Dairy Queen - Sudbury - Kingsway / Val Caron
The Baseball Academy
Trevella StablesJoe MacDonald Youth Football League
Jr Spartans will carry some momentum into the regular season
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Don’t try and tell the Sudbury U18 Jr Spartans that their wild 28-27 victory over the Sault Sabrecats on Saturday doesn’t count for anything.

Technically speaking, the win that was clinched only when Sudbury DB Quentin Harris intercepted a Matti Tucker pass as the visitors attempted a two point conversion on the final play of the game improves the Jr Spartans exhibition game record in 2023 to 2-0.

But given the frustration that has been the northern rivalry between the cities when it comes to high-school football, one can forgive the locals for showing more than their fair share of excitement as this contest came to a dramatic close.

“We prepared all week for that,” suggested safety Liam Hobson, still enjoying the moment. “We know that Sault Ste Marie is an extremely hard-nosed team. Over the years, they have come to Sudbury – and we’ve lost. But this was sort of a measure of revenge.”

It was a measure that also did not come easily, not without adversity for Coach Alex Vendramin and the lads.

The end of the first quarter would see the Jr Spartans holding a 9-7 lead courtesy of the first of three field goals from Braedan Beggs and the first of two touchdown runs for quarterback Steven Sola, with the Sabrecats countering with a major of the ground from Ronan Provenzano and the point after from Ty Koski.

The home side survived a second quarter interception by Nikolas Vecchio as the Sudbury defense stood tall – but special teams would become problematic. The Cats’ returning ace Jaiden Trudeau would make his presence felt, sprinting 31 yards on a punt return for a TD just before half-time and then taking the opening kickoff of the second half back 82 yards to the house as the Sault increased their lead to 21-9.

“The key for us was to stay calm, pretend like it never happened and keep playing our game,” insisted wide receiver Carter Sagle, who hauled in a 20 yard pass and also came through with a big open field solo tackle on Trudeau to ground another SSM special teams’ threat.

Runs by Beggs (36 yards), Liam Conlin (11) and Sola (18) on the ensuing Sudbury drive would set up a first and goal, a surge that was capped off with a three yard pass from Sola to Conlin.

Some back and forth in the third quarter would set the stage for the next big play as the Spartans’ Nikolas Charbonneau broke through to block a punt in Sabrecats territory, recovering the ball on the Sault 15 yard line.

This time around, Sudbury took to the air as Sola hit Owen MacDonald for a 10 yard pass and Jordan Guerrette for eight, giving the boys a first and goal, again, this time from the three. The OSFL newcomers, at least at the U18 level, were unfazed by a procedure penalty on the next play as Sola bootlegged backdoor for an eight yard run to paydirt, the point after (Beggs) restoring the Sudbury lead at 22-21.

Taking advantage of the wind at their back in the fourth quarter, the nickel city reps hemmed their opponents in for the first eight or nine minutes, rewarded with a pair of field goals from Braedan Beggs, the second one splitting the uprights from forty yards out.

But with less than two minutes to go and no timeouts remaining, the Sabrecats marched, with Tucker accepting what the defense would give him, going short to the likes of Trudeau and Kaylob Thibodeau.

With about ten seconds to play, the Jr Spartans appeared to have sealed the victory courtesy of a goal line interception by Liam Hobson. “I was super excited when I got that pick but unfortunately, it was called pass interference – although I don’t agree with the call,” he suggested quite calmly.

“As a DB (defensive back), you have to have a short term memory. Next play, that’s all I was thinking.”

With 0.5 seconds showing on the clock, the Sault would get one last shot, making the most of it as the Tucker – Thibodeau connection made Sudbury pay from 12 yards out, making the score 28-27 in favour of the Spartans.

Given the exhibition status of the contest – one would assume – the visitors opted to go for the win, their elation quelled just as rapidly courtesy of the soft hands of Quentin Harris.

With half of the Sabrecats’ scoring coming from special team play, the Sudbury defense marched off understandably proud of their overall effort. “We focused on stopping the run,” said Hobson. “We knew they had two amazing running backs. We had to go low, hit hard and gang tackle.”

Perhaps more than most on the team, the Lo-Ellen Park Secondary component of the Sudbury lineup particularly appreciated this result. “The last time we played the Sault (NOSSA), it didn’t go so well,” conceded Sagle, one of a very healthy group of Knights who also suited up for coach Vendramin with the Purple and Black.

“All of the kids from Lo-Ellen, in the back of our minds, we let it eat on us and then just released everything to try and get back at them.”

This victory, albeit a pre-season one, still meant a great deal.

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