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Sunday, Apr. 22, 2018
Gladiators sweep in contrasting games
by Randy Pascal

The Sudbury Jr Gladiators rewarded rookie head coach J.J. McKnight with a victory in his very first OFC (Ontario Football Conference) outing. First, however, they provided him with a few grey hairs.

Seemingly in complete control, ahead 19-7 with right around five minutes to play, the Jr Gladiators were torched for a pair of quick touchdowns by the visiting Toronto Jr Argonauts last Saturday at the James Jerome Sports Complex.

Thankfully, the locals still had 2:03 to work with when they received the ball back, and within a span of 47 seconds, Mbuyi N'Galamulume would dash in from seven yards out, lifting Sudbury past Toronto 26-21.

The wild finish capped off an interesting contest, one that would see Gladiators' defensive back Victor Paajanen get the hometown fans going early, making a circus-like interception catch on the very first play from scrimmage for the visitors. Two plays later, the Argonauts returned the favour, recording a pick of their own.

This see-saw trend continued until late in quarter one, when Toronto fashioned an impressive 108 yard march, culminating it with a Lee Dicker touchdown run from two yards out.

The Gladiators tied things up with 3:21 to play in the half, shortly after a key interception from Hunter Kirkey. Liam Cousineau salvaged a broken play, heading back to his left, against the grain and picking up a big block from Brodie Erwin, one that would allow the St Charles College speedster to scamper 44 yards downfield for the score.

Now enjoying a bit of additional confidence, the homeside took their first lead of the game just before halftime, as quarterback Adam Rocha connected with Cousineau on a two yard TD pass, with N'Galalumule adding the convert.

More aerial dynamics for the Glads in quarter three, this time with the Rocha to Eric Huneault combination, making the score 19-6. Things stayed that way, with the exception of an Argonauts' single, until Nolan Cromwell bolted 62 yards on a punt return, giving life to the visiting crew.

On the very next possession, Toronto moved the ball with authority, as Dicker reached the end zone for a second time, bulldozing in from the eight, and giving the Argos a 21-19 lead.

Thankfully for coach McKnight and company, the Sudbury lads had one more counter-punch in their arsenal, as Rocha and several others impressed with their season-opening effort. "I felt really comfortable with the speed, I felt really comfortable with the play calling," said Rocha.

"I have a great group of guys around me. They made it really easy for me to do what I wanted to do out there. Having the confidence in the receiver you are throwing to really helps. And you have to give so much credit to the "O" Line - they gave us so much time and really reduced the pressure."

Following the lead of the juniors, the Sudbury Varsity Gladiators wasted little time serving notice that they are back to take another crack at the OFC final, thumping the Nipissing Wild 41-7.

The senior team featured a nicely varied offense, as Luke Crepeau, Graeme Stevens, Bankamina N'Galamulume, Louis Gage, Noah Skuce and Darcy Labelle all recorded majors in the lopsided victory.

Both teams are back in action again at home this coming weekend, as the Vaughan Rebels send a pair of teams to Sudbury. The Saturday double-header begins at 1:00 p.m., with the junior varsity teams, followed by the elder statesmen at 4:00 p.m.

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