By Darcy MacRae
You can?t blame Patty Walsh for being more than a little disappointed.
The Sudbury Spartans? head coach envisioned his team would be mixing it up in the Northern Football Conference play-offs right about now when the season began in June.
However, injuries and lack of players due to work commitments contributed to the Spartans going 1-8 in regular season play, forcing them to watch from the stands as six other NFC squads battle for the league championship.
Walsh said watching the Spartans go 1-8 was not a particularly enjoyable experience. Coming off a 3-5 season in 2001, Walsh felt his team would once again make the playoffs this year.
Things don?t always go as planned.
?I hated it (going 1-8). At the beginning of the year we had some older, experienced players out, but due to injuries and work commitments they weren?t able to stay with us. We had to go with a lot of younger guys and there were a few close games we had where the inexperience showed,? said Walsh.
The Spartan?s head coach said that if his squad had won a few of those close games, they might very well have finished the season at .500 and earned a spot in the NFC playoffs.
One positive aspect he takes from this season is that his younger players will be much more prepared for tight ball games when they take to the field next year.
?On the plus side, all the young guys got better as the season went along, and they?re just going to keep getting better,? said Walsh.
Although the team struggled as a whole, there were some very fine individual seasons put in by some members of the Spartans.
Wide receiver Adam Speck finished second in receiving yards on the squad in only his second year on the team, while 15-year-old Steven Gruvelle established himself as the team?s starting full back in his rookie season.
Walsh said he feels both of these players will be a big part of the team?s future in seasons to come.
Until the next season starts, the head coach said he will keep a close eye on the high school football league for talented players who can help the Spartans recapture some of the glory they have achieved in their illustrious 50-year history.