Finding a way to get out of the gate quickly has paid dividends for the Sudbury Jr. Gladiators as the team rides a two-game winning streak into a very tough home matchup this holiday weekend.
Coming off an exciting 21-20 victory over the Huronia Stallions Sunday afternoon in Barrie, the Jr. Gladiators will now close out their 2012 regular season with three consecutive home games, beginning this Saturday at 1 p.m. versus the Twin Cities Predators (4-0).
Coaches and players alike are quick to agree that a fast start made all the difference in the world last week, with Sudbury jumping out to a 21-0 first-half lead.
"We've finally been starting in the first quarter instead of the second half," defensive tackle Eric Fraser said.
A Grade 9 student at Lasalle, Fraser is in his second year with the Gladiators program — simply the place to be, he believes, to follow his dreams.
"I want to make it as far as I can in football and this is the highest level of play in Sudbury," he said.
Like Fraser, Lo-Ellen running back Matt Glass returns for a second stint with the team. And like Fraser, Glass saw countless positives in his team's play, especially offensively, early on against Huronia.
"Everyone was blocking well, so we could run to the outside," Glass said. "The linemen were going up-field, hitting people. The receivers were catching everything in their hands. Everyone was doing their job."
Yet the praise from the coaching wasn't limited to the offensive side of the ball.
"Defensively, we're starting, to use the football parlance, come downhill aggressively - rather than waiting for the game to come to us, we're initiating the contact," head coach Kevin Ellsworth said.
"And we're really pleased with the progression of our O-line," he added. "They're really young. Our receivers made a couple of key catches early on, which helped us set the tone."
Building up a comfortable lead early on, the Jr. Gladiators missed a couple of opportunities to really close the casket on the Stallions, doing enough, in the end, to hold on for a tight victory.
"We gave them a bit of momentum, allowing them to score before half," Ellsworth said.
Then, early in the second half, the Sudbury crew came up with a key "three and out" sequence defensively, only to pick up a roughing the kicker penalty, allowing the Huronia drive to be maintained.
Still, there is little doubt that Ellsworth walked away from his last two games with far more positives than negatives, garnering a clear sense of what needs to be done, this weekend, when facing one of the two remaining unbeaten teams in the 13-squad league.
"Execute four quarters," Ellsworth said. "We can compete with any team in this league when we execute. When we put balls on the ground, when we get hesitant or on our heels on defence, then we're not going to compete against the best teams.
"They'll take advantage of that," Ellsworth continued. "The four quarters is going to be huge. That's what we'll be preaching for the next three nights."
Following their game on Saturday, the Jr. Gladiators will prepare for the Peterborough Wolverines (4-1) on July 7, closing the curtain on their home campaign one week later against the Oakville Titans.
Week Five Recap: Sudbury scored early and often against Huronia on Sunday, as quarterback Hunter Holub connected with both Jon Landry (23-yard TD reception) and Connor Chezzi (44 yards) before Glass rambled in from 14 yards out. Kicker Matteo Vigna converted on all three majors, a fact that would become critical when the Stallions kicker sailed the point after attempt on his team's third touchdown, wide of the uprights with just minutes to play in Barrie.
Posted by Laurel Myers