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Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
A handful of big plays all that is needed for Gladiator wins
by Randy Pascal

With his team winless since the second week of the OFC (Ontario Football Conference) season, Sudbury Gladiators head coach Aaron Rehel does not sound like a beaten man.

A tad frustrated, perhaps, but certainly not defeated.

After blowing out the Nipissing Wild (40-7) and Vaughan Rebels (65-14) in back to back home games to open the campaign, the defending conference champions have remained competitive in each and every outing, though failing to get quite over the hump.

Losses to both the Peterborough Wolverines (14-32) and Sault Ste Marie Sabrecats (14-23) were followed by the game that was declared a 7-7 tie, though Sudbury lead 7-6 at halftime against the Forest City Thunderbirds when the match was halted in London due to lightning strikes.

A somewhat similar story this past weekend, as the Gladiators jumped out to an 11-0 first quarter lead and trailed only 15-14 at the half, before coming up short offensively through the final thirty minutes and surrendering a last minute touchdown that formally put the game out of reach, beaten 29-14 by the Huronia Stallions.

The visitors opened the scoring with a pair of safeties as well as a 15 yard TD pass from Samson Recollet to Luke Crepeau, before the Stallions rallied to outscore the Sudbury crew 29-3.

"I saw a consistent offense, at times," said Rehel. "I saw our defence create turnovers (Riley Roy recorded a pair of interceptions). I did see, on both sides of the ball, my team come together, so that was nice." Though it is not the sole reason for the challenges facing the Gladiators, key injuries to the likes of Kyler Showell, Austin Hill, Brandon Maki, Jeremy Welsh and Noah Skuce have not made this road they have travelled any easier.

Rehel, however, suggested that the key to turning things around is, more or less, completely within their control. "The difference between the level we are at, and the level where we are one of the best in Ontario, is that we have to stop the big plays and we have to create some big plays ourselves," he said.

"If we can have more on both of those ends, we are there. That's how close we are." With a home playoff matchup this Saturday looming against Nipissing - the top two teams in the North Division received byes, with the four remaining teams battling it out for semi-final berths - Rehel can easily conceive a future that mirrors the run of 2016, when a 4-4 Glads team would string together a couple of big victories in advancing to the league final.

"With every team that we have lost to, it's not like I'm looking at the team across the field and saying that we can't beat them," offered Rehel. "It has to be a combination of a good play call, and you have to make someone miss at some point. We're waiting for that one guy who can make someone miss, and change a 10-15 yard play into a 40 yard play."

"I think we have a good defence, close to a great defence, but there's always those two to three plays a game where they busy one open and it's a long touchdown, or it's a big play and an immediate field position switch. Because we're not creating those big plays, we just can't let those things happen."

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