There is a level of excitement surrounding the Sudbury Jr Spartans OSFL (Ontario Summer Football League) programs this year.
Considering the U16 squad captured the league title last year, doing so in dramatic fashion, that much was likely predictable.
Trying to duplicate that kind of success in 2023 will not be easy - but the local lads will try.
"They are coming in with a lot of energy, really excited to get on the field again," noted defensive lineman Mattaeus Grossi, hooking up with the newly-formed U18 team after spending last year as a member of the Northern Football Conference.
"I want everyone to forgot about it (2022). Then, as a unit, we can try and do it again."
While the incoming 18 year-old was obviously not part of the U16 team that knocked off the Vaughan Rebels 27-25 in the championship affair last August, Grossi does believe that he has plenty to contribute as the U18 squad brings together various factions of talent.
"We have a really great (U16) team from last year that are coming up," he said. "Half of those guys came up - and then we have some guys who are playing Spartans for the first time from high school, guys that are really good."
"It's just a different atmosphere from playing men."
Grossi should know. He was a mainstay on the Sudbury Spartans defensive unit that opened NFC play with five straight wins before being eliminated from the playoffs by the juggernaut that is the GTA All-Stars.
"I want to bring the competitive level of men's play back with me," said Grossi. "The competition up there was fierce. There are a lot of guys who have played at a really high level up there. They bring a different level of intensity."
The will to battle will be tested early as the U18 Spartans take to the road to face the Clarington Knights (the U16 Spartans will play host to the Etobicoke Eagles Saturday at 4:00 p.m. at the James Jerome Sports Complex).
U18 head coach Alex Vendramin knows that the competitive fire, combined with a number of other key elements, is sure to serve his team well.
"Bringing together a few different age groups and a bunch of different schools, it's about developing the chemistry on the team," said the young man who stood side by side with Spartans U16 head coach Jordan Desilets last summer, moving along in the fall to lead the Lo-Ellen Park Knights for a second straight year.
"Playing as a unit is something that we have to do to be successful," added Vendramin. "For me, being an O lineman, I know that the O line has to work as a five man unit, each and every play."
"We have to make sure they are on the same page, working together, in unison, as well as with our quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers."
With at least some access to the indoor facility that is the Lancer Dome, both the U16 and the U18 Sudbury entries feel they have a bit of a leg up on local summer football teams from the past, even moreso given the anticipation for 2023.
"I think that we're a little bit further ahead in terms of our playbook and guys knowing what they should be doing," said Vendramin. "Prior to us even getting on the field, guys were looking at the playbook."
"Obviously the offense will take a little bit longer to get into their rhythm, into their flow - but we are starting to see it happening now."
And for as much as the coaching staffs on both teams are relatively young compared to many a summer gone by, it's clear that they are garnering a solid grasp on exactly how they want to attack the need to teach in what still amounts to a relatively short season.
"It's just a matter of making sure that when we install the plays, that we are executing them at a high level and not overwhelming the kids by putting too much in at once," explained Vendramin. "We have to know the times to install more and the times when we should be focusing on our bread and butter."
"It's finding that balance."