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Quality Inn - Sudbury
Paul Lefebvre - MP for Sudbury
Sunday, Jan. 20, 2019
Gladiators back for some unfinished business
by Randy Pascal

Now that the numbers have stabilized, the Sudbury Varsity Gladiators can begin the task of wrapping up some unfinished business.

It wasn't simply a second round of the playoffs loss to the Peterborough Wolverines that may have left the crew wanting more. The Gladiators followed up a best ever playoff run in 2016 with a pair of impressive season opening wins, last summer, outscoring their first two opponents by a combined score of 105-21.

While the toughest adversaries were still to come, optimism reigned supreme.

Unfortunately, another regular season win was not to be. Included in a 0-3-1 slide was a game in London that was called at half-time due to lightning strikes. That sense of lack of completion remained in the post-season, as Sudbury bounced Nipissing 46-2 in the quarter finals before being sent packing, 36-6, by the afore-mentioned Wolverines.

Time to wipe the slate clean and see where 2018 will lead.

"The guys that are back are excited, everyone is really excited to play," noted linebacker Sam Sirkka, who not only emerged as a more than competent starter last year, but morphed into a key cog in the Gladiators' defensive scheme before the end of the campaign.

"We lost a lot of good players last year, but it should be a good season with all of the new guys that have come out. They're all athletic and know what to do." His summer of progress paved the way for an all-star high school season for Sirkka, as he continues to perfect his game.

"At the beginning of last year, my hitting was not the best," he admitted. "It was more technique than anything, missing hits. And I've got to make sure I'm in the proper position on the field to make the play."

Lively Hawks' wide receiver Nick Witzke carries a similar story to Sirkka. Initially slotted in as a second string role, his play earned him a starting lineup placement, the effects of the promotion seemingly carrying over to this spring.

"We feel a lot more confident this year," said Witzke. "Even though we lost a lot of players on defense, we feel like we have more players coming up now that can fill those holes. We feel like we're ready."

Offensively, Witzke suggested that he and his teammates must offer more in terms of harnessing the tempo of any given game. "We need to show the ability of controlling the game, the ability to hurry up if we need to speed up the game, or slow it down if we need to."

Either end, the end benefit of summer ball is always felt by the time return to school is upon the football community in September. "It gives you a lot more experience against better players, so when you go back to high school in the fall, it feels easier."

Both the Junior Gladiators and the Varsity Gladiators will open their 2018 schedule at home a week from Saturday (May 26th), with the Toronto Jr Argonauts in town for double-header action beginning at 1:00 p.m. (kickoff for the varsity game is at 4:00 p.m.).

Both games will take place at the James Jerome Sports Complex.

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