Match Report | BAFA NL ’19 – Thunder vs Cheetahs

The Hertfordshire Cheetahs Senior Squad travelled down to Brighton to face playoff hopefuls the Sussex Thunder and came away with a well-deserved win in the South Coast sun.

Hertfordshire would receive the opening kickoff and give their offence an opportunity to rebound after a disappointing performance against the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts a week prior. They did not disappoint. On the first play from scrimmage, running back Adam Adeniji, as he had done in week 1 against the Berkshire Renegades, outfought and out paced the Sussex defence to rampage for a 57-yard touchdown. The extra point was good to give the visiting side a 7-0 lead.

The defence, buoyed by the offences fast start came out firing. After a nine-yard sack by Andy Dickins, Sussex were compelled to punt the ball back to the Cheetahs hot offence. Unfortunately, the offence couldn’t replicate their fast start and after a false start and two incomplete passes, were forced to punt the ball back to the Thunder. A good return set the Thunder up in the Cheetahs half, but strong defence once again stifled the offence and brought up fourth down. The gold and black brought on their kick block team expecting a field goal attempt, but the Sussex offence stayed on the field. There were then farcical scenes as Defensive captain Jordan Legge and the whole sideline immediately called for the timeout but the referee crew did not see or hear the cries but Sussex snapped the ball and passed over the top and scored their opening touchdown of the game as the defence waited for the referees whistle. Despite protests from the Cheetahs sideline, the touchdown stood and Sussex kicked the extra point to tie the game 7-7.

Following the Thunder touchdown, the offence came back on the field with a chip on their shoulder and immediately got to work. It took them just six plays to answer back as Adeniji broke free into the secondary following blocks from the returning offensive lineman Tyler Fawbush and Keith Riley and took it all the way to the endzone for a 37-yard score. The extra point snap was fumbled and the Cheetahs had to settle for just six. 13-7.

The Cheetahs offence waiting for the snap. (c) Claire Klosterman

Sussex sensed the defence were still reeling after the previous touchdown and were determined to answer back themselves. Four plays into the drive the Sussex running back ran straight through the heart of the defence for a 53-yard touchdown. The extra point was good and Sussex took the lead for the first time in the game by a solitary point as the first quarter drew to a close.

Wanting to make amends straight away, the offence came out slinging, but took one gamble too many as Martin Brown underthrew his receiver on the sideline for his first interception of the day. Momentum was now well and truly with the hosts but they could not make it pay as they failed to get the necessary yardage on fourth down and turned the ball back over on downs. A penalty quickly put an end to the next drive as the Cheetahs were once again forced to punt the ball away. This time the Sussex offence did not fail to put more points on the board. A 10 play drive resulted in 4-yard touchdown run and the Thunder extended their lead to 13-21. Not wanting to be outdone, Martin Brown and the offence mounted their own 11 play drive as time was winding down in the second quarter. On first and goal on the two-yard line, and with 5 seconds left in the half, the Cheetahs elected to pass rather than attempt the chip shot field goal. The ball fell incomplete and time expired on an exciting first half of Division One football.

It did not take long for the Cheetahs to have another opportunity to tie the game up. A penalty on the opening kickoff of the second half pushed Sussex back deep in their half. A quick three and out followed and Sussex punted the ball away into the arms of the waiting Jordan Legge who returned it 39 yards to the Sussex two. Following the block of full back Matt Lake, Adeniji converted the short field position into his and his team’s third touchdown of the day. The Cheetahs elected to go for two, which Adeniji converted to bring the scores level at 21 apiece.

Back-to-back short drives and punts meant Sussex had another chance to break the deadlock. A long drive set the Thunder up for a 21-yard field goal attempt. This time the field goal block team were brought on the field and got pressure on the kicker who missed the posts wide right. The score remained 21-21. The Cheetahs offence were once more unable to gain many yards against a physical Sussex defence and again went to punt the ball away.

However, a bad snap gave the home side excellent field position. This time it appeared the Thunder had taken the lead on a 15-yard touchdown pass, but an obvious holding call brought the ball back and a few plays later Sussex would turn the ball over on downs after going for it on fourth and long. As the third quarter drew to a close Hertfordshire would punt the ball back to the Thunder and on this occasion kicked the ball away cleanly. The returner once again looked to have given the home team the lead weaving his way into the endzone, but another obvious penalty, this time a block in the back, brought the ball back to the Sussex 15 yard line.

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Nick 'Willy Tee' Wilson-Town hails from the South West where he's spent the last decade bouncing around various teams at the university and senior level. He came to fame on the now departed unofficial forum thanks to his regularly irreverent Uniball predictions and general 'BUAFL wafflage'. Follow him on twitter @WillyTee1