Cold blustery Winter pre-season days gave way to the sunshine of Spring as the Devils headed south for their longest away trip of the season to face the Maidstone Pumas.
With a winning season behind them, the Devils where keen to get back down to action and were looking to improve on their positive return to league football in 2018.
Devils opted to receive the ball from kick off and a strong return set the offence up to begin their first drive of 2019 from the half way line. Misfires, penalties, a lack of 3rd down conversions and nervy starts had been a hot topic which had plagued the Devils offence in 2018, however these issues seemed a distant headache as a clean 14 play drive with three 3rd down conversions ended with new Devil, Tim Johnson (RB) marching his way into the endzone. The Extra point was good and Devils took the lead 7-0.
Norwich’s Defence had been a stalwart in 2018 and as they took to the field against the Puma’s it was clear the mentality of the defensive unit had stood strong during the off season. Two run plays were quickly shut down by an aggressive front before a miss-timed pass was read and picked off by corner, and another new Devil, Daniel Hewitt, who gleefully ran the ball home for a pick 6. Another successful extra point saw the Devils take an early 14-0 lead.
A quick 3 and out drive from the Puma’s gave the Devils offence their second possession of the day. Two flags in quick succession dropped the Devils back 10 yards to face a 1st and 20yrds. With the run making slim gains on 1st down, QB Harris Todd took to the air and connected with his Tight End Charlie Keohane on 2nd down to reduce the deficit to just 5 yards as the first quarter came to an end.
Despite converting on 4th down, the Devils drive stalled 3 yards out. A strong stop for the Puma’s Defence left the home teams offence pinned in as they took over possession on downs. Missed catches would force the Puma’s to punt back to the Devils who quickly found themselves 1st and goal after a 30 yrd reception from WR Adam Jones. QB Harris Todd, facing pressure from the Puma’s, took a heavy hit on 3rd down, forcing him to the sidelines on 4th and goal. Backup QB El Foley took to the field and following a miss step from his RB away from the play direction, scrambled the ball home for his first league touchdown. Missing the extra point left the Devils at 20-0.
A high snap from the Puma’s center looped the ball over the QB and quick reactions from the Devils Defensive line turned over possession in the Puma’s red zone. A quick screen pass gave WR Adam Jones the opportunity to juke his way to his first touchdown of the 2019 season. Another extra point missed saw the Devils increase their lead to 26-0.
Defensive Lineman James Sambandan lept out of the blocks on the Puma’s next offensive drive to swallow up the Puma’s running back for a loss of 6 yards, which the Puma’s would not recover from despite some deep attempts downfield. Devils would regain possession on their own 35.
A deep ball on 1st down saw QB Harris Todd once again connect with TE Charlie Keohane for a 55 yrd gain only for the play to be wiped out by Offensive holding. Despite this set back the offensive unit held strong, regaining the lost yards through hard running and an almost identical pass left the Puma’s secondary exposed for TE Charlie Keohane to secure the ball in heavy traffic for a 35 yard gain, but the half time whistle halted the drive in the red zone.
Half Time – Devils 26 – Puma’s 0