The Sudbury Gladiator football teams decided to flip things around this past weekend.
Truth be told, perhaps there really wasn't much of a "decision" to be made at all.
Entering week three action with a 2-0 record, the Varsity Gladiators ran smack into the gut of the defending league champions, feeling the full force of the Hamilton Hurricanes in a 54-7 loss Saturday afternoon at the James Jerome Sports Complex.
By contrast, the Sudbury Junior Gladiators celebrated their first win of the summer, edging the North Halton Crimson Tide 10-9 after suffering back-to-back defeats to open their 2014 campaign.
Sudbury junior quarterback King Gil-Afau hooked up with Ben Ernst on a second-quarter 20-yard touchdown pass, with Mackenzie Campbell kicking what would effectively become the game-winning point, sailing his point after attempt through the uprights.
Campbell also booted a single, with the North Halton punter doing the same, while the teams also traded off safety touches along the way.
Coach Brandon Dougan and company return to the road this coming weekend, battling the Toronto Jr. Argonauts in what appears to be a pretty competitive matchup.
As for the Varsity Gladiators, they are licking their wounds, looking to rebound from a one-sided affair on their home turf against a team with no glaring weaknesses.
The visitors received touchdowns from Brandon Bettencourt (three-yard run), Osayi Iginuan (one-yard run), Jake Williams (16-yard TD pass from Liam Putt), Nicolas Baldini (one-yard run) and Nicholas Boonstra (six-yard run), with Caleb Girard adding field goals of 35, 22, 25, 13 and 43 yards and three converts, while Samuel Berube booted a pair of singles and also scampered in for a two point conversion.
Hamilton closed out their scoring with a fourth-quarter safety touch, while Sudbury's defence accounted for their only major, with Josh Girolametto returning an interception 73 yards late in the opening quarter.
In fact, the Hurricanes' defence limited the homeside to just four first downs for the entire game, with Sudbury quarterback Hunter Holub completing passes to August Danyluk (38 yards), Austin Kirkey (11 yards) and Josh Walker (20 yards), all in the second half of play.
Conversely, the visitors were forced to punt on only four occasions, scoring 10 times on 14 possessions. Though Sudbury coach Reg Bonin and staff knew full well the impressive talent level of the Canes heading into this encounter, the Hamilton crew did manage to throw in some strategic wrinkles, making matters worse.
"Early on, they got off their tendencies a little bit, and that caught us off-balance," acknowledged Bonin. "Defensively, they were a lot more passive than what we anticipated. We had planned to face an aggressive front, but they managed to give us fits with just their four "D" linemen."
In defeat, however, Bonin maintained that presence of stability and perspective that serves him so well in galvanizing a group of young athletes.
"We all have to get better, starting from me, down to our assistant coaches, our starters, our second stringers — we all have to take this as a learning experience," Bonin said.
"I look at this game as a benchmark. Hamilton is where we want to be. Overall, we are still a relatively young team. The bulk of our kids are 17 and 18 year olds. Sometimes, you get games where you take it on the chin.
"We've got a great group of kids. They're disappointed, and they should be. We're all disappointed. None of us like to lose, and we certainly don't like to lose 54-7. But I would much rather lose like we did today than in the playoffs.
"If we come back to work at practice on Monday, and we work at getting better each and every practice, then our goal is going to be to close that gap."
The Varsity Gladiators are also on the road next weekend, joining the Junior crew in Toronto, facing the Varsity Argonauts.