Only seven fixtures left of the Under 19’s regular season, and three of them get underway this weekend!
We may already know which teams are headed to the Britbowl/Plate playoffs, but there’s all to play for in the Trophy stakes and when it comes to avoiding the dubious honour of placing last in either conference.
Highland Wildcats vs Chorley Buccaneers
by Alex Mclachlan
A superpowered offence vs a rock-solid defence is the billing in the North this week, as the Highland Wildcats take on the Chorley Buccaneers. This will be a huge matchup in determining who will move on to postseason football, as the fourth and fifth placed teams face off in what should prove to be a great showcase of Junior football.
After stuttering early on against their Scottish rivals, the East Kilbride Pirates, Highland have proved in recent weeks that they have one of the premier offensive units in all of Under 19s football. Led by Quarterback Euan Crawford, the Wildcats have put up 98 total points in their last two outings, blowing away both the Chester Romans and Leeds Academy Assassins. Not simply accepting of this clear offensive firepower, however, Highland will be looking for consistency from the get go, and hoping that their defence can live up to their offense’s high standards.
It’s almost the polar opposite situation in the Chorley camp coming into game day. The Buccaneers have struggled with their offence thus far this season. In the three games that they have played, the unit has only been able to put up 20 points – a total which they may need to match in this fixture alone to keep up with the Wildcats. Chorley have been able to rely on the elite play of their defence, however, to win them tight games. Linebackers Alex Garcia and James Schofield headline a group that has not conceded more than two touchdowns in any game this year. The Buccaneer coaches will also be looking to see how their players cope with the long journey up to Scotland, hoping that this will not detract from their overall performance.
This is an exceptionally tough one to call, and would require a braver man than I to do so. Highland are confident against British opponents, having defeated each team south of the wall that they have faced in the past two seasons. Chorley, however, will certainly provide stiff opposition, and will look to break that streak, and Scottish hearts, come Sunday.
Lincolnshire Bombers vs Merseyside Nighthawks
By Tom Henley
This weekend is a battle between two of the winless teams of the Northern Conference, with the Lincoln Bombers facing off versus the Merseyside Nighthawks. Both teams will be wanting to break their ducks in a matchup filled with young talent.
The Nighthawks have been unlucky with their schedule, with the last two fixtures being against the two undefeated teams in the conference, East Kilbride and Nottingham. However, although they were on the wrong end of the scoreboard both times, the young Nighthawks showed potential, with QB Paul Gillespie connecting with Derby Braves first string (and possibly the tallest junior player in the country), Sam Parks, for touchdowns in both games. These two ballers will be key, if they have scored on two of the best defensive units in the country, Lincoln will have to work hard to keep them out of the endzone.
The Bombers have had a baptism of fire in their debut season in the nine man facet of the game, coming against traditional powerhouse Manchester, and the semi-final bound Caesars twice. Coach Tony Marflitt will be proud of his team, coming against heavyweights of the junior game, and competing every quarter. Progress has been evident from Lincoln, with the team “moving the ball much better” against older and larger opposition. With most of the players, recently graduating from youth, the Bombers will be a team to look out for in coming seasons. Lincoln will fight tooth and nail against the Nighthawks, with linebakers, Garrett Etheridge and Tom Johnson, anchoring the interior of the defence. Quarterback Owen Mitchinson, whilst leading the offense, may also join the terrifying duo, with a cameo at D-line not being a rare sight!
This game promises to be a close affair between two promising teams, expect the score going back and forth, as well as promising British talent in abundance.
Solent Seahawks vs Black Country Vipers
Having the BAFA Director of Competitions on Staff has come with its own trials for the Solent Academy Seahawks this year, as there was no way they were going to get away with a cushy schedule.
They kicked off their year with a narrow loss to the defending national champions, and followed up with games against the two top teams in the South – Birmingham and Blitz already locking themselves into the postseason with exceptionally strong seasons.
This leaves Solent, who took their sole with of the year so far against Farnham, with a lot of ground to make up if they want to sneak into a postseason Trophy berth – which they’re very capable of doing – a 3-3 record could well be enough to see them reach the postseason so long as they stay resilient on defence! They had a potentially game-changing pick six written off the board in their last outing thanks to an inadvertent whistle, so will be looking to rectify that on Sunday.
— Solent Seahawks (@SolentSeahawks) July 19, 2017
The Seahawks will want to also begin to pick up momentum on offence. Solent have a talented roster, but are typically only picking up two or three scores a game so far – QB Bruin White‘s connection with WR/TE Kieran Higgins nearly bringing the ‘Hawks back into the game against the London Blitz.
They enter their final two fixtures of the season with it all to play for, which unfortunately cannot be said for their upcoming opponents.
Yes, it’s been a tough year for the Black Country Vipers. With the majority of their roster being dual-eligibility they’ve certainly had a busy season – including a scheduling clash of a Saturday U17s tourney and Sunday U19’s outing forcing them to withdraw from their last U19 fixture, versus the Kent Exiles.
Even outside this however, the particularly young Black Country roster has struggled mightily – yet to put up any points on offence so far this season, and this game against Solent representing their last chance to show some real spark.
There are at least clear positives – there’s likely not a single youth or junior roster across the Britball Nation that will come out of this season with more hours balling under their belts!
But with everything on the line for the Seahawks, this weekend’s trip to the south coast will be a big ask for the Vipers.