Lo-Ellen Park Knights – 1st place – projected record of 5-0
Slotting the defending champions into the #1 slot will not come as a surprise to anyone who follows local football.
It is entirely possible the Knights will open play with 24 starters, all of whom are either returnees from last year’s championship team or were members of the Sudbury Jr Spartans OSFL championship team – or both.
Quarterback Steven Sola will have an arsenal at his disposal that is unmatched in the city with a backfield combo of Liam Conlin and Seth Tomassini and a quartet (or more) of playmaking receivers that features Jaeden Dulaney, Carson Huzij, Quin Mazzuchin and Calen Jutila.
The offensive line is distinguished by its depth from tackle to tackle with William Cummings, Bryden McGhee, Hugh Cameron, Nolan Mathieu and Ekam Gill all privy to valuable game experience. Defensive ends Sam Nardi, Lucas Mullaly and Jamie Burrell should wreak havoc for opposing quarterbacks, with the linebacker tandem of Taylor Daniels and Matt Korzieniecki providing more than steady support.
A glut of football fanatics and natural pure athletes in the secondary will make it extremely challenging for other contenders to exploit any big play potential against a six-pack of Jacob Thom, Niki Sola, Massimo Grossi, Adam Scott, Riley Leblanc and Alex Miles.
So where does the hope lie for the likes of St Charles and St Benedict and the rest of the field?
For starters, though they are defending champs, the Knights did not dominate a year ago, capturing the final over Lively by just four points after surviving an overtime scare against a Bears team that did not win their first game until the last week of regular season play in 2021.
And for as much as this is an ultra solid unit, from top to bottom, a case could easily be made that a solid handful of the very best individual players in the league are actually spread out through the remaining five lineups, a bit of an anomaly for a team that is ticketed for a berth in the SDSSAA final come the end of October.
All of that said, it would be awfully hard for any betting man to take an even up, no odds wager and look in a direction other than the Knights (though the same would have been said for Texas A & M one week ago!).St Charles College Cardinals – 2nd place – projected record of 4-1
While the Cardinals cannot match the Knights in terms of summer football talent on hand, they do run much closer to the favourites in the area of returnees and fifth year high-schoolers. The week 1 match-up between these two powerhouses is absolutely much watch football come this Friday night.
In quarterback Josh Morin, running backs Blake Ramalho, Nick McGee and Cody Jalbert and receivers Riley Bose, Keegan Blais and Josh Guignard, the SCC offense is at least within earshot of what Lo-Ellen has to offer.
As is the case far more often than not, St Charles benefits from both bodies and size when it comes to the land of the linemen. Offensively, Cohen Thibeault, Jacob Ricker, Kiaus Lalonde and Branson Kameka should be able to focus their efforts on learning the intricacies of run and pass blocking, without having to do much in the way of double duty given the defensive unit of Rory Lavallee, Owen Haw, Marik Maltais and Ethan Dey that coach Rob Zanatta has access to.
Parker Tilbury and Easton Stanley are sure to be tested as they work on continuing a tradition of excellence of Cardinals linebacking. Liam Hobson returns to Sudbury after a year of playing football in the GTA, adding even more strength to a secondary crew that already featured both Tristan St Germaine and Parker Tardif.St Benedict Bears – 3rd place – projected record of 3-2
The toughest team to assess by virtue of the fact that coach Junior Labrosse was very candid in acknowledging his leaning towards keeping a NOSSA championship potential junior team together, even though the likes of Paolo Grossi and several others could help his senior crew, St Benedict should battle it out with Lively for the #3 slot in the league.
After underestimating the Bears one year ago (and being reminded of it on several occasions), it seemed only fair to give the south-end squad the benefit of the doubt with a senior lineup that features a number of impactful players, even if not the top to bottom depth of the top two teams in the league.
Quarterback Anthony Gutscher is the next in a seemingly long line of young, talented ball-throwers, all of whom will be trying to garner a comfort with the senior game as quickly as possible. His backfield tandem of Shawn Huot and Chris N’Goyet should complement nicely the receiving duet of Jacob Dillabough and speedy Thomas Rinaldi.
Some questions remain to be answered on both sides of the line, but that won’t be the case for Mattaeus Grossi, poised for a monster season in the words of his coach, as well as offensive stalwarts David Renaud and Isaiah Chartrand-Bartlev.
It would be tough to overestimate the importance of a full season of NFC league play for linebacker Andrew Kilby, who should be licking his chops at not having to bring down grown men for a change, with Ethan Lowe also poised to chip in at linebacker.
The matchup of a very solid secondary grouping led by Robert Van Emden, Drake Thiessen and Liam Blanchard versus the likes of Sola and Morin will go a long way towards deciding whether St Benedict can again out-perform my predictions this year.