Sandwell Steelers vs Shropshire Revolution
By George Buksmann
In both team’s penultimate game of the season, Sandwell will look to get within touching distance of a perfect season and there is a lot still to play for with playoff implications on the line for Shropshire.
Perfect season within grasp of Steelers
Sandwell have enjoyed a near to flawless season so far atop the NFC 1 South having blown away opposition all season long by considerable margins, and have proved that they need a fresh challenge (in the premiership, perhaps?)
The Black Country-based side come into this fixture on the back of two shut out wins and have conceded just 24 points all season, an impressive achievement.
This doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.
“The mantra all year has been about constantly improving,” said Steelers Head Coach Maxwell Petitjean, “Every session there has been a focus on making each other better players. If anything, we’ve probably got a bit too critical about the little things as we are trying to be perfect in every area.”
The Steelers came away with a 37-0 victory last time they played Shropshire, but expectations have not shifted. Coach Petitjean knows what he wants from his team but is aware of what Shropshire can bring.
“We want to score lots of points and give up zero points. We know what we are capable of, but Shropshire have plenty of good players. We will see.”
“Lots of our rookies will hopefully be getting game time and we’ve really been putting a lot of focus on special teams this year, so I hope that shows on game day,” he said.
Playoffs still alive for Revolution
Shropshire have had a strong season so far, they sit fourth in the conference at 5-3 with a game in hand over their playoff competition, Nottingham and Lancashire.
The Revolution boast the second-best defence in the conference, having had some tight scrapes with the Wolverines and Romans, but have flexed their offensive capabilities against the Mustangs.
Head coach Neil Holtschke recognises the threat the Steelers pose.
“Sandwell have had a fantastic season and are probably the best team in division one this season. That said, we will plan and prepare for this game just as we would for any other, and it is our intention to travel to Sandwell and compete to the best of our ability quarter by quarter and play by play. If we can get into the 4th with the score still close, we will try and grab the win.”
Coach Holtschke said there is an air of excitement in Shropshire’s camp, and that they enjoy playing against the best as that’s the level they aspire to get to.
Wide receivers Mark Phillips and Ben Martin both possess explosive speed which will allow Shropshire to stretch the field and make impact plays. Defensively, Rhys and Lewis Mellings have established themselves in the secondary, capable of picking off wayward passes.
“We want to play against the best teams,” Holtschke said, “As that is where we learn the most about ourselves and how we develop and improve over time. So, we hope to have a closer game this time around, and if we can, take home a W.”
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that it would take a lot from Shropshire to pull off the victory here. That’s not to say it’s not possible, but Sandwell have consistently proved all season that not only are they clinical but playing at a level above their competition. Steelers to win.