Late rally not quite enough for the Spartans
by Randy Pascal
Success for the Sudbury Spartans' offense must be measured in very small increments this summer.
So while a trek to visit the Oakville Longhorns on Saturday may not have produced the desired bump-up in the win column, the fact that the visitors
overcame a 21-0 deficit to make a game of it, with emergency quarterback Travis Campbell connecting with James Howatt for a TD pass as part
of a 21-15 loss, does give the locals something to build on heading into their final two very winnable games.
After losing in Oakville 28-6 in week one of the NFC (Northern Football Conference) season at the end of May, the Spartans looked well on their
way to turning in a repeat performance, trailing by three touchdowns with just a quarter to play.
But Andrew St Amour returned a blocked field goal 72 yards to put Sudbury on the board and Campbell, who guided the team as pivot for the past few
years, coming back out of retirement this week as both Aaron Campbell (his younger brother) and Shane Hutchison were sidelined with injuries, found
a familiar target in Howatt to make things interesting with three minutes to play.
The Longhorns would pick off a pass with only seconds remaining on the score clock, improving to 5-1 while coach Junior Labrosse and company fell to 2-4. Still, a
solid performance coming on the heels of a 21-1 win over the North Bay Bulldogs the previous week at home has the Sudbury side feeling pretty good
The victory over their northern rivals would see key contributions right across the board, none larger than defensive back Konnor Gillis, who
returned a pair of interceptions to the end zone, barely missing a third one late in the game.
Gillis, however, was hardly alone in earning the accolades. Veteran Al Kawa, now in his 23rd season of NFC competition, jumped in to fill a hole
in the backfield, performing admirably and helping the Spartans move the ball at critical junctures of the contest.
"Normally I play receiver, either back up slot or tight end," said Kawa, who had celebrated his 45th birthday just days prior to the match-up with the
Bulldogs. "But our fullback got hurt and I had practiced there a few times, so they stuck me in."
If age may have slowed him down, just a tick, the experience that Kawa has garnered over the years more than compensated. "It's all basics," he said with
a smile. "Follow your blocks, don't look at the quarterback - just let him put the ball in, and Jordan (Cecchetto) did a good job of that."
"The line was really blocking, so they made it easy," Kawa continued. "I didn't get touched until I was three or four yards past the line of scrimmage."
The Spartans will re-group this week, preparing for the second of three straight road games.
The schedule sees Sudbury heading to face the winless Toronto Raiders (0-5) on July 8th at Esther Shrine Civic Stadium. and then closing off
with a shorter trip to North Bay to battle the Bulldogs on July 22nd.