It wasn't their most impressive win, but it was their fifth straight, and heading into a bye week in first place with a record of 5-0 is all that coach Brent Richer and the Sudbury Gladiators could have asked for.
Sudbury downed the Clarington Knights 20-14 Saturday afternoon in Clarington, building up a 20-7 lead after three quarters and holding on for the victory as the Knights made things interesting with about three minutes to play.
Marching the field behind a very effective running game, the Gladiators opened the scoring through the air, with quarterback Dan Poirier finding speedy Matt Vettoretti from about 20 yards out.
After Clarington bounced back to even the contest at 7-7, Travis Perrin kicked his first of two field goals, giving the visitors a three-point lead after 15 minutes of play. The Gladiators increased their advantage in quarter two, with Scott Smith doing the damage from seven yards out.
Yet it was the Sudbury defence that was the story in the opening half. With Eric Donaldson and Emerson Carniel both recording key interceptions, the Gladiators defence was just warming up. Faced with a first and goal from their two yard-line, Sudbury pushed Clarington back to the 10 before Donaldson blocked the field goal attempt to end the first half.
That proved key as scoring in the final 30 minutes was virtually non-existent, as Perrin hit for a field goal before the Knights closed the scoring with a late touchdown.
"What we thought they were going to do and what they did were two different things," Richer said on Sunday evening. "It wasn't our strongest game. We worried that this had potential to be our trap game."
Still, good teams find ways to win when they're not at 100 per cent and the Gladiators are convincing more and more people that they are, indeed, a very good team.
"I thought we played a very good first half, with very few penalties, but we were riddled with them more in the second half," Richer said. "And don't get me wrong, (Clarington) was just as bad as we were at times.
"Running the football, we did a very good job today," Richer added. "Throwing the ball, we didn't have a very good day. We weren't consistent at all."
Recognizing this fact early on, the Gladiators opted to emphasize a ground control clock-eating game as Smith finished the encounter with 141 yards on just 20 carries.
Richer was also pleased, yet again, with the play of the special teams, specifically the kicking of Perrin, who three times sailed a punt out of bounds inside the Clarington 10-yard line.
Defensively, the Gladiators did not miss a beat despite some key absences, as end Will Harding sustained an injury in practice and Patrick Boileau could not avoid work commitments. Halfback Kennedy Voz also remains sidelined with a broken shoulder blade.
The local crew will have a chance to rest those bumps and bruises as Richer and company have given the squad a full 10 days off, with their next game not scheduled until July 7 when the Gladiators travel to North Bay to face the Nipissing Wild.
Posted by Laurel Myers