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An early start and high hopes for the JV Jr Spartans
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The likes of Paolo Grossi, Zidain Allen, Steven Sola and so many others truly made a name for themselves last summer, leading the Sudbury JV - U16 Jr Spartans team to an OSFL (Ontario Summer Football League) title in the process.

Don't be surprised if Noah Conde and some of his current co-horts do likewise in the summer of 2023.

Hopes are high for the 15 year-old St Benedict Catholic Secondary School student who was born in France, grew up playing soccer and benefits from family lineage that includes elite athletic talent through both his father and older sister.

While it might run counter to the family tradition, the former wide receiver moved to running back would prefer to leave his mark on the gridiron.

"Football was always something I wanted to do; I love contact sports," suggested Conde, finishing off a recent U16 team practice at the Lancer Dome. "I fell in love with it in my first year of grade nine."

"I decided I wanted to try and play Spartans and then fell in love with it even more over time."

Much like Zidain Allen, Noah Conde is initially a product of pure athleticism. Fine-tuning the more specific details of the position will be critical to just how much progress the well-spoken young man might enjoy.

"I have to rely less on just the speed; I have to have some technique involved," said Conde. "Good technique is better than just athleticism. I have to learn to run without being scared. You can't be afraid to be hit."

Thankfully, Conde is working from a base of instincts at the line of scrimmage that are likely better than most new running backs his age. "It was always something that came kind of naturally to me," he said.

"But I have come to be good at taking my time a little more and then hitting the hole. Holes can open up pretty quickly, but they can close up pretty quickly as well."

With roughly a month to go before the start of the 2023 OSFL season, head coach Jordan Desilets, for his part, is feeling that much more comfortable than he was at this time last year.

"It's great knowing that we are starting this early," suggested Desilets. "It's early April and we're having our first practice already after tryouts. It's exciting knowing that when we hit the field in three weeks at James Jerome (Sports Complex), it's going to be time to start playing football."

"It's nice to have that edge off from having that first season (2022) at the helm," he added. "Now I have that experience to go off of."

Coming off their championship season, the Jr Spartans have attracted record numbers to their tryouts - and while this might be tricky in terms of finding everyone playing time on game day, Desilets believes that at least for now, more bodies is far better than not enough bodies.

"I don't think it's that much more challenging, simply because the kids are challenging each other at this stage," said Desilets. "They know that because we have a team of sixty, not of forty, that every rep matters."

Both the U16 and the U18 Jr Spartans open play on Saturday May 20th, the former at home to welcome the Etobicoke Eagles to Sudbury while the latter will take to the road to face the Clarington Knights.

Of course, Desilets and his staff are keenly aware that they will not hit the field with a completely finished product, not by the end of May, even with an early start to practices.

"I am a defensive coach but the truth is that the fine-tuning of an offense isn't going to happen at the beginning of May," he said. "A defense can travel, they can hit hard regardless of who they are playing against."

"The offense always needs time to adjust and fine-tune. As long as we are getting better every single week, I think it will show on the scoreboard."

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