Cards edge out the Bears for top spot in the rankings
by Randy Pascal
In my ever so humble opinion, there is very little to choose between the forces of the St Charles College Cardinals and the St Benedict
Bears senior football teams this fall. Position by position, these squads match-up extremely well.
With that in mind, the final determinants in putting together the top-end of my pitch prognostications came down to: a) the fact that the teams head to
head battle on September 21st is being played at the St Charles field, something of a rarity given the overwhelming majority of games taking place at the
James Jerome Sports Complex, and b) despite the retirement of legendary football coach Mike Fabiilli, the Cardinals are two time defending city
champs, and that has to be worth something.
St Charles Cardinals (5-0)
The post-Fabiilli Cardinals should be fun to watch, especially as they also deal with the move to three down football. In fact, the make or break factor in
their race with the Bears could very well come down to the progress that returning quarterback Nathan Rivet has made in making good use of the
receiving talent at his disposal, with the likes of Gage Louis, Andrew Foley, Liam Nelson, Dylan McLauglin and converted basketball talent Justin
Savard all very tempting targets.
St Charles will boast the deepest backfield in the league, lead by the sibling tandem of Bankamina and M’Buyi N’Galamulume, as well as the
evasive Liam Cousineau, who improved in leaps and bounds this summer with the Sudbury Jr Gladiators.
The pool of linemen took a hit, graduating four all-stars from the crew, but the return of Eric Lebreton, Andrew Parks, Matt England and Benny
Valcin suggests the cupboard is a long way from bare. Jack Staffen is back to anchor the linebacking corps, though new faces in the form of
Brad Piazza, Braedan Gobbo and Spencer Lavallee will be at his side.
The defensive backfield is as good as any in the league, with Callum Roque, Justin Gibeault, Liam Williamson and Erik Struk all more than
capable of padding their interception stats should opponents pass with reckless abandon.
St Benedict Bears (4-1)
If not for the absence of hulking linemen Austin Hill and Zack Corcoran, the Bears might have nudged St Charles from the top of the rankings.
That said, the talent that remains in the south end is fully capable of halting their Catholic cross-town rivals bid at a three-peat.
Coach Junior Labrosse will have plenty of flexibility at his disposal, beginning at quarterback, with veteran Dakota Coggins and Jr Glads’
starter Adam Rocha both providing a different look to the offense. Regardless of who is under centre, both of these talented athletes are sure to be
on the field, at the same time.
In the duo of Max McGillivray and Chris Scherzinger, the Bears give up very little ground to St Charles, when it comes to the running back
position. The receiving trio of Josh Wilcox, Chris Gosk and Mark Thom will have to produce some big plays, especially against top end
opponents, in order to force teams not to key in completely on the run.
In Jackson Gutsch, Sam Sirkka, Matthew Lubenkov, Josh Larocque, Baron Perreault and Brayden Ridley, St Benedict will have the size and
skill to dominate the trenches, with a linebacking trio of Michael Andlar, Max Leger and Sirkka the envy of every other team in the city.
The Bears secondary features the ability to be “sneaky good” this year, returning Calvin Puro, Dawson Nootchtai, Calub Rivers to the fold, while
Ben McDonald moves up after capturing Defensive MVP team honours with the Jr Gladiators this summer.
Lively Hawks (4-1)
The Hawks have a chance to become the fly in the ointment for the top two, partially because they avoid facing St Benedict in the unbalanced schedule this
year, and partially because they can roll out a roster that includes a handful of the top individual playmakers in the city.
Nowhere is that more evident than with quarterback Nicholas Rideout, an athlete blessed with the versatility to impact a game in more different
fashions than any other teenager in the league this year. His backfield should be solid, with Liam Punkari, Steven Head and Noah Funnell
handling most of the touches, while a receiving core headlined by Nick Witzke, Andrew Elliot, Carter Michaud and Charlie Dow allows for
plenty of options for Rideout.
In fact, the single biggest key for success in Lively this fall will likely come down to just how successful Rideout will be at making use of those
around him, as the rest of the SDSSAA ranks game plan around how best to not let him beat you, single-handedly.
The Hawks are not blessed, by and large, with an embarrassment of riches in terms of size on the lines, though the grouping of Benen Dupont, Giovani
Bagnarol, Dylan Jewitt, Matti Walli, Alex Hayden, Kiel Cress and a few others can certainly be counted on to get the job done at this level.
Defensively, everything revolves around middle linebacker Jeremy Welsh, as he looks to bring Jack Brownlee, Alex Gallant and Connor
McLean up to speed quickly. Dayton Niemi, Aiden Gilliard, Ben Lagadin, Victor Paajanen and the remainder of the secondary unit will have to show
they can hold the fort in order to ensure that coach Reg Bonin is not tapping into his receiving ranks for double duty.
Confederation Chargers (3-2)
The Chargers were, head and shoulders, the trickiest collection of talent to assess this year. There is no denying that numbers are light, especially
compared to the SDSSAA elite, meaning that injuries will be costly. There is equally no denying that the Confederation roster might contain more natural
football talent, per capita, than any other team in Sudbury.
In terms of the overall depth of talent on the lines, the Chargers probably rank first in the city. Having Riley Noland, Braedan Charette, Logan Bleach,
Kilby Murdoch, Nick Larocque, Alex Boudreau, Mark McInroy, Jared Zyma and company means that coach Brandon Dougan will be relying on far less of
his “hogs” to be playing both sides of the ball than any of his coaching counterparts.
In Kyle Preseau, the Chargers can lay claim to a signal-caller that is similar, in many regards, to Rideout. Running back Bradley Patterson
and wide receiver Ryan Mathewson have showcased their skills in prior years, but a complement that runs thin after Aiden Chmielak, Connor Sauvé
and Ryan Fournier means the Valley boys will need all hands on deck to make their way to the city final.
That more limited breadth of numbers is also evident in the defense, where Bleach and Chmielak will likely be asked to join Ryan Audette in
hunkering down the second wave, while Patterson and others might be asked to step in alongside Anthony Moyse Dombek and Leon Gour in the