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Monday, Aug. 20, 2018
Glads overcome sluggish start, pull away from the Wild
by Randy Pascal

For at least 15 minutes or so, the Sudbury Varsity Gladiators were suffering flashbacks of 2012.

That summer, an undefeated Sudbury crew was upset in the first round of the OFC (Ontario Football Conference) playoffs by a Nipissing Wild team that posted a 2-6 record in regular season play.

And while the Gladiators were never in serious danger Saturday at the James Jerome Sports Complex, a 3-2 lead heading to quarter number two likely had some folks on hand at very least just a touch nervous. Scoring was obviously limited in the early going, with Nick Rideout making good on a 14 yard field goal while Nipissing countered with a pair of singles.

It wasn't until Gladiators quarterback Samson Recollet connected with Darcy Labelle on a 15 yard pass and run major with 7:41 to play in the opening half that Sudbury fans breathed a collective sigh of relief.

The additional cushion would come quickly, as Bankamina (Djuwa) N'Galamulume bulldozed his way in from the two yard line, with Rideout scrambling in for a two point conversion with 3:14 to play, and a nail in the coffin on the second last play of the half.

With Sudbury already ahead 17-2, Recollet lofted a beautiful spiral and let the speedy Rideout run underneath it, accounting for a 73 yard scoring play with just five seconds showing on the clock.

David Pushman (11 yard pass from Recollet) and Luke Crepeau (20 yard TD run) closed out the scoring, with Sam Santi adding a pair of converts in a 46-2 Sudbury win.

"Our defense is solid, we just had to make sure not to get beat with the deep guy, not to let receivers get over you," stated Gladiator linebacker Sam Sirkka. Donning the silver and blue of the Gladiators for the very first time, the 17 year old grade 12 student at St Benedict Catholic Secondary School is thrilled with the company he has been able to keep on the gridiron this summer.

"This is the best defense I've ever played with," he said. "It allows you to become a better player, because everyone around you is pushing you to do your job harder." Perhaps nowhere is that peer pressure and sharing of football knowledge more evident than right at the side of Sirkka, as he lines up for most every play with Mount Allison Mounties recruit and fellow Gladiator Graeme Stevens.

"We talk all the time," said Sirkka. "I've learned a lot about footwork from him, and speed off the ball. It's helped me lots with my game this year." That improvement will be put to a much stiffer test in round two of the playoffs as the Sudbury crew prepare to face the unbeaten Peterborough Wolverines next Saturday on the road.

"We know how their offense works and what they run," said Sirkka. "Our biggest challenge is going to be their quarterback (Ottawa Gee Gees rookie Ryan Astrom). He's a scrambling QB and doesn't stay in the pocket. That's our biggest challenge."

The Varsity Gladiators will be joined in Peterborough by the Sudbury Jr Gladiators, who also must face the Peterborough Wolverines as they look to register only their second playoff win in program history.

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