Prior to Saturday’s game with the Huronia Stallions, Sault Sabercats junior varsity head coach Steve Nott spoke of how his opponents were better than they had appeared, while losing 48-8 to the Cats on June 3 at Superior Heights.
He was right.
The Stallions opened a quick 20-0 lead and wound up beating the Sault 35-14 in Barrie.
That snapped the Sabercats three-game winning streak, dropping their Ontario Football Conference JV record to 3-2.
“They were definitely better” than in the earlier meeting, said Nott, whose team has a bye this week before concluding the regular season on the road against the Toronto Jr. Argonauts on July 9. “And we came out poorly. It was a very-slow start.”
Part of the reason for that could be the team’s travel arrangements.
Unable to secure a more agreeable schedule, the Cats were forced to bus out of the Sault at 4 a.m. Saturday, arriving in Barrie just prior to the start of the afternoon clash.
“We don’t want to use that as an excuse, but we were on the bus from 4 a.m.,” Nott said. “We also didn’t practise very well during the week, either. We knew if we didn’t get off to a good start, we’d be in trouble.”
“We came out flat and we really struggled to find something to ignite a spark,” said receiver Jordan Grondin, who drew praise from his coach for his pass catching and blocking on Saturday. “It was pretty bad. We really needed to win this to be able to host more home games for the playoffs.”
Grondin, on a 21-yard toss from quarterback Jordan Robinson-Wright, and Mitch DellaVedova, on an eight-yard carry, accounted for the Sabercats touchdowns.
Trailing 28-14, the visitors did have a chance to get back into the game early in the fourth quarter.
Defensive tackle Angus Frayn blocked a punt and took the ball down to the Stallions 1-yard-line.
However, the Sault lost yardage on back-to-back running plays, the coach said, before throwing an incomplete pass on third down.
“It’s really disappointing,” Frayn said of the setback. “We didn’t give a good effort on offence or defence. And we took them (the Stallions) a little lightly. Everyone thought it would be an easier game.”
“We can’t afford to practise poorly. I think we went in there thinking we were better than we were,” Nott added. “We were hurt by poor play all the way around. We dropped passes and had some trouble with pass protection.”
The coach also spoke of his belief the Sault remains a serious OFC championship contender.
“We can win a championship, but it’ll be a battle all the way,” Nott said. “We can’t afford to practise poorly or come out poorly in games.”
By Peter Ruicci, Sault Star