With the defence still holding the fort and the offence showing signs of progress, what looked like a potentially long season has turned much more enjoyable for the Sudbury Jr. Gladiators, picking up their second win in a row.
Coach Brandon Dougan and company evened their Ontario Football Conference record at 2-2 on Sunday, beating the Toronto Jr. Argonauts 35-14 in a contest that was much closer than the final score indicated.
With Sudbury holding a 13-12 lead midway through the fourth quarter and the homeside attempting a go-ahead field-goal attempt, the encounter took a sharp turn for the worse for Toronto.
The missed field goal was scooped up by Noah Skuce, with the Gladiators' speedster returning the kick 110 yards for a key insurance touchdown. Curtis Theobold added an interception return for a major on the very next Argonauts' possession, with running back Ian Christakos adding his second TD of the game late with time winding down.
Once again, the Sudbury defensive unit came up big, with both of the Toronto scores coming from their special teams, returning kicks for touchdowns.
"I haven't seen a defence yet that is better than ours," said Dougan.
"What concerned me at the start of the year was our pass coverage, but our defensive secondary has been great."
Dougan credits the natural athleticism of the group as a key to their success, noting that learning to cover the pass is something of a baptism by fire for most young football players in Sudbury, with limited exposure to offences capable of producing an effective aerial attack.
The Sudbury scoring was rounded out by a passing touchdown as QB King Gil-Afau hooked up with Darcy Labelle in the first half. At 2-2, the locals find themselves in a four-way tie for third place in the Mike Ramsay Conference, with the North Halton Crimson Tide, Oakville Titans and Huronia Stallions all sporting the identical record as the northern lads.
The team will be in tough this week, heading out on the road again on their way to face the undefeated Peterborough Wolverines. At 4-0, the Wolverines are coming off a 20-16 win over the Clarington Knights, the same team that bounced Sudbury 37-6 in week one action.
The "big" game, however, might well come one week later when the Jr. Gladiators play host to Huronia, a team that has posted similar results against common opponents with Sudbury.