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Pascal Prognostications: Part I - and some late breaking news
2023-09-12

The prevailing sentiment as I made my way to each and every one of the SDSSAA senior football training camps last week says far more about the state of football, in general, in Sudbury than it does about any one individual team.

The impact of the vibrant Jr Spartans two-team summer offering in 2023 is being felt in each and every lineup, with all coaches in agreement that the overall quality and depth of football talent is as good as they have seen in twenty years or more.

That bodes well for a super exciting fall season.

So without any further ado, I will launch myself into the highly anticipated and “completely for fun” Pascal Prognostications (as in the 15th edition or so – maybe more), with the bottom three schools being covered today and the top three teams on Thursday:

Monday evening, after this column was completed and sent to the Sudbury Star came the news that all-star running back Zidain Allen had returned to Sudbury and, more specifically to the Lasalle Lancers.

A huge bonus for the team, this certainly puts the squad on basically equal footing with the two other schools noted below, making for yet another fascinating level of matchups this fall.

St Benedict Bears (3-2)
The 2023 Bears are young and the school which featured the likes of Joey Martellacci and Christian Battistelli is still searching for a running back – but they do have Paolo Grossi as well as some other interesting and helpful pieces.

Head coach Junior Labrosse insists that he intends to limit the use of the most dynamic player the league has seen in years (Grossi) to just his defensive position (safety) and special teams (and kicking duties) – but that might still mean that the talented young man is good for at least a touchdown a game.

And one has to wonder if the temptation in ultra-close fourth quarter games is simply too great and Grossi jumps in at slotback and the like. Either way, it looks like the ball will be delivered by returning QB Anthony Gutscher – though newcomer Phoenix Marks is apparently giving him quite a run for his money.

While questions remain in the backfield, the same cannot be said for a receiving corps that is more than solid with returnees Jacob Dillabough, Drake Thiessen and Thomas Rinaldi as well as multi-sport athlete Wyler Whitmore and Dylan Burton, who makes the jump from juniors.

Despite being in grade 11, Will Elliott will anchor the offensive line, with Erik Piette, Carter Gagnon and Jr Spartans addition Owen Rheault right by his side. Across the line, sparkplug George Crawford is back after another season of summer ball, with Jacob DiPieprantinio, Beau Naponse and Thomas Corrigan all looking to assert themselves at the senior level.

The linebacking trio will feature one Jr Spartan in Hayden Liinamaa, a couple of very athletic hockey talents in Mattias Saari and Kieran Ouellette, as well as Ethan Lowe, back from the 2022 senior Bears.

The secondary is the roving grounds of Paolo Grossi, an extremely punishing hitter (never mind “pound for pound” – he’s punishing even stacked up against LBs who outweigh him by 50 pounds or more), with Robert Van Embden also benefitting from loads of year-round football experience and Andy Hernandez-Diaz showing well in his debut with the gridiron sport.

St Charles College Cardinals (1-4)
The Cards are pretty much equally as young as the Bears, especially on the defensive side of the ball, but are blessed with strength on the lines, which is not a bad place at all to start if you want to build the foundation of a solid team.

The graduation of signal-caller Josh Morin means that Riley Bosse will take his first crack at the job, with St Charles the only team starting from scratch at this critical position. That said, junior standout Great Origbo provides a little comfort in the backfield while Liam Hobson (who may be on the field for 48 minutes a game this fall) is expected to also get touches on the ball.

Wideouts Logan Ramalho and Daine Kutchaw Taylor are new to senior football starting positions putting a whole lot of pressure on an offensive line that at least sees U18 Spartans’ Ryan Sooley, Josh Daniels and Jacob Morin stepping up.

Summer teammate Zak Legault crosses over on the D Line, holding the outside edge with returnee Marik Maltais, with the pair joined by Kayden Hasner and Michael Imbeau. Noah Larcher moves from defensive end with Jr Spartans to linebacker for coach Rob Zanatta while hockey blueliner Easton Stanley is also back with that next wave of the defense unit.

Siblings Tristan and Ashton St Germain are undoubtedly looking forward to a season of lining up side by side and hopefully meeting up on tackles. Like Grossi, Liam Hobson will roam the secondary and will likely see frequent contact, with newcomers Rilee Kearns and Max Myrtezaj also picking the nuances of the defensive secondary quickly in the early going.

Soccer star Braxton Ragogna returns to do both the punting and place kicking for the Cardinals.

Lasalle Lancers (0-5)
Full disclosure: as I closed off my week with a visit to Lasalle Secondary, it was going to take a lot to move the needle from the 0-5 mark I had penciled them in for, with plenty of rumours circulating that numbers remained thin for the team that pulled the plug midway through the 2022 campaign.

What I saw was a team that looks a whole lot closer to potentially closing the year at 2-3 than a team that is clearly three touchdowns worse than anyone else in the league – and that’s encouraging.

New head coach J.J. McKnight definitely has some pieces at his disposal. Quarterback Riley Warton returns for a second year, fresh off his U16 OSFL season. More importantly, running back Mason McLaughlin accompanies him, the young talent having improved each and every time he stepped on the field this summer.

Connor Campeau and Sylas Asare-Corbiere carry receiver experience into the fall while former Cardinal Derek Idehen is back after sitting out a transfer year and Dash Kamal looks to transition from soccer to football.

The O-Line might be a little thin though U16 Jr Spartans teammates John Armstrong and Jack Vincent provide a starting point – not to mention the presence of some pretty impressive defensive line standouts who could take a few snaps on the other side of the ball (Jaden Brennan, Cole Preston and Michael Mishibinijima).

At linebacker, the Lancers will feature Dalton Wilcox (U16 JS), Kurtis Werbowsky and lacrosse star Xavier Osawamick while OFSAA caliber wrestler Cengiz Colgecem, OFSAA hurdler Logan Mannela and Harper Chartrand-Ferrier all look to contain a number of offenses around the league with big play threats.

Still, Lasalle has athletes (now including RB Zidain Allen - started the summer with Football North prep program in Mississauga, but has decided to return home) – and with that comes hope.

Dairy Queen - Sudbury - Kingsway / Val Caron