Lest the Sudbury Gladiators forget 2012.
Only a handful of the current members of the varsity team likely even remember when the Sudbury crew closed out their regular season, five summers ago, with an undefeated record of 8-0. In the end, it would mean very little as the Gladiators were eliminated with a semi-final upset loss at the hands of the 2-6 Nipissing Wild, beaten 27-12 on their home turf.
No, the current edition of the OFC team are not undefeated, closing out the regular season with a record of 2-3-1. But included in the victory column was a lopsided 41-7 beatdown of the 2017 Nipissing team.
According to cornerback Simon Cope, there is really no good reason for overconfidence in the Gladiator dressing room. "I think we just have to remember our past three losses," he said. "We did not play our best in any of them. We need to understand that we cannot take a single team lightly."
In fact, Cope would provide even more proof that the final score of the season opening encounter may have been a tad misleading. "They have a very good quarterback," he said. "I think the last game, he probably had ten balls that hit receivers in the chest and they dropped it. He's their real weapon."
Still, Cope remains confident that the Gladiators could start another playoff run come Saturday afternoon at the James Jerome Sports Complex. "We need to make sure we are on our guys," he said. "If we apply pressure, I think they will drop balls."
Cope has spent the summer trying to fine-tune his game, looking forward to his first university training camp next month out east. "I had an uncle who played a year at Acadia, and he really liked it out there," he stated.
"Last summer, I went out and looked at Mount Allison, Acadia and StFX. Graeme (Stevens) got a ton of interest from Mount Allison, and I guess he put in a good word for me with the coach. I got in touch with him and that pretty much decided it."
If Stevens has been on the CIS football radar for a few years now, the same could not be said of his teammate at Lo-Ellen Park Secondary School. "I kind of started a bit later," recalled Cope. "I just enjoyed playing high school football, and played a year of Glads in grade 10. I've always liked the sport, but didn't really think there was much of a future for me there."
"Things kind of happened, and I'm just trying to make it work." Still focused on getting bigger and stronger, the well-spoken soon-to-be Political Science student does bring a mix of intangibles that university teams will try and build around, over the course of a few years.
"I think I'm pretty coachable," he said. "I listen to my coach, do whatever he wants me to do, work hard in practice, I don't take days off. I think my game is solid and hopefully I can take it to the next level."
Those could well be the words of first year varsity Gladiator Braedyn Charette a few years down the road. There is simply no denying the passion for the game within the heart of the Confederation Charger lineman.
"I love football more than anything in the world," said Charette. "I've been playing since I was in grade six. I just love everything about it. I was a little nervous this year, because I just started working, but I talked to my manager and she said just bring in your football schedule and I'll work around it. I got really lucky that way."
An impact player during his final couple of years with the Jr Gladiators, Charette has adjusted fairly well to the jump in levels, directing his attention to the key details of his role as a defensive lineman.
"Pass rushing is a big one, especially in three down football, where they don't run the ball as much," he said. "You've got to always have that pressure. Even run stopping, you've got to always have your lane, make sure no one gets a hold of you, and just do your job out there."
Like Cope, Charette acknowledged the post-season potential of the 2017 Gladiators. "I definitely think this team has a good shot at going far in the playoffs," he noted. "It's really mind over matter, practicing day in and day out, and focusing as much as we can."
In the end, it will all serve him well come September.
"I think it's going to make a real big difference," said Charette. "I mean, Jr. Glads, my grade 10 year, made a difference in my first year of high school football. But I think this year is going to be a whole different time for me."
The Jr Gladiators will kick off playoff action Saturday at 1 p.m., entertaining the Toronto Jr Argonauts, with the varsity Gladiators and Nipissing taking to the field at 4 p.m. The Sudbury juniors needed a late touchdown to pull out a 26-21 win over Toronto when the two teams met initially back at the end of May.