It’s the big one in Division One this Sunday, as the #3 Manchester Titans take on the #4 London Olympians at the John Charles stadium to crown the champions of the second tier.
Manchester Titans vs London Olympians
Manchester made light work of most of their opponents in the NFC1 North, so their post-season run has probably come as somewhat of a welcome change. Following a closely fought contest against Sandwell Steelers in the quarter-final, the Titans encountered an almost identical game when facing off against Leicester Falcons in the semi-final;
The offense was stopped on the first drive. Manchester’s opponents score but miss the extra point. Manchester score on the next offensive drive to take the lead. Their opponents score to take the lead back, Manchester score twice in quick succession to take the lead going into the half. A tense 3rd quarter where our defense stands.
The main difference was that Leicester scored to tie it up at 21-21 and Manchester had to pull off their first fourth quarter game-winning drive of the season. WR James Newnes caught two touchdowns in the game, including the go ahead score in the corner of the end zone.
On the win over Leicester, Offensive Coordinator Luke Carlton said;
Close games were few and far between in our regular season, so it was great to see the guys keep believing throughout the Leicester game, even when we had no momentum. I think we learned that we can fight our way out of tough situations with persistence and determination.
On the season so far, Coach Carlton on the team’s season so far;
It’s been arguably the best season in Titans history across the board and a Division One National Championship would be a perfect reward for the organisation’s hard work.
The Titans understand the size of the challenge ahead of them. They know the Olympians are a very good side in the best form of their season, and they’ll be eager to show that they are vastly improved from the side that was last in the Premiership. They’re always confident in their offense to set the scoring tempo of games.
And rightly so… through the team’s eleven games played this season, the Titans have averaged 39.5 points per game (435 points scored). The unit has put up 58 scores through the season, with QB Sam Bloomfield combining for 37 total touchdowns (35 passing, 1 rushing, 1 receiving). WR James Newnes has caught 16 of those scores through the air, and has added another through a kick return), with Luc Kinder and Adam Bamber both adding 7 each too.
Ryan Newton leads the ground game with 7 rushing touchdowns through nine games. The back also has scores on kick return (two), punt return and a fumble return!
Quarterback Sam Bloomfield is absolutely indispensable to our offense. We’ve got a three-headed monster in the backfield with Ryan Newton, Joe Nicholson and Jonatan Pan-Gago all bring a unique aspect to our run game. All four of our receivers in George Slade, Adam Bamber, James Newnes and Luc Kinder are big plays waiting to happen. Have to mention Cory Deere too, who we think is the leading Left Tackle touchdown scorer in Britball, but still awaiting confirmation on this…
It’s not all about the offense though. On the other side of the ball, Defensive Ends Alfred Mzengereza and rookie Cade Makin, Linebackers Adam Newton and Lee Horrocks, Cornerbacks Ryan Allen and David McInally and Safety Dave Barnett have been huge for the Titans all season. James Dean does “a little bit of everything” for the back five and is integral to the leadership and flexibility of the Titans’ defense.
On their opponents this weekend, Coach Carlton said;
We know Olympians are a good side with Premiership experience and we’re especially wary of the steam they’ve been picking up throughout the playoffs. They’re very dangerous, and they have shown a tendency to punish teams who aren’t executing on the day. Records and statistics are thrown out the window for games like these, but we’re still confident in our team.
The Olympians are flying. Hitting form at the right time, their offense is clicking, putting up big points in both post-season games so far.
Entering the post-season on the back of a regular season finale loss to Kent Exiles, the Olympians slammed a 50-burger on the visiting Solent Thrashers. Moving in to the semi-finals, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were stuck in Groundhog Day as the Olympians would once again be facing off against Kent – their fourth meeting of the season.
Despite this familiarity, the hosts saw off the Exiles by the biggest margin of all the contests. Head Coach Neil Edwards reflected on the game;
It was our fourth game against them this season, and we both knew each other inside out. We started the game slowly and fell 10 points behind early, but we always believed we could win that game, and never panicked. That’s when we finally made the leap; we believed we were better than them even though we hadn’t really shown it. So we knuckled down and went to work and changed the course of the game before running out 41-17 winners.
The Olympians were a team that finished 0-10 just 12 months ago. The team lost a lot of players owing to the poor season on the field and eventual relegation. They took on a lot of rookies, things started very slowly, but Coach Edwards always believed that with the staff he had assembled, they would make the post-season. And here they are…
…but we are now in position to win the whole damn thing.
My biggest plus has to be my coaching staff, but most notably Offensive Coordinator Mike Dunson and Assistant OC Stephen Hutchinson, they have put together a great offense that is very exciting to watch and as shown in the playoffs, can put up a bunch of points. On defense, my Defensive Line Coach Norman Navarro has helped me put an aggressive front seven on the field.
Back to the Olympians’ offense… they have so many standout players; veteran QB Aaron Griffiths (30 TDs, 7 INTs), WRs Montel Patterson, Kevin Boatley and Jordon Mckenzie, and the human highlight reel, TE Stephen Kimmins (67 receptions). Then there’s the eight-deep RB group with five guys averaging over 5 yards per carry; Bami Falana (5.9) Andy Awusu (5.6), Adrian John (5.5), Ben Amoaka (5.4) and Dan Asare (5.1),
On defense we are fortunate to have two genuine ‘shutdown corners’ in Ashton Campbell and Tendayi Debengwa, and the pass rushing skills of Micah Ricketts and Jonathan Vince.
In what we expect to be a ‘titanic’ battle to be crowned Division winners, Manchester Titans edge out the Olympians in the eyes of #TeamDC, eight votes to four. Grant sticks with his conference, as does Nathan.