In line with feedback, we’re changing things up a bit this year in how we do our Uniball predictions. One thing we continue to receive feedback on is the inconsistency of the depth and quality of predictions between one conference and the next, due to the available time and ability of the writers that cover each group of teams, and how much information is made available to them.
To that end we’re going to shake things up this year and rather than attempting to cover all games with as much detail as possible with the resources available, we’re instead going to focus on particular stand out ‘Games of the Week’ – looking more closely at anywhere between one to three games, spread across the tiers, focusing on those games that perhaps looks particularly tasty and we can go into greater detail in the coverage of.
Huddersfield Hawks vs Staffordshire Stallions
By Yotam Berant
Our Division Two Game of the Week comes to us from the Midlands conference, where the 1-0 Huddersfield Hawks will clash with the 0-1 Staffordshire Stallions. Both teams are going into this fixture looking to prove their worth, as the Hawks look to follow up on a strong 17/18 campaign, while the Stallions hope to bounce right back following relegation during the offseason…
Let’s meet the teams:
A relatively young outfit, the Hawks only joined the league in 2007/8, but celebrated their tenth season with style – earning the team’s first ever playoff appearance!
Following just a single regular season loss through five fixtures last year, the Hawks experience of the postseason may have been brief – losing out to Bangor in the first round – but it’s definitely a taste they feel they could get used to – having every intention of at the very least repeating the feat this year!
Kicking off their campaign with a new look logo, the Hawks are hoping to keep the momentum going from their strong previous season. Though many of their team members from last year graduated, they managed to recruit 25 rookies to their ranks. Throughout the preseason, they focused mainly on covering the ins and outs of the sport with the freshers. This seems to have paid off as they got their campaign off to a good start with a cagey, 12-6 victory over the DMU Falcons.
When we reached out to Team President Lee Wrigglesworth regarding this fixture, he mentioned that while the team are eager to build upon the success of last season, they’re not getting ahead of themselves:
“We aren’t letting ourselves get carried away after one slim victory. Rather, we’re trying to put that game out of our minds and focus on our next opponent. Staffordshire are a good team that were playing Division One football last year so we’re expecting a competitive game.”
Ones to Watch
By the sound of it, the Hawks recruited well, with majority of their rookies performing above expectations.
This is a testament to the work put in by the coaching staff and returning players.
A couple of players to be aware of are runningback Jonathon Bell-Davis who scored both TDs against DMU and on the defensive side defensive-end Fawaz Lawal who notched up two sacks in the opening fixture.
A longtime contender at the top of the British University game through the nineties and noughties, the Staffordshire Stallions are a programme that’s hit hard times of late.
At one time boasting a near-straight decade of postseason appearances, and distinguished alumni that include Britball legend Jermaine Allen, the Stallions came close but not close enough to earning National Titles in 2003/4 and 2004/5. They put together back-to-back undefeated regular seasons in ’07/’08 – their second National Final appearance – and ’08/’09, before graduations took a heavy toll on the team.
A string of struggling seasons would follow, with only the one winning-record through the next number of years – a 5-3 season in 2014/15. With this year preceding the introduction of a second set of BUCS tiers Staffordshire suddenly round themselves in the newly-created middle tier, where the Stallions would struggle to keep pace with their conference rivals.
Winning just three games through three seasons, the Stallions were relegated at the end of last year – though even the prospect of Division Two football did nothing to dampen their spirits after they earned their one win of 2017/18 in a heroic showdown against the Warwick Wolves, edging the game 2-0 in a defensive duel.
In their season opener this year, the Stallions narrowly lost to a well drilled MMU side 13-12. Though Staffordshire showed resilience throughout the game, two broken plays going for big gains shattered their hope of winning, and though a late score gave them hope, they couldn’t quite snatch the victory.
Still, speaking with the team they note that preseason has actually been good to the Stallions, as the team is comprised of many returning players and solid rookies. When asked how the team has prepared for the Hawks, Club President Keair Bailey shared that the Stallions are feeling good about their chances, though cautious about facing a new opponent:
“We’re feeling very confident coming into this fixture, though not overconfident – having been in separate regions/tiers for so long you can’t be certain what to expect. However, we treat every opponent the same in terms of game preparation.”
Ones To Watch
The Stallions are confident they will have multiple stand-out performances across the board.
Club President Keair Bailey leads the team both on and off the field, playing both ways as a linebacker/running back, and comes into this campaign following several seasons both with the Stallions and with the Staffordshire Surge.
Another name worth noting was quarterback Zac Green, a former GB youth player with five years of experience of the game playing with the Staffordshire Surge and Sandwell Steelers- even though they came up short, Zac’s cool head get the Stallions right in their Week Three fixture – he reportedly has great scrambling ability and a cannon for an arm.
When last they met…
Best as we can tell these two teams have never faced one another before – always previously assigned to different regions and never meeting in the postseason – the Hawks having only made their first and only postseason appearance last year.
EDIT: A veteran reader noted the Hawks and Stallions may well have met in the 2008/9 season – frustratingly we don’t have complete records for that campaign so can’t come up with a confirmed scoreline – Eds
But who’s winning this one?
While the Hawks are coming in off the back of a win, it sounds as though they were much harder hit by graduations than the Stallions.
Let us know your thoughts on who’s taking the W this weekend, and in the meantime we asked our BUCS office to make their pick of they think have the edge – Open the spoiler tab to reveal their choice!
Predictions for all BUCS fixtures are also incoming, they’ll just be in a simpler, pick’em style format this season.