With both the East Kilbride Pirates and London Blitz teams coming into the game off the back of undefeated seasons, fans were hoping for a hotly contested championship game similar to that of the 2017 National Final, where these two outfits had met previously.
However, a repeat of the Britbowl XXXI 86 point shootout simply wasn’t on the cards, as the Blitz impressed in all phases of the game against the far-from-home Scottish side, shutting down the Pirates’ offence, while finding four scores of their own.
With a combination of quality young athletes, and schemes that immediately put any opposing team under constant pressure, the reason Coach Jason Henry‘s outfit have won seven Junior National Championships in the last decade was very apparent!
Despite Juniors being a 9-a-side format of the game, the Blitz regularly stacked seven in the box, at times sending all of them to put immediate pressure on the Pirates’ offence and not allowing plays to properly develop. Though at times Coach Matthew Davies‘ team were able to find some space to the outside – Jack Cochrane and the Black brothers picking up yardage when they were able to outpace the Blitz D to the sideline – as often as not plays were disrupted in the backfield and Blitz Linebacker Suen Oshin proved himself a devestatingly efficient tackler, sideline to sideline.
Offensively, the London outfit were similarly effective – a large line was able to consistently make holes for the ‘four horseman’ backfield of blazingly fast runners, and but for a worrying propensity for holding flags on big plays, we may well have seen an even more lopsided scoreline on Sunday as the Blitz saw a good number of pitch-length plays called back. Quarterback Marco Livi did a great job marshalling the run-first offence down the field, only to change things up with impressive touch as he threw right over the top of the defence to connect with his recievers – particularly game MVP Leonardo Sophoclis, who took in three snags for scores.
This shouldn’t take anything away from the Pirates, however. Across all four quarters their individual skill and well-drilled fundamentals were immediately apparent, and there’s a reason in recent years the Scottish outfit are the only ones to come close to the Blitz’s consistency in producing quality Junior rosters that are capable of competing for titles year in, year out.
As Coach ‘Spoony’ Davies steps away following this fixture to focus on spending time with family, he’s secure in the knowledge that the Pirates are a programme built to last, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see the Scottish champs make more trips down to London in the coming seasons.
As the summer seasons come to a close, it’s not without some excitement of its own, as the first batch of standout young ballers will head to the new NFL Academy this September, with potential for huge opportunities to come!