Another close loss no less annoying for the Glads
by Randy Pascal
Yes, it's annoying, losing games that are winnable – but the Sudbury Gladiators have not yet become a disheartened bunch.
Despite seeing their record fall to 1-4 in OFC action this summer with a 28-13 loss to the Oshawa Hawkeyes yesterday, the locals were
disappointed, not despondent.
The final score does not do justice to the fact that this game was very much up for grabs. When Sudbury pivot Adam Rocha connected with receiver
Nick Witzke from four yards out, and Nick Rideout made good on the point after, the homeside found themselves trailing 18-13, with 5:41
remaining in the game.
Pressing, the team would allow a pair of late scores (a field goal and a major), saddling the squad with three setbacks, this season, in games in which
the squad was not the least bit outclassed. “It's annoying with all these close games, not winning,” noted wideout Bradley Patterson, who hauled in
seven or eight passes from Rocha over the course of the afternoon.
“With a few more calls our way, maybe that's our ball in the end zone. We're getting through it, keeping our heads high, and trying to be the best that
we can be out there.” The Gladiators actually opened the scoring on a Rideout field goal from 17 yards out, midway through quarter one, but relinquished
the advantage two minutes later on a 7 yard TD scamper by Bobby Cadman (a two-point conversion came up short for the visitors).
The 6-3 score remained intact until just before half, when the Hawkeyes struck for a 2 yard major from quarterback David Maecker (Jacob
Platanitis hauled in the 2 pt PAT) and an impressive 46 yard field goal from James Vanderbruggen, though Rideout got that one back from the 28
yard line, with 15 seconds left in the half.
A scoreless third quarter eventually gave way to the Witzke TD, before Vanderbruggen (12 yard FG) and Sterling McNabb (2 yard run) closed the
books on the scoring in the final three minutes. “I think, overall, we played pretty well,” said Gladiators assistant coach Brandon Maki. “We were
moving the ball well on offense, we were making key stops on defense.”
“It's just the same thing that has killed us all year, it's just untimely mistakes. We've got a young team here. Everybody is learning, everybody is
getting better, week by week. The scoreboard might not say that every week, but at the end of the day, we like how these kids are developing. And some of
those mistakes are our fault as well, as coaches. We can't just chalk it up to the kids. We're proud of the way our team played.”
Certainly, it would be silly to discount the talent on the other side of the ball. With the victory, Oshawa improves to 4-1, a record that included a
21-14 win over the Etobicoke Eagles last week, the next opponent in line for the Varsity Gladiators. And the locals need not throw the baby out with
the bath-water. There are building blocks in place.
“Our offense was moving the ball, the defense was coming up big when we needed them, creating some turnovers that we turned into points,” stated
Patterson. “It's a matter of keeping consistent throughout the games, coming out hard, right away, and getting more points on the board than they do.”
And though the team seen some attrition, understandably through injuries, frustratingly through some players simply packing it in, the overall mood on
the sidelines, in the locker-room, is not one of a beaten squad.
“Obviously, winning is the main objective when you come out here to play,” said Patterson, who made a return to the Gladiators after not playing last
summer. “But I really enjoy the atmosphere out here, I'm having a lot of fun. We learned a new offense this year, and we've done a lot of good stuff.”
From head coach Aaron Rehel through to all of his assistants, that message has been fairly consistent. “Naturally, you hate losing,” said Maki.
“But the kids are coming along, they're working hard, they're doing what we're asking them to do. You don't want to reinforce bad behaviour, but at the
same time, with a young group like this, there are going to be growing pains.”
Junior Varsity head coach J.J. McKnight would love to be equally as forgiving. But a 49-3 loss to the Oshawa juniors, a team which galloped to a
42-3 lead at the half, had the young football man questioning the commitment of some of his team.
“We can't control what they (Oshawa) are doing over there, all we can control is us,” he said. “We are who we are, physically, the size that we are, the
speed that we are. But mental discipline, toughness, playing with an edge, resilience, all of those are things we can control. Some of the players do it
very well, and some do not.”
It would be unfair to suggest that when pressed for the positives, McKnight could quickly recall every single player for whom, he thought, the overall
effort was full tilt. But he did try and heap out at least a little praise.
“Tyson McFadden had a great game today, Kacey Thompson made some plays on defense for us,” said McKnight. “On offense, we're still kind of
looking for guys, but I thought Lucas (Howland), our quarterback, had a pretty good game today. Tyler (Bell) always shows up, and we have
some steady offensive linemen that we like. But we have a lot of guys that are up and down. It all comes down to mental toughness.”
From the opposite side of the field, certainly the likes of Blake Ramalho, Brett Bond, Ben Cacciotti, Tristan Day, Robert Zulich and Carter
Will were among those who garnered some attention, making plays against a supremely talented opponent. McKnight would now like to see that list
lengthened substantially, when the Jr Glads return to action next weekend, also in Etobicoke.