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Monday, Nov. 19, 2018
Aaron Rehel as excited as ever for upcoming summer
by Randy Pascal

Yes, Sudbury Varsity Gladiators' head coach Aaron Rehel had hoped to step away from the duties he has assumed with the team since 2015.

No, he does not find himself any less excited about the upcoming campaign, in spite of his off-season indecision.

There are a few reasons for his renewed enthusiasm. For starters, some shuffling in the ranks has rendered the OFC (Ontario Football Conference) that much stronger, with weaker outfits in North Bay and Vaughan replaced by a solid former OVFL influx of teams from Etobicoke, Brampton and Oshawa.

“It's nice to have that motivation every week, from both my end and the players' end, to know that if you let up even a little bit, it may be the difference in the game,” said Rehel. And where there has been plenty of turnover in the roster of the 2018 Gladiators, the former St Charles College and University of Ottawa running back is nothing if not anxious to work with his assembled young talent.

“I think we legitimately have a shot with any team that we face, just as we did last year,” he said. “I don't think we're lacking any talent, per se. Obviously, every team has their strengths and weaknesses, but I don't see this team as being a team that cannot compete with anyone else in the league, personally.”

Still, new faces will be abundant, starting with St Benedict Bears' pivot Adam Rocha, making the jump from Jr Glads. “I was lucky enough to work with him over the winter,” said Rehel. “He's a smart kid, he loves the game of football, he likes to study it. He's kind of the prototypical quarterback, plus he's got a big arm.”

Joining Rocha will be the familiar presence of Liam Cousineau in the backfield, as the latter builds on a exceptional junior varsity season that saw the St Charles student emerge as a feature back. Veterans Luke Crepeau and Mason Bond are both back, with newcomer Alex Lockhart making it an even troika of Lasalle Lancers on offense.

The decision to go with Rocha at QB allows Rehel to isolate the likes of Nick Rideout and Brad Patterson on the receiving end, the tandem part and parcel of a deep pass catching core that also features Nick Witzke, Carter Struk and David Pushman. “Nick (Rideout) has played a lot of quarterback, he understands the game and sees the game through the eyes of a quarterback. He's an extremely explosive player.”

The trenches have provided a pleasant surprise, as over-sized hockey goaltender Brandon Soucy returns home to join a group that will benefit from the collective experience of Kyler Showell, Derek Mullin, Dylan Jewitt, Robbie Bianchin and Jacob Desjardins. “We're a little bit bigger and stronger than I expected.”

The depth they enjoy on the offensive side of the line is quite likely surpassed on defense. Mike Andlar, Benen Dupont, Matt England, Jackson Gutsch, James Bronicheski, Braden Charette, Riley Noland afford the Gladiator coaching staff with a ton of versatility.

A standout in 2017, Sam Sirkka will anchor the linebacking group, with Logan Bleach, Chris Scherzinger, Nathan Rivet and Erik Michaud all hoping to make their presence felt. In the secondary, Rehel is ecstatic with the early showing of Victor Paajanen (“he is exceptional – he's youthful, but plays really hard, just a great athlete”), but sees loads of support with the likes of Ben Campbell, Liam Punkari, Ryan McDougall, Seth Leroux and Andrew Rocha.

Plenty of new faces, faces of players that Aaron Rehel and company are thrilled to be working with.

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