By Alex Mclachlan
Despite postponements and forfeits, there was still a lot of Junior ‘balling this week. With all three of the competitive fixtures taking place in the North, the post-season picture is really shaping up now!
Nottingham Caesars vs Merseyside Nighthawks
In an early kick-off, the Nottingham Caesars took on the Merseyside Nighthawks, with the former looking to keep their unbeaten streak alive, and the latter looking to break their hearts. The Caesars needed to win to ensure a top two finish in the conference, which they managed, coming out 30-8 victors.
The Caesars offence looked well balanced early on, with both runs and passes driving the ball down the field. However, the Nighthawks defence adjusted exceptionally well, leading to two interceptions and forcing the Caesars to once again lean on their running game. This proved highly successful, with two scores following for fullback Alex McLachlan and one for running back Robin Carreras.
Merseyside, too, displayed moments of great skill. Their receiving corps, led by Sam Parks, managed to gain separation against a young Caesars DB group, along with delivering some explosive blocks in the run game. However, this did not prove enough, as the Nottingham D managed to hold them to a single score, with captain Morgan Dodson picking off the ball twice.
Congratulations must go to the Caesars, who have booked themselves a spot in the postseason. With a record of 5-0, and having beaten the Manchester Titans earlier in the season, Nottingham can finish no lower than second in the Northern Conference.
East Kilbride Pirates vs Leeds Academy Assassins
Nottingham Caesars were not the only team to preserve their unbeaten streak this weekend however. The East Kilbride Pirates have proved too strong for all their opponents thus far this season, and Sunday was no different, beating a spirited Leeds side 36-0.
East Kilbride’s quality has been a well-documented fact this season (not least by us here at DC), but once again we have to highlight it. Their offence has proven efficient, but even more impressive is their special teams’ propensity for scoring. Against each team they have played thus far this season, the Pirates have managed to return a special teams’ play to the house, and the Assassins were unable to stop this trend. The Pirates defence, too, got in on the scoring, meaning that East Kilbride managed to score in all three phases. All of them. That’s remarkable, and a testament to both the quality of their coaching, and their players.
Leeds certainly do deserve some plaudits, however. Bringing only sixteen players with them on the long journey up to Scotland, the Assassins that were present put up staunch competition. Their defence especially competed at a high level, forcing a number of three and outs, and two interceptions.
The Pirates move to 5-0, maintaining their electric pace. The Assassins, meanwhile, are using this season as a building block, and will hope to have taken a lot from facing such a strong outfit.
Highland Wildcats vs Chester Romans
In the final competitive fixture of the weekend, the Highland Wildcats took on the Chester Romans, in what would prove to be a surprisingly comfortable 48-0 victory for the Inverness side.
The Wildcats went into the game hoping to prove that their offensive struggles so far this season were more to do with the class of their opposition than their own lack of ability, and prove it they did! Quarterback Euan Crawford led his unit with aplomb, racking up 35 points before that half, and almost reaching the fabled 50-burger by the time of the final whistle.
The Romans meanwhile struggled somewhat with this fixture, suffering from a somewhat leaky defence that has plagued them the last couple of weeks. However, after some half-time adjustments, and with some hard hitting by DBs Sion Lynch and Samir Pate, the Romans managed to limit their opponent’s chances in the second half.
Both teams now sit at 2-2 on the season, and will have to hope that they can win out to secure postseason football. Chester move on to local rivals, the Manchester Titans, for their next two fixtures, whilst the Wildcats’ finale against the Chorley Buccaneers could prove to be the decider on who will partake in post-season ‘ball.
Non-league fixture: Hertfordshire Cheetahs vs London Warriors
A somewhat unexpected fixture to round out the week. We here at DC love to help with growing the game, and for that reason we decided to give a little love to a team that was unable to compete in the league this year, but that is building for the future. The London Warriors travelled to Hertfordshire with limited numbers and experience, but competed to the very last, losing out narrowly 37-36.
The London Warriors juniors unfortunately do not have the same draw as their senior side, and as such their numbers have been an issue this season, leading to their withdrawal from competition ahead of the season. However, whilst the young Warriors side cannot match their adult counterparts with numbers, they certainly can with heart and desire to win.
A squad of only nine players travelled to Hertfordshire, meaning that they each had to play every snap of all three phases in the sweltering heat. Despite this, the London outfit fought to the very last, taking the lead with four seconds remaining. Unfortunately, their joy was short lived, as the ensuing kick-off was returned for a touchdown by James Abegglen of the Cheetahs.
This match was certainly not purely for the benefit of the Warriors, however. The Cheetahs face the already-crowned Southern Conference Champions, the Birmingham Lions, in their next match – one that could very well decide if they reach the postseason or not – and so keeping game ready, and bringing young players up to speed, was a must. Hertfordshire rested eleven starters, to allow rookies and lower-string players to get vital experience ahead of their important match-up.