Facing an unbeaten opponent at home, the Sault Sabercats junior varsity team earned a convincing win in a game where they made some mistakes but capitalized on opportunities.
The Sabercats improved to 4-0-1 on Sunday afternoon thanks to a 43-7 win over the Forest City Thunderbirds in Ontario Football Conference action at Superior Heights.
It wasn’t a perfect game but one that the Sabercats feel was one where the team showed signs of greatness.
“We’re so close to being a great team,” said Sabercats coach Jim Monico. “Then we start making mistakes and we become a good team again. We’re close to being great.”
“We start playing really well and then wo go into a funk for a while,” Monico also said. “We’re on the verge of being great but we’re not quite there yet.”
After big runs by Ryan Barnes and Michael Nicoletta to get the Sabercats down to the Forest City 1-yard line, Barnes would punch the ball in on second-and-goal. Along with the convert by Daniel Bumbaco, the Sabercats proceeded to take a 7-0 lead with just over four minutes to go in the opening quarter.
On the subsequent kickoff, Aaron Grandinetti would recover an onside kick to allow the Sabercats to retain the ball.
On a second-and-long, Barnes hit Bumbaco for a long gain to the Forest City 7.
After getting pushed back to the 17, Bumbaco would get the Sabercats a single point on a missed field goal to make the score 8-0.
An interception by Patrick Sarlo got the Sabercats the ball back late in the quarter. Nicoletta would get the Sabercats to the Forest City 9 on a long run on the locals first play from scrimmage on the drive.
On third-and-goal, Barnes would hit Bumbaco for a major. Bumbaco would proceed to hit the extra point to make the score 15-0 Sabercats through one quarter.
In the late stages of the second quarter, the Sabercats broke the game open further as Barnes punched the ball in from one yard out with 1:52 to go. Nicoletta would then add to the lead as he caught a pass from Barnes and ran the ball 45 yards for the major. With a pair of Bumbaco converts, the Sabercats opened up a 29-0 lead.
Forest City got on the board with just over a minute to go in the half as Nathan Hicks caught a 17-yard pass from Cameron Seybold. With a convert by Jaden Vansevenant, the game would head to halftime with the Sabercats leading 29-7.
Just over four minutes into the third quarter Barnes hit Bumbaco for a 10-yard touchdown pass. With the convert, the Sabercats took a 36-7 lead.
With 6:25 to go in the fourth quarter, Barnes kept the ball and ran 25 yards for a Sabercats major. With a convert by Bumbaco, the locals moved ahead 43-7.
“We played well,” Monico said. “I’m happy with the result. They (Forest City) are a pretty good team and we played well.”
“We’re a little bit more athletic than them,” Monico also said. “But they played really tough and they made some adjustments. They’re the best team we played all year.”
Barnes finished the day with 158 yards rushing on 15 carries, which included a pair of touchdowns. He also completed 12 of 19 passes for 240 yards and threw for three touchdown passes.
“He’s a double threat,” Monico said. “He makes us more of a versatile team than we’ve been in the past.”
Nicoletta ran for 129 yards on 12 carries while Bumbaco caught five passes for 79 yards.
Defensively for the Sabercats, Grandinetti had four tackles and two assists.
The Sabercats return to action on June 22 on the road against Waterloo.