Wild outlast Gladiators in playoff rematch

Saturday, June 08, 2013   by: Mark Pare

Wanya Bessette of the Nipissing Wild gets tackled by Josiah Walt of the Sudbury Gladiators at the two yard line during third quarter action on Saturday afternoon at the Omischl Sports Complex as part of OFC regular season action. Photo by Amanda Smith

The Nipissing Wild (2-1) kept a surging Sudbury Gladiators (2-1) squad from scoring on the final play to escape with the 17-14 victory Saturday afternoon at the Steve Omischl Sports Complex.

Wild quaterback Justin Rancourt got a touchdown pass to Jordan Sullivan late, and ran in for one earlier for the victory. Backup QB Landon Larabie saw a few snaps during the contest as well.

Gladiators QB Hunter Holub couldn’t get points on the board, but Aaron Campbell came in as a replacement and got the team close with a running touchdown, while a blocked punt return TD by defensive back Marcus Britt led to the exciting finish.

Wild coach Brian Samson says the message to his players was their opponent—who came into this game a perfect 2-0—would be coming ready to play.

“We put them out of the playoffs last year in that surprise victory because of our work in the game planning for that game and we knew we were going to be in for a fight,” he said.

“We didn’t know it was going to be such a chippy game and the discipline, I wasn’t happy with that at all on our end. We can’t control what they do, we can’t control the refs because we play two games, one against the other team, one against the refs but we knew we were going to be in for a fight.”

The Wild committed 15 penalties in the game, and Samson says with all the undisciplined play, his team stole the game away. Even in victory, a rough start is already planned for his players to begin their next practice.

“15 times five is 75. They have 75 burpees coming up at the beginning of practice Tuesday, guaranteed,” he said, “That’s how I deal with penalties, they are unacceptable. You can’t give away free yards and any of the drives that they had the first half were because of the stupid penalties that we took.”

The first quarter was kept scoreless, but with plenty of excitement in front of a split crowd as many Gladiator fans made the trip on Highway 17.

The Wild were the first to get points on the board. A quick pass off the snap by QB Rancourt to wide out Wanya Bessette got the home side deep into Gladiator territory. A few plays later, with 9:45 left in the half, the team settled for a Daxx Dwyer field goal for a 3-0 score.

Rancourt extended the Wild lead with 3:09 gone in the third quarter, running it into the end zone from the one-yard line.

The Gladiators put their first points up with just under a minute gone in the fourth quarter. Wide receiver Kevin Lavoie came up with some big pick ups earlier in the drive and Campbell capped it off with a run to make it 10-7.

Jordy Matheson caught a punt in his own end zone and ran it the other way.

“Great effort on his part, we work really hard on punt returns all year,” said Samson, “We’re gonna be a punt return team, we want teams to kick us the ball because of what Jordy can do with the ball in his hands. He’s a special player and the guys around him work for him.”

The 105-yard run back was still a few yards shy of the touchdown. A couple plays later, Rancourt found Sullivan with a short pass for a four-yard TD and restored the two possession lead at 17-7.

Britt’s blocked punt was carried in for a Gladiator touchdown with 1:20 left on the clock.

The ensuing onside kick was executed as planned for Sudbury, as Austin Kirkey jumped up and brought the ball down to keep possession. The Gladiators had to punt it away and following another change in possession in the final minute, had a chance to win it with two seconds on the clock.

A hail mary pass into the end zone by Campbell was dropped and the Wild breathed a sigh of relief.

The four-game home stand continues for the Wild, as they face the North Halton Crimson Tide in Week 4 action. Kick off is set for 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 15.

Please note the next two games will take place at Rollie Fischer Field.
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