Every player and every coach of the Sudbury Gladiators knew all too well how much their divisional semifinal with the Nipissing Wild presented a threat as a "trap game. And in the end, they were powerless to stop it.
A "trap game," used commonly in the football setting, refers to a match-up with a lower-ranked opponent, generally sandwiched right between the "big" encounters.
Coming off a huge road win over the Huronia Stallions and looking forward to a rematch with the same opponent, in Sudbury, in two weeks time, the Gladiators were conscious, all through last week, of a potential letdown as they took their 8-0 record from the summer to the field against the 2-6 adversary from North Bay.
Their playoff loss in 2011 to Huronia might have been a tough pill to swallow, but a 27-12 defeat at the hands of the Wild on Saturday strikes a whole other level altogether.
Consider that in four previous contests against the Wild, spread between 2011 and 2012, the Sudbury defence had yet to surrender a touchdown to their northern rivals. Nipissing had reached the end zone, at times, via special teams and their defensive unit.
That much stayed consistent in the early going as North Bay speedster Zach Wilkinson returned a fumble 64 yards to put the Wild on the board, adding a second major in the opening quarter on a punt return that covered 105 yards.
While the Gladiators moved the ball well at times, they struggled in trying to convert their chances into six points on the board, settling for a pair of field goals from Alex Carriere in the opening 15 minutes of play.
Even trailing 14-9 at the half, with Carriere adding his third three-pointer of the game, the sense that prevailed was that Sudbury surely would break out in the second half.
But it was a resilient Nipissing crew, taking advantage of five untimely Gladiator turnovers, that dominated even more, outscoring the homeside 13-3 in the second half and leaving all in attendance completely stunned.
Brett Kraft accounted for the final Wild touchdown, courtesy of a seven-yard run, while the Sudbury offence saw the tables turned completely, unable to cross the goal line.
It is indeed unfortunate that in a season in which the local varsity squad accomplished so much, setting new standards in many areas, the game they will remember most, at least in the short term, will be their last.
Posted by Laurel Myers