By Alex Mclachlan
Following the news that the Lincolnshire vs Chorley game will not be played, Week Fifteen saw the end of the junior regular season, and what an end it was!
Whilst not a week for those who prefer tight, competitive fixtures, this weekend provided some of the highest quality of Junior football available, with teams’ class showing out for big victories!
London Blitz vs Kent Exiles
Two powerhouses of the 2016 season faced off this week in the South, as the London Blitz faced the Kent Exiles. Kent required a win in this match-up in order to try and force themselves into postseason football. However, as with much of this 2017 season, the Exiles were left disappointed, as the semifinal-bound Blitz squad turned on the style, coming out 52-6 victors.
The Blitz came into this one with a highly touted ground game, and continued to grow its renown here. Aaron Mahoney-Jones ended up in pay-dirt another three times, bringing his total on the year to a near inconceivable 15 touchdowns. He was not the only contributor, however, with touchdowns coming both through the air and on the ground all day for the Blitz.
The Blitz defence again showed its toughness, limiting a skilled Exiles side to a single score. For the London outfit, it all starts up front, with defensive ends Malachi Marquis-Adams and Joseph Hurley and defensive tackle Lambi Demetriou stopping any run game before it could get going.
This result will be a tough one for the Exiles to take, as it ends their season prematurely. However, they must take some heart in avoiding being shut out – a tangible improvement on their performance earlier in the season in the reverse fixture.
The Blitz will have gained a lot of confidence after this result, as they seem to have really found their form just in time for their semi-final against the Birmingham Lions next week. That match-up will determine which of the two sides represent the South in the Britbowl final. The game has all the makings of a classic, as it was when the two rivals faced off earlier in the season, the Lions coming off as marginal 20-18 victors thanks to some last minute heroics.
The Exiles, meanwhile, will hope to take the difficult lessons from this season and use them the grow ahead of the 2018 season.
Solent Seahawks vs Farnham Knights
In a key matchup in determining who in the South would make the playoffs, the Solent Seahawks dominated the Farnham Knights 42-6.
Solent made it two big offensive performances in two weeks, racking up over 40 points in consecutive games. One particular cause for excitement in the Solent camp will be the emergence of young playmakers. Dual eligible youth wide receiver Jack Pears caught three touchdowns in the first half alone, while on defence Hamish Mackinnon accrued three sacks and four tackles for loss!
Despite their technical skill of course helping the Seahawks, it was raw physicality that won them the day, with the offensive line, headlined by University of Birmingham star tackle Harry Elton-Dobins, routinely making it to the second level to spring big plays.
Farnham meanwhile will be disappointed at their performance, having forced a far closer game out of the Seahawks earlier in the season.
A peculiar situation faces these two teams next: an immediate rematch for the Southern Trophy title. The Seahawks will of course be buoyed going into this postseason matchup, and will be confident in getting a repeat result. The Knights, meanwhile, need to brush themselves off and regroup, to try and get revenge for this result.
Chorley Buccaneers vs Leeds Academy Assassins
This matchup, between the Chorley Buccaneers and the Leeds Academy Assassins, featured two spirited outfits fighting on despite their postseason aspirations being no more. Whilst both teams gave their all, the Bucs were able to out-muscle their young opposition, coming out 43-0 victors.
Chorley finished of their regular season on a high, with their offence finally performing, and their defence maintaining its exceptional standard of play. The Buccaneers’ ground game was its crowning glory this weekend, with their ‘backs Tom Maguire and Marty Thompson combining for roughly 250 yards and two touchdowns. The passing offence, running through quarterback Josh Mills, was also effective, especially when connecting with Nath Green.
On defence, Chorley’s linebacking corps of Alex Garcia, Dan Clearly and James Schofield, once again stepped up to the challenge, stuffing the Assassins’ ground game whilst creating their own ‘no fly zone’ over the middle.
Leeds, meanwhile, were struggling with numbers coming into the game, a tough schedule having worn them down. This resulted in several players playing out of position, limiting their effectiveness. Despite this, the young ‘ballers gave their all, competing until the last.
As the season comes to a close, it is clear to see that these two teams are both prime examples of how records can be misleading as to quality. Both outfits were unfortunate in having exceptionally tough schedules, which kept them out of the postseason. Despite this, both will take a lot from their respective campaigns, and will look to press on, stronger than ever, next season.