U19 | Week Eleven Preview

Chester Romans vs Highland Wildcats

By Alex Mclachlan

This Sunday sees the Chester Romans take on the Highland Wildcats. Despite the two teams’ records, at a combined 3-3, this game could display some of the best young talent in the country this weekend.

Sitting at fourth in their division, Chester will be looking to push forward in the hope of obtaining post-season football. The Romans have displayed aptitude on offence throughout the season, putting up over 30 points a game, with 45 in their most recent outing. Quarterback Sid Wright forms the focal point of their O, keeping opposition defences honest and allowing his running backs to work with the space that this creates.

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Whilst their previous game may provide reason for optimism on offence, it also betrays a potential area of concern on D. Chester allowed their opposition, the Merseyside Nighthawks, back in to the game after leading 29-14 at the half, with an unsuccessful onside kick proving the difference. The Romans will hope to tighten up on defence, and return to the form they showed in the first game of the season, in which they allowed only a single score.

On the other side of the field, we have the Highland Wildcats. Despite their 1-2 record, the Wildcats should not be taken lightly, as they are coming off a National Plate final victory in their previous campaign, whilst retaining many key players. Highland’s two losses this year have both come at the hands of the unbeaten East Kilbride Pirates, and in both of these fixtures the team from Inverness have stayed competitive. Quarterback Euan Crawford will want to display his skill, having been effectively contained in the Wildcats two competitive outings thus far, and will hope that this is enough to lead his team to victory.

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This game should be a very interesting watch, and will tell us a lot about how the race for the postseason will play out. The key matchup in this one will be Highland’s O against the Chester D: if the Romans manage to improve on this side of the ball, then the Wildcats could struggle once again to put up points. However, if this does not happen, then the Scottish team could be looking to run up the score, and show the rest of Britball what they can do.

 

Chorley Buccaneers vs Lincolnshire Bombers

We’ve had confirmation from Chorley that this fixture is not going ahead, though hopes are it will be rescheduled before the season is out.

 

East Kilbride Pirates vs Leeds Academy Assassins

Two teams coming into this fixture following very diverging paths so far this season.

Despite high expectations of them coming into the year, along with strong performances from their U17s, the Leeds Academy Assassins currently remain winless half way through their 2017 campaign. It’s been a combination of a particularly tough schedule, and some missed opportunities for the Assassins, as so far this season their opponents  represent many of the top teams in the northern conference.

Frustratingly for the Assassins, life’s not about to get any easier this weekend, as they take a trip north of the wall to take on the East Kilbride Pirates – a side undefeated on the year so far and who made it all the way to the Britbowl Final last season!

Photography by Duncan Grey, check out his superb work at https://duncolm.smugmug.com
Photography by Duncan Grey, check out his superb work at https://duncolm.smugmug.com

Yes, the Pirates have aspirations to go that one step further this season, and their chances to do so are looking promising so far this year – sat at 4-0 with a walkover and three comfortable victories under their belts.

This fixture likely comes down to whether the Leeds side have had the opportunity to re-capture some of the strong balling they showed last season. If they can find ways around the tough East Kilbride D line they might be able to make this a competitive one… Otherwise we could be looking at something similar to their fixture against the Caesars where the Assassins were unable to keep pace with their opponents effective and efficient points scoring.

 

Merseyside Nighthawks v Nottingham Caesars

The most crucial match up of the Caesars season so far approaches, as a victory against the Nighthawks would lock the Nottingham side into some true postseason balling, with five straight wins on the year meaning they can finish no worse than second in the Northern conference!

The Caesars have built their success so far this year upon a strong and steady offence, and an exceptional defensive unit that’s particularly found its form in the second half of fixtures – utterly shutting down opponents. Robin Carreras sits at the core of the offence as the feature back – allowing the Caesars to control the pace of the game in each fixture thanks to the exceptional performance of the O line.

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Even so, much like with the adult programme it’s the Caesars’ defence that is perhaps the jewel in their crown, with currently the lowest points allowed per game in the U19 game… In fact, possibly the entirety of Britball 2017!

