There might be roughly 40% of all of the young lads who played with one of the two Sudbury Jr Spartans’ teams (U16 or U18) this summer crammed into the predicted top three teams in the local high-school league this fall – and that, if nothing else, should make for loads of great football.Lo-Ellen Park Knights (5-0)
Some might suggest that it’s a bit of a cop-out to select the two time defending champions who return something in the neighbourhood of 25 athletes who suited up in OSFL action from May to August as favourites to three-peat, but clearly there is much to like about the 2023 Knights roster.
Quarterback Steven Sola has layered a level of maturity to his game, garnering a better feel for when to throw and when to run, all while continuing to develop an even more consistent and accurate feel to his touch throws.
There is certainly no lack of receiving options (more on that in a minute) as Quin Mazzuchin, Jaeden Delaney, Carson Huzij, Carter Sagle and Jonah Gibson all can legit lay claim to the moniker of “playmaker”. To boot, Lo-Ellen can insert back-up QB Noah Parsons comfortable with the knowledge that the youngster would be starting on most other teams in the league.
If there is a drawback to the depth at the skilled positions it’s that there is still only one ball to go around. Coach Alex Vendramin does not have a replacement quite in the same mould of graduating RB Liam Conlin, though several of the above are more than adept with the ball in their hands, navigating defensive traffic.
The O Line welcomes back Ahmed Muhammad, Nolan Mathieu and Ekam Gill while an even deeper front four on the defensive side of things (Lucas Mullaly, Scott Coles, Anthony Perris) allows Alex Sawchuk to split time at DE and LB alongside Michael McKernan.
Still a junior, Niki Sola has already established a reputation at the senior level, joined in the secondary by summer Spartans' Jacob Thom and Massimo Grossi and newcomer Jove McGibbon, as well as multi-sport talent Adam Scott, likely at safety.
About the only thing keeping Lo-Ellen from having a two touchdown advantage or more on most of their Sudbury opponents is the fact that their biggest strength, relative to the five other SDSSAA entries, is at QB and WR – positions which impact a game in a vastly different way than an all-star laden O/D line or linebacking trio.Lively Hawks (4-1)
Friday September 22nd is already circled and highlighted on my calendar.
The 5:00 p.m. battle between Confederation and Lively will determine if my “slimmest of margins” leaning in the direction of the Hawks is accurate or not. Make no mistake – there is not a whole lot to choose between the teams slotted at two and three.
Quarterback Ian MacDonald makes the jump to senior ball for Lively but does so after having deservedly earned the starting nod and learned from the reps he enjoyed as the #1 pivot with the U16 Jr Spartans.
And while he is armed with a receiving quintet (or more) that is just a notch below the Knights, his backfield tandem of Owen MacDonald (poised for a monster year) and junior graduate Alex Vildis is definitely more proven than whoever LOE decides to run the ball with (other than Steven Sola).
As noted, the grouping of Kaden Broomhead, Bradley Halonen, Koen Palmquist, Aiden Fauteux and Evan Abel will battle for the tag of top ball catchers, as a unit, with two-time SDSSAA Lineman of the Year Owen Willis anxious to bring some friends aboard to prove they can provide MacDonald (Ian or Owen – take your pick) all the time they will need to light up the scoreboard.
There’s no lack of number in O Line friends as the Saikkonen twins (Tyson/Carter) are joined by senior veteran Ryan Maanselka and junior standouts Ethan Fleury and Kelan Bennison. Defensively speaking, coaches Reg Bonin and Jordan Desilets are feeling good about their chances to hold teams to twenty points or less – though the same could be said for Shane Huchinson at Confederation.
Defensive tackle Ben Jewett joins forces with Nico Frattini (up from juniors) though it’s the linebacking trio of Chris Dore, Nathan Drolet and Andrew Dore who likely rank as the most physical in the entire league. Throw in the secondary support from ball hawk Kolby McLean, 2022 junior defensive player of the year Cyrus Paerdens and the likes of Bryce Firman and Bosco Ducharme and one can see why fans are licking their chops to see this Hawks unit face the Knights’ offense.Confederation Chargers (3-2)
In Braedan Beggs, the Chargers are also blessed with a dynamic difference-maker, albeit one coming off a summer knee injury. Confederation will need to keep defenses honest with a mix that comes courtesy of running back Evan Doyle and receivers Thomas Autio and Owen Blay – with soccer cross-over Max Aziz able to slide in and do both.
Kiki Olufowobi makes the move from defense to center allowing grade 10 standout Zach White to make the move to guard. Youth will be served on the Chargers’ defense as Jr Spartans sensation Cohen Strickland will both start in grade nine – and make an impact, benefitting from newcomer Brady Harris on the front four as well.
Confederation lost a lot in terms of linebackers (notably Owen Visentin and Logan Carr), but Bryson Smith takes advantage of an extra year of development in moving up from the secondary to the front seven. With Quentin Harris still back in that final cushion of defense, along with Nathan Nadeau and all-star Landon Doyle, coach Hutchison had the luxury of moving the former GNML forward to a position of greater involvement, play to play.
With youngsters like Colton Savage, Talon Duguay and others coming along nicely, it might just be a matter of the extent to which they are fully up to speed by week two of the schedule that determines the second place aspirations of the Valley school.