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Date Published:  September 30, 2008

St Benedict still the team in beat in 2008

It’s that time of year once again. Just days after frantic football fans everywhere glued themselves to the nearest television set for the opening of the NFL season (sending New England Patriot fans into serious mourning mode just hours later), the excitement is being felt much closer to home.

Gridiron glamour of the high-school variety kicks off at Confederation Secondary and the James Jerome Complex today as the 2008 SDSSAA football campaign is launched. And while some may shy away from pre-season predictions, that is certainly not the case in this corner.

In fact, while attending a host of practice sessions over the past two weeks at local secondary schools, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the number of young athletes enquiring whether the famed “Pascal Prognostications” would appear again this year. I was even more pleased to note that they all seem to approach my gladiator guesswork with the fun in which the article is intended.

That being the case, and without any further ado, here are your final standings for SDSSA Football 2008:

St Benedict Bears (6-0)

If not for a late summer “somewhere on the body” injury to star running back Joey Martellacci, I would have absolutely no reservations about this selection. In spite of this, the two time defending league champions remain the team to beat.

I am not expecting Martellacci to miss more than a game or two and the fact remains that he will be running behind one of the league’s best offensive lines. All-star Zack Azzola has now departed for Acadia but long-time O-linemate Austin Roy is one of the best in the city.

The big question offensively in the land of the Bears is how quickly the likes of incoming pivot Connor Mackay and receiving siblings Jay and Brian Hennessy will make St Ben fans forget the departed trio of David Cocchiarella, Jordan Hynes and Dylan Green.

Defensively, the Bears return a formidable and more experienced bunch as defensive end Brock Lamarre and veterans Kirk Vendramin and Jamie Fournier are sure to create havoc. Pound for pound one of the league's hardest hitters, Mitch Portelance patrols the middle inside corps of the defense while Nick Roy makes the move from the secondary to a linebacking slot.

One time QB turned safety Taylor Roberts gives coach Frank Rocca a set of great hands and quick feet in the secondary, joined by veteran Steven Murray. Both the punting and place kicking once again fall into the very capable hands (and feet) of Jordan Sovran.

Lo-Ellen Park Knights (4-2)

Behind the Bears, there is going to be a log jam. Based on my game by game analysis, I foresee four teams sliding in at 4-2, meaning the league may well have to resort to a tie-breaking formula that sees games against common opponents used to determine the second playoff bye position. (if I'm right, that means games against St Ben's and Lasalle will be pivotal).

No lack of star power in this group as offensive all-stars Brett Walter (QB) and Josh Haslam (TE) return to lead a potentially lethal attack. Mark Randa and Blake Swann should get the chance to shine with the league’s best natural passer at quarterback.

The threat of the passing game has the side benefit of opening holes for a revamped backfield duo as Jessy Bertin-Haggart and Zsolt Kocsis look to replace Kyle Cooper and Mike Babic (who returned to Sault Ste Marie).

The offensive line is slightly undersized, especially pitted against Lockerby and St Benedict's, but centre Eric Searle has the experience to compensate while Grade 11 linemen Sandy Bissett is sure to have benefitted from a summer with the Sudbury Gladiators practicing alongside Azzola and Roy.

Plenty of turnover on the other side of the ball as Cody Jackson and Lindsay Vanderback have worked their way into the staring D-line rotation, with Haslam expected to see some playing time at defensive end. Captain Corey Rysdale is back at inside linebacker for a second straight year while football savvy head coach Kevin Ellsworth absolutely loves what he sees in newcomer Doug Bennett (also an accomplished lacrosse star).

Entering his fifth year with the Knights' program, Wes Kowbasniuk provides a valued on-field presence in the secondary, with Jeff Lavigne and James Hawkins also looking to make an impact. The uber-athletic Haslam will also handle the punting duties for Lo-Ellen, although Ellsworth suggest that place kicking duties will fall to slightly more accurate Aaron Haavisto.

Lockerby Vikings (4-2)

Plenty of size, lots of depth and no lack of skilled athletes helps to make Lockerby Composite a contender year in and year out. There is plenty of turnover in the Vikings backfield as Tom Mantyla starts at QB, replacing graduating all-star Christian Sampson, although strong-armed Lyndon Moorehouse may see action as well.

Justin Arnold moves from slotback to running back, joined by Jon Grenier, looking to improve on his total of almost 400 yards rushing one year ago. With a year of summer ball under his belt, New Liskeard native Andre Brock provides a deep threat at wide receiver while Vikings coach Geoff Richer looks to a "slotback by committee" option to add punch to the offensive unit.

The past few years have seen the Vikings rank as among the biggest teams on both sides of the line and 2008 is no different. Michael Gatien, Andrew Murray and Colton Bonnah are entrusted to provide valuable time for Mantyla and company on offense while the likes of Fabian Recollet, Michael Lapierre and Andrew Bellerose are sure to make the Lockerby defense among the stingiest in the league against the run.

It will be interesting to see if coach Richer spots Bonnah at defensive end as well, given the strong progress he showed this summer with the Sudbury Gladiators at the position. Linebacking remains a strength at the home of the Vikes, with Nathan Quinn following in the footsteps of older brother Ben. But there is little doubt this corps would be susbstantially bolstered if potential all-star Jordan Assinewe is able to return from an injury sustained in the Gladiators third last game.

The secondary at Lockerby may well be deepest across the entire region with veterans Brad Durigon and Nick Irvine back to stabilize a unit that will feature some outstanding young athletes. Dave Poulin is expected to handle the bulk of the kicking duties this year.