They’re a tight knit unit, leading with their actions, but second year safety Morgan Dodson wears the captain’s patch, and deservedly so. How the Nighthawks fair against this stingiest of defences will be the key to this match up.

Certainly early signs in the season did not bode well for the Nighthawks. Currently sat at 0-2-1 on the year, they opened their campaign unable to put up a single point against the Manchester Titans, and followed with a pedestrian 6-6 tie against the Chorley Buccaneers. However, they finally found their offensive mojo in Week Nine, putting up 40 points on the Chester Romans, and looking particularly formidable in the second half, overcoming a big mid-point deficit to take the game right down to the wire.

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Even so, much like their programme’s adult squad, free-scoring is great, but less impressive if you can’t stop the opponents from putting up even more points on you – losing out 45-40 in a shoot out to Chester, it’s likely the Nighthawks will be hard pressed to contain the Caesars’ strong run game.

Hopefully we’re looking at another nail-biting shoot out on Sunday!

 

Kent Exiles vs Black Country Vipers

N.B. We’ve been informed that due to the clash between U19 and U17 schedules, and the heavy dual-eligibility of the Black Country Vipers’ roster, that they will be unable to complete this fixture. It will be awarded as a 1-0 walkover to the Exiles.

This week we have an unusual matchup between the two bottom teams in the South. Why so ‘unusual’?

Well, because, as few would have predicted coming into the season, this bottom-table fixture involves the reigning national champions, the Kent Exiles! Many would of touted Coach Aaron Alexis’ U19 ballers to follow on from their 2016 success with the formation of a dynasty… however, the Birmingham Lions and London Blitz had other ideas.

Still, the season’s far from over for Kent. The Exiles can battle it out and fight for a record of 4-2. Whilst technically not out of contention for the runners up spot and the second semi-final place from the southern conference, the regional trophy is perhaps more realistic target.

Coach Alexis wants to see his players improve on their execution, whilst also possessing self-belief in an effort to remove the inconsistency that has plagued them in their games so far this year.

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Photography (c) Ivan Marsh

Having seen a good chunk of their championship ballers ‘graduate’ to the adult leagues, these young Exiles are a very talented group of players, with confidence and belief, and therefore Coach Alexis knows the sky is the limit in future seasons… but also this team must compete for the remainder of this season to keep their self-motivation alive.

If they remain competitive, hopefully it will foster a championship-winning mentality, and future teams will get to represent their club in Worcester in the coming years.

Expect the Kent offence to be determined to right the ship on their season and look to put up points against a Vipers side that’s had struggles of their own so far this year. Prince Winter brings strength and speed to the running back position, while London Warriors transfer Aray Kaan brings the “big play ability” to the wideout position. In order to give the QB enough time to service Kaan, a physical performance will be a given by the offensive line, with captain Hamish Elliot leading the charge from the trenches. One of the hallmarks of a true champion is how they cope with adversity, the Exiles have lost consecutive games for the first time in a goodly while – they will be determined to come back stronger than before.

Meanwhile, the Black Country Vipers have had a difficult year. With many of their players competing for both their U17s and U19s, the wear and tear on the roster has been apparent. Sitting at 0-4, this first year in league competition can perhaps be considered more about developing rather than competing for a postseason berth. The young Vipers have fought valiantly, and have been able to field a side every fixture this year.

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The more exposure to the gridiron these young players get, the better they will become. With one of the toughest schedules in the game, every single Viper has competed hard this year and will continue to do so against each top-calibre opponent they are drawn against. Facing the likes of Birmingham twice, Kent, Farnham and Solent is no mean feat, and everyone in the Vipers camp should be proud of what the newly formed U19 team have accomplished thus far. A special achievement is the scoring of a safety against the Hertfordshire, nice to see the defence show the boys on offence how to get the scoreboard moving  .

The Exiles will look to bounce back strong after the shortcomings of previous outings and will certainly be favourites coming into this one… but only a fool would rule out the Vipers before the game, U19s football is a strange place, and who knows what will happen on any given Sunday.

 

 

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Nick

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