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Saturday, Jun. 23, 2018
Gladiators anxious for game action
by Randy Pascal

Perhaps it's simply not possible to carry over momentum from the end of one sports season to the beginning of the next - but the Sudbury Gladiators are about to give it their best shot.

Coming off easily a franchise-best playoff run that culminated with their first ever appearance in the OFC (Ontario Football Conference) league final, the 2017 Glads are chomping at the bit at the thought of launching this summer's campaign at home next weekend.

Sure, some of that optimism is due to a surge in numbers that furnishes the coaching staff with far more depth, across the board, than in most years. And yes, the return of several key athletes, in all areas of the lineup, allows for a greater sense of stability.

But beyond all else, it seems that the mere fact that the Gladiators have proven themselves now capable of going toe to toe with the very best programs in the OFC gives rise to a noticeably different feel to training camp this May.

"I think there is one word that summarizes it right now - excitement," noted head coach Aaron Rehel. "A lot of the kids are excited to play. They are excited with the expectations they have set for themselves. They want to prove it's not just a one year wonder."

That feeling of trying to restrain the unbridled stallion, yearning to break free, has proven itself a challenge for Rehel and his coaching staff these past few weeks. "When it comes to pre-season, it's tough to have constant motivation," he said.

"It's the biggest factor after week one and week two, keeping that tempo, keeping that pace, making sure that the coaches and players are focused on getting better every single practice."

For a veteran such as 18 year old Noah Skuce, it's something of a mixed bag at this time of year. Sure, this marks his third training camp with the team, though his move from defence to offense still allows for some sense of "newness" as he looks to expand his role as a go-to receiving threat.

"When I got here, there were just a lot of seniors on the defensive side," he recalled. "I wanted more playing time, so they moved me to receiver and I liked it a lot. I liked getting the ball, that was fun, because I've always liked returning kicks."

"It's a different style of game (on offense). It's a lot more relaxed in the sense that you know what's going to happen, or you think you know what's going to happen. On defence, everything is based off what you're reading."

Even in practice, there is a variance in the approach that Skuce would bring to his role as either a receiver or a defensive back. "As a DB, I hated one on ones, because I felt they were really unrealistic," he said. "But now being a receiver, I love them because I have all the time in the world."

And for those Sudbury football players who are coming off the fall high school league of four down football, there is also the adjustment, on both sides of the ball, to the three down version used in both Canadian university ranks, as well as the CFL.

"The game is way more fast paced, especially if you are on special teams," stated Skuce. "It seems that you are always on the field. I like three down football a lot more. I like not having too much time between my plays. If I over-think things, something will go wrong."

The Gladiators will welcome the Nipissing Wild to the James Jerome Sports Complex for the season opener on (Saturday) May 27th, with kickoff set for 4:00 p.m. That match-up will be preceded by the junior game, as the Sudbury Jr Gladiators entertain the Toronto Jr Argonauts, beginning at 1:00 p.m. at the same venue.

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