The final score may have been the same, but the opponent definitely wasn't.
That was, in a sense, at least part of the reason why Sudbury Gladiators head coach Brent Richer put even more stock in a second consecutive 31-7 triumph, this time over the Toronto Jr. Argos.
While their season-opening win came, at home, over a still burgeoning summer football program from North Bay, this victory on the road against one of the more established teams in the Ontario Football Conference (OFC) carries with it, a little more weight.
"Everything was perfect," Richer said, on the Sunday bus ride home. "This was that game."
In fact, there was not one single element of his team with which the coach could find major fault.
The special teams, considered a key strength with the 2012 edition of the Gladiators, were at their rambunctious best on a team loaded with depth, blocking punts, providing outstanding field position on offence and causing mayhem each and every time they took to the field.
"Every time we kicked the ball, somebody from Toronto didn't get up," Richer noted of his hard-hitting kamakaze crew.
Defensively, the Gladiators were thwarted from a second straight game of not allowing an opposing touchdown by a series of untimely penalties, allowing the Argos to narrow the gap to 17-7 early in the third quarter.
"We are very, very aggressive on defence," Richer said. "But we had to remind the boys that when you play a game on the road, giving a team a free 15 yards is not what you want."
Still, the shutdown feature of this particular Sudbury defensive unit is impressive, even moreso considering the fact that the Jr. Argos' lineup features a handful of athletic playmakers.
Sudbury safety Emerson Carniel continues to perform highway robbery downfield, picking off his second and third interceptions of the season. Richer, meanwhile, was equally as pleased in being able to put some back-ups to the test in this encounter.
"Josiah Walt had a great game," Richer said.
Walt, making the transition from the ranks of the Junior Gladiators this year, stepped in early in the game, after starter Kennedy Voz was sidelined with a shoulder injury on the second defensive series of the game.
The Confederation Charger came through with several big plays, narrowly missing a pair of interceptions. "That's the kind of depth you need to win championships," Richer said.
Offensively, the visitors spread the ball around nicely, mixing their running game with an aerial attack that the Sudbury coach noted finished well above 200 yards.
"Dan (Poirier) was able to spread the ball to his receivers, and that helped us in running the ball," Richer said.
Poirier, now in his third year with the team, connected for touchdown strikes with both Matt Vettoretti and Alex Carrière, also reaching the end zone once himself, while Scott Smith rambled in for the remaining major.
Kicker Travis Perrin converted on all four scores, adding a 34-yard field goal to round out the scoring.
Junior Gladiators drop first road game
In the Juniors game, Sudbury staged a valiant second half comeback, falling just short. Toronto jumped out to a 28-1 half time lead before the Junior Gladiators roared back, ultimately dropping a 38-33 to the host team.
Both Sudbury squads are back in action, at home, this coming weekend. The Junior Gladiators will lineup opposite the Sarnia Sturgeon Saturday at 1 p.m. at the James Jerome Sports Complex, while the Varsity Gladiators take to the field with the Huronia Stallions at 4 p.m. at the same venue.
Posted by Laurel Myers