Notre-Dame Alouettes (4-2)

The return of 2007 league MVP Eric Roque into the fold at Notre-Dame very quickly changed the landscape at the home of the Alouettes, providing coach Paul Gauthier and company with the league’s most electrifying talent. Quarterback Mitch Huneault returns for a second year as starting signal caller, although it's a largely new group of receivers he will be throwing to, including basketball star Jonathan Roy and slotback Paul Cecile.

The guidance of assistant coach Gary Ricker always pays dividends for CND and he will surely enjoy the task of working with all-star Mario Breau and Grade 12 senior Matt Chartrand among others. Defensively, lineman Chad Larocque provides another veteran presence, returning for a 5th year, and teaming with Tyler Paradis to provide a sustained pass rush.

Experience is vital at middle linebacker and the Alouettes can boast the development of Curtis Radey at the heart of the defense. Some turnover in the secondary as coach Gauthier leans on Justin Ouellette and Kennedy Voz to keep things calm and controlled at the back end. With multi-sport talent George Seresse now moved on to Laurentian, kicking duties will fall on the shoulders of friend Jonathan Roy.

Confederation Chargers (4-2)

Brandon Dougan’s troops benefit from arguably the best schedule of any of the top five teams, missing both Lockerby and Notre-Dame. But no mistake, the Chargers have the talent to make some noise. Their defensive front seven, lead by end Kyle Daoust and linemacker Chris Ristimaki, will cause problems for most teams who plan to live or die with the run.

Experienced re-inforcements come in the form of Chris Burns and Matt Venne, with the likes of Kyle Harris, Jordan Hyatt and Christopher Blouin all hoping to make their presence felt this year. The achilles heel might well lie in a very young secondary unit that will sorely miss the soft hands of Matt Mott, a perennial league-leader in interceptions.

Quarterback Travis Campbell returns for a second year as starter but will not have the benefit of the offensive weapons he possessed one year ago at his disposal. There is no questioning the toughness of diminutive running back Justin Gilroy - but the elusive running back and centre-turned-fullback Jordan Creighton have big shoes to fill in departed Mike Switzer and Scott Faulkner.

Similar story within the receiving corps as Jacob May returns at wide receiver while Joey Hamelin slides to slotback. Trevor Gudrie makes the move from offensive lineman to tight end, with Taylor Fish and Jason Walker among those looked upon to open holes for Gilroy and mates.

St Charles Cardinals (3-3)

The Cards could easily prove to be the year’s wildcard, returning a solid group of players that includes QB Chris Duke and receivers Blair Roberts, Brett Toulouse and Nick Micelotta. Behind Duke, it will be a pair of youngsters trying to make a name for themselves as Nick Beech and Chris Rudyk are expected to handle the bulk of the rushing duties.

The offensive line appears solid with Mitch Chartrand, Jon Reis and Justin Belanger all returning from one year ago, with head coach Mike Fabiilli equally excited that hopefully none of his linemen will be called upon to perform double duty (playing both offense and defense).

Defensively, linebacker Jacob Lynott makes the jump from linebacker to lineman, joined by Dylan Martin and Tyler Peroni while Eric Conrad, Quinton Baptiste and Jayce Masson inherit the challenging tasks of continuing the strong tradition of Cardinal linebacking excellence.

Strength in numbers might well be the theme of the secondary with many expected to see time at cornerback, halfback and safety, although returnees Andrew St Amour and Stephen Freskiw should be fixtures. Ryan Grenon takes over the kicking duties with Marco Armiento moved on to the post-secondary ranks.

Lasalle Lancers (1-5)

Gone are the Lancer glory days when the team could field a top end contender almost year after year. Worse still, Lasalle has the unenvious task of a schedule that includes each one of the teams I have pegged in a deadlock for second place.

The biggest challenge for the past few years for coach Mike Derks has lied in the numbers, with the Lancers fielding some top end talent...but just not enough of it. Still just in Grade 11, running back Josh Cuomo will be expected to shoulder much of the load offensively.

On the other side of the ball, defensive end Jordan Lalonde enters his third year as a starter and should provide some leadership for a school that had, for the longest time, enjoyed a steady stream of talented young athletes.

Chelmsford Flyers (1-5)

If you’re a fan of Chelmsford football, circle the date on the calendar – October 9th. Not only do the Flyers play host to the Thursday Night Lights encounter, the opposition is the still-burgeoning program at Lively Secondary. I’m going out on a limb and giving the homeside a slight edge in this one.

The experience may be lacking a little on the field but over on the sidelines, it's hard to beat long-time Sudbury Spartan Walter Wilson's pure pashion for the game as he takes over the coaching reigns for the 1st year league entry.

While you never want to read too much into the spring scrimmages the team's hold in preparation of the Junior Jamboree, the Flyers were noteworthy from the standpoint in beling blessed with both decent numbers and some top-end athleticism. Whether it comes together quickly enough to pick up more than one win remains to be seen.

Lively Hawks (0-6)

By virtue of the above, the Hawks might well be doomed to a second straight winless season. But much like the Flyers, the Hawks can hold their own within the coaching ranks as recently assigned teacher (and former Spartan QB) Reg Bonin joins former Sudbury Northerners head man John Larsen in providing direction for a very young team.

Still, athletic quarterback Jeff Stub, running back Justin Mantha and a handful of returning vets should provide some memorable moments along the way.


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Article Archive:
Huard steals the show, from a local perspective, at OFSAA

Medal Count continues to rise for Lady Wolves
St Benedict still the team in beat in 2008
Four more NOHA crowns claimed locally...and AAA Wolves shine on the road

Applefest 2007 provides healthy crop of medals for Lady Wolves
High-School Football Predictions - 2007
Exciting finals highlight Big Nickel closing day
A look at the Onaping Falls Huskies and NOBHL Showcase Results

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