This past Sunday, a new look Nighthawks hosted Leicester Falcons in a Premier North clash with critical implications for both teams. The Hawks were looking to keep apace with Manchester and Tamworth at the top, whilst Leicester were looking to shock the home team and move themselves away from relegation. It would be a tough afternoon for the visiting team.
The Nighthawks lost the toss, and with Leicester deferring, received the ball to start the game. In usual fashion, the Hawks put together an enterprising drive, helped by the legs of Routledge, to put themselves in the Falcons red zone and looking for early points. After a pass to the right corner of the end zone was picked off, only for an offside penalty to negate it, Routledge found WR Jake Moore in the back of the end zone, after the pass had been tipped by a hand in the Leicester end zone. Moore secured the ball, bringing it in for 6, and with the XP good, the Hawks were up 7-0 early in the game.
In what would prove to be a frustrating day for the Falcons, their first drive stuttered after 4 plays, resulting in the Hawks getting the ball back, deep in their own half. This did not prevent the Hawks from adding a quick second score, as a 34-yard catch and run by WR Dominic Woo set up a 19 yard TD for RB Laurent Tshimanga, who found his way through some great blocking by the offensive line for paydirt. Eager added the XP, and the score was quickly 14-0.
Leicester took to the field and had started to put together a decent looking drive, before their Quarterback found Mr Interception himself, Jonny Weekes, who took the ball into Falcons territory, setting the Hawks up with great field position. 3 plays later, following some strong running from RB Martin Murphy, Routledge found WR Alex Eager in wide open space across the middle of the field for 6. This time the Hawks decided to flex their muscles and go for 2, with Routledge finding the returning Liam Holebrook for the extras. 22-0 and we were still in the first quarter.
Leicester came out fighting though, and had put together a 6 play drive that stalled due to a holding penalty. This allowed them to punt the ball back to Merseyside, and pin them deep in their own red zone. Regardless, the Hawks came out fast again, with Routledge finding Holebrook down the left sideline for 25 yards, before a couple of run plays found the Hawks at midfield. Routledge then threw an uncharacteristic interception to the safety as the Hawks had looked set to add to their scoreline. Still 22-0 and Falcons ball around midfield.
With limited numbers traveling to Merseyside for the Falcons, Leicester employed a new center for the next drive. Unfortunately for him, his first snap sailed high over the head of the Falcons QB, and was downed by the QB at their own 5-yard line. This once again stalled the Falcons drive, and they were forced to punt from their end zone, reaching only their own 30-yard line with it. With excellent field position, RB Martin Murphy scored a TD (his first of the season) from 30 yards out, cut stepping the chasing Leicester defence and outpacing 5 defenders, with the help of some excellent perimeter blocking from WR Holebrook. The XP was good, although almost blocked, and the Hawks led 29-0.
In an all too familiar scene for Leicester on the day, they quickly went 3 and out, and pinned the Hawks in their own half with a deep punt. QB Ben Robinson, now back in the game replacing Routledge, engineered a 9 play drive downfield, on the back of his own legs and some good power running from RB Murphy, to set the Hawks up with first and goal at the Falcons 5 yard line. Robinson kept the ball on an option play the very next play, and took the ball into the endzone untouched for a touchdown. Again the Hawks went for 2, but failed this time as a run by FB Penrose was stopped in the backfield. 35-0 to the Hawks Leicester put together a time consuming 9 play drive to take them to the half.