participants run through drills at St. Benedict Catholic Secondary School on Wednesday evening. “Play for some personal goals — offence, get more points and defence, fewer points against. Take the game personally.

“You have to play the game to win the game. That’s what I want the guys to do an honestly, they have done it all year. We have been outmanned at a lot of positions and out of the six games we have had, I have never had a healthy roster, so that doesn’t help out either. But that’s what happens when you’re in a working community.”

With the NFC following a crossover format for quarter-finals once again, the Spartans will qualify for playoffs despite entering the final week of the regular season with a record of 0-5. After the Toronto Phantom Raiders took a leave of absence, the league fielded nine teams this summer, leaving just one club to miss the post-season. Oakville, also winless at 0-6, sits far behind Sudbury in the next tiebreaker category, points against, with a whopping 341 to Sudbury’s 134.

While it has been a tough go, Labrosse will be happy to see his regulars rewarded for their efforts, from a couple of heartbreaking, relatively close losses to the Sault and North Bay earlier in the year to a much more lopsided, but still hard-fought defeat against the league-leading Tri-City Outlaws just last weekend.

He expects another workmanlike performance in the Gateway City on Saturday.

Kickoff time is 7 p.m.

“They owe it to each other,” Labrosse said. “When you play, you don’t really play for your coach. You play for the guy who’s beside you on the field, the guy who’s in the trenches, and that’s what they have done all year, whether or not we have struggled in certain games. We scored quick on Saturday, guys were up and stuff, and there was no negativity on the bench. It was like OK, we’ll get it back next play and stuff like that. Defence is always playing for the pride of not getting scored on and to hopefully get the offence the ball back.”

Dressing only 28 players last weekend for their home game against the Outlaws, the Spartans did find the end zone first, only to fall in the end by a 30-point margin. Still, Labrosse and company saw positive signs on which to build moving forward.

“We were able to play,” Sudbury’s coach said. “It becomes a war of attrition when you don’t have the horses and a lot of guys are playing three ways. You can’t win a lot of games that way, because guys are just going to get tired, but the grinded it out and that’s what that have been doing all year.”

If Sudbury upsets North Bay, the Spartans will visit Tri-City in a quarter-final the following Saturday, July 29. The matchup will be the same if North Bay beats Sudbury and Tri-City wins its regular-season finale against Ottawa. If North Bay wins and Tri-City loses, however, North Bay will clinch top seed and face Sudbury yet again.

Quarter-final winners will have a bye for the Civic Holiday weekend, before reconvening for semis on Aug. 12.

“North Bay is not going to take us lightly,” Labrosse said. “That’s not how Marc Mathon coaches and that’s not how I coach, either.”

In their only other meeting on June 17, the Spartans put up 21 points against the Bulldogs for their best offensive outing of the season, but couldn’t blunt the Bulldogs’ attack, led by Hec Crighton winner Jordan Heather.

“We show things of brilliance at some points, but the inconsistency shows when guys are playing everywhere, or in positions they’re not familiar with,” Labrosse suggested. “You’re a DB, now you’re playing wide receiver and you have to learn the offence, or a D-lineman playing O-line. You kind of limit your playbook with those situations, but the guys aren’t complaining. They’re doing whatever it takes to try to succeed.”

Having witnessed the team’s highest highs and lowest lows during his own hall-of-fame playing career, Labrosse knows that regardless of result, his team can lay the foundation for another winner by establishing good habits in leaner times, then hopefully supplementing his dedicated core with graduates from the Junior Spartans U18 ranks.

“You take guys like Victor Paajanen, Nick Rideout, Tyler Bell — hopefully, a season like this doesn’t discourage them from coming out, but the thing is, what they’re learning from struggling is only going to make them better ball players come next year. That’s what I’m hoping every player takes out of this, not just the fact that we didn’t win a game. S—t happens, you get good seasons and you get bad ones — we went to semifinals last year and this year, we’re kind of rebuilding, because we lost key players here and there, but we have also gained guys like Bell, who didn’t play last year and he has been a pivotal part of this offence, a big playmaker. If guys like him can learn from this and not get discouraged and we get some fresh faces, who knows?”

Original Article

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.”

Original Article