Hertfordshire Cheetahs vs Sussex Thunder
By George Buksmann
The Hertfordshire Cheetahs host Sussex Thunder in a special armed forces charity match in this weekend’s game of the week.
Cheetahs mark a special day
As Hertfordshire hope of closing in on conference leaders Solent Thrashers there is a more important story playing out this weekend.
The Cheetahs and Thunder will celebrate the service and recognise the sacrifice made by ex and current service men and women in an armed forces charity game.
Sunday will also mark the debut of the Cheetahs new black camouflage uniform as a way of paying homage.
“We have a number of members in the team who are currently with, or have served, in the Armed Forces,” said Herts Head Coach Craig Barnes,
“Our home game against Sussex fell the day after Armed Forces Day, so it seemed logical to do it that weekend. We are delighted we could bring the Armed Forces community together on a special day for our club.”
Hertfordshire’s last feature in Game of the Week concluded in a hard-fought 0-10 loss to the Thrashers that has since seen them post two consecutive wins, including a 46-9 romp over the Oxford Saints.
“We have recruited since the Solent game; indeed, Sussex will be facing a largely different offence on Sunday. We have taken on players from Tamworth and Leicester, these men are keen to show what they can do,” said Barnes.
The last meeting of the two sides in May was a close contest with just one score separating them when the final whistle blew. However, it is apparent there will be no let up from Herts this time around.
“We have prepared for Sussex as thoroughly as the others and I expect to beat them conclusively.”
Something to watch for on Sunday will be whether workhorse back Adam Adeniji returns to the Cheetahs backfield, having been notably absent against the Saints last weekend after picking up an early injury in the loss to the Thrashers in Week Eight. The dynamic rusher punched through over 160 yds on the ground the last time the Cheetahs and Thunder squared off, including three touchdown scores that were decisive in the 21-28 victory.
Still, it’s not like the Saints suddenly found themselves lacking punch without their go-to-guy in the backfield, handily outplaying Oxford in all phases last weekend and ensuring their roster depth is ready and raring to go should #30 be limited on Sunday afternoon.
Defensively, though the Cheetahs may lag behind the Thrashers’ impressively few points conceded, no opponent’s offence has found things smooth sailing against Herts. They’re yet to allow more than three opposition scores in a single fixture, ensuring the Cheetahs offence doesn’t feel the need to come into every game with an expectation of putting 40+ points on the board to still earn a worthy win.
Sussex to cause a storm?
Due to the special nature of this Sunday’s game, it’s something that Sussex Thunder Head Coach Ian Ellis is looking forward to being a part of.
“I’m looking forward to it, we have some ex-service personnel on our team and we are very proud and supportive of our Armed services and their families and appreciate the opportunity to be part of this game.”
Sussex have the opportunity to gain ground on Hertfordshire, who sit one place above them in the conference, if they can pull off the win.
Since their last meeting, the Thunder have displayed that their offence is capable of putting up a healthy number of points, having posted two wins following their narrow loss to Herts. However, last weekend saw them succumb to the Thrashers, highlighting areas the Thunder will be focusing on this Sunday.
“We are running a new offence with a new Offensive Coordinator this year and every week we progress with our new system. We are having some challenges, but the team continues to develop.
“We have new players at various positions and hope they continue to develop through this game and beyond,” said Ellis.
To bolster their chance of seeing some postseason action Sussex will want to secure the win, potentially tilting the head-to-head in their favour and put some distance between themselves and the Dreadnoughts.
“We are expecting and hoping for a similarly close game as last time. We like the challenge of close games every week. The Cheetahs are a quality program and we enjoy playing them.”
Though they’ll be disappointed to find themselves only boasting a .500 record at this point in the season, Sussex know that when their new offence is clicking, they’re a danger to score from anywhere on the field.
Quarterback Sean Lewis has proven himself a threat both in the air and on the ground this year, emphasised by his highlight reel rush against the impressive Solent defence last week as he outmuscled and outpaced the Thrashers for a 62-yard score!
The Thunder have boasted a talented receiving corps for some years now it feels, Tom Kelly notching up a healthy number of touchdowns in recent weeks, while Chuckie Benjamin provides a dynamic pace and power threat out of the backfield.
Defensively, the Cheetahs will need to keep an eye out for Ashton Campbell who came close to halting Hertfortshire’s chances of victory when the two teams last met with a 4th quarter interception. He’s been picking up a fair number of picks this summer and should Herts fall behind early will be looking to ballhawk once more.
Hertfordshire’s offence is the highest scoring in the conference, and though you can make an argument their numbers are somewhat bolstered by big wins against poor opposition, where they perhaps hold a true edge over the Thunder is their ability to also keep rival offences in check – such as holding Solent to a mere 10 points in Week Eight.
As the conclusion of the season draws closer, the margin for error gets smaller every week and in front of a big home crowd, battling for a fantastic cause, the Cheetahs will want to ensure that there are no slip-ups here. The home side take it in a hard-fought game!