By Alex Mclachlan
Another crucial week as the Under 19 season begins to draw to a close. We now have our first team with a perfect season under their belt, along with a further two teams booking themselves some postseason football.
Nottingham Caesars vs Lincolnshire Bombers
Sunday marked the second meeting of these two sides in this regular season, with the first coming out as a nail-biting 12-0 victory for the Nottingham side. Since that matchup in early May, the two teams have played out vastly different campaigns, with the Caesars remaining undefeated and the Bombers losing their ensuing fixtures. That being said, Nottingham knew they had to bring their A game to defeat a tenacious Bombers side, which they did, coming off 57-12 victors.
The Caesars have found their offensive identity running the ball thus far this season, though this tactic looked somewhat in jeopardy in the build-up to the fixture, with them missing two of their starting linemen. However, in their time of need their players stepped up, not least the imposing Jordan Fearon-Lee. Despite only taking up the game this season, and playing his first four games on the defence, Jordan stepped into the right guard position and dominated from whistle to whistle, winning the Caesars MVP award. This dominance in the trenches led to seven rushing scores for the Caesars, four by Fullback Alex McLachlan, along with one apiece for Tom Henley and Al Jeffries. To complete the trifecta of #TeamDC scorers, tight end Kiren Brown brought in an exquisite one-handed touchdown of his own.
For their part, the Bombers showed their development throughout the season, with them managing to test the vaunted Nottingham defence, and match the highest points scored against them by anyone this season. Wide receiver Ryan Wakeling showed his elite speed during the matchup, taking the top off the Caesars defence with his receiving touchdown, and showing his cutting ability with a score on a reverse. Credit too must be given to the way the team responded to being down 44-6 at the half, with their never-say-die attitude resulting in a much closer second half.
This being said, the Caesars D still showed its ability on the day, generating four turnovers, and continuing its hard-hitting ways. Captain Morgan Dodson appears to have found his nose for the ball recently, picking off three balls in the last two matches, whilst cornerback Luca Melero found the end zone on a beautiful punt return.
The Caesars’ win means that they have finished the season 6-0 – a quite remarkable feat considering their record in 2014 was exactly the reverse. Depending on East Kilbride’s result this weekend, the Caesars will finish either first or second in their conference, and will progress onto the Northern final next. The Bombers will be hoping to learn from their games this season, and with the progression they have clearly made thus far this season, along with the promise shown by some of their young ‘ballers, don’t be too surprised if they turn things around quickly!
London Blitz vs Solent Seahawks
The Blitz hosted the Seahawks this weekend, in what was assumed by many to be somewhat of a foregone conclusion, but proved to be anything but.
The Blitz managed to gain the lead early, capitalising off a fumbled snap by getting the ball into the hands of ever dangerous running back Aaron Mahoney-Jones for his first of four touchdowns in the game. The Seahawks did not let their heads go down, however, and replied soon after. The game remained tight, at a score of 14-12 in the fourth quarter, with defensive prowess ofttimes prevailing for both teams. Particular attention must be paid to the Blitz defensive line, who received rave reviews from players and coaches alike, stopping the Seahawks O several times in the end zone.
Solent linebacker Nic Bergamaschi, too, lived up to the hype that his teammates have created around him, logging a forced fumble, a sack and a pick-six, to go along with his 50 yards rushing on offense. However, when injury struck Bergamaschi, Solent heads dropped and the Blitz capitalised, to the tune of two late rushing touchdowns.
Congratulations to the Blitz, who have secured a place in the postseason. The London outfit now simply have to avoid losing by more than 36 points in their final game of the season against the Kent Exiles to guarantee a spot in the southern final, and face the as-yet-undefeated Birmingham Lions, in what would prove to be a feisty repeat of a game from earlier this season. Solent, meanwhile, will have to win out and hope other results go their way in order to squeeze into the postseason picture.
Manchester Titans vs Chester Romans
Well then… I may have some egg on my face with this one. In the local rivalry this week, the Manchester Titans faced the Chester Romans, in a game that I predicted would bring the best out of both teams. Unfortunately, injuries of the Chester side, along with clinical work by all three units of Manchester, meant a blowout win for the Titans 40-0.
From the opening kick-off, it was clear that Manchester had come into this game with a point to prove, with Kyah Baxter returning it for six. Not satisfied with this, Baxter followed up with a rushing touchdown on the next drive, and scored a further two touchdowns later in the game, bringing his total to four (what is it with people scoring four touchdowns this week?). Manchester’s defence, too, came to play, shutting out the Romans with its signature hard-hitting style. Robert Duck also ensured that the unit showed up on the scoreboard, forcing a safety.
With the victory, Manchester have kept the pressure on the East Kilbride Pirates in the race for the top two places in the conference. However, they will have to hope that the Merseyside Nighthawks can manage a victory in their game against the Pirates this weekend for this to become a possibility – a feat that has not yet been achieved by anyone thus far this season. As for Chester, the Romans will hope to learn from the fixture, and pick themselves up before the return leg. Some tightening up on defence, as well as finding a spark on O, will be key to them avoiding a repeat come August.
Highland Wildcats vs Leeds Assassins
Once again, the Highland Wildcats have proved two things with their victory: they really can ‘ball when it comes down to it, and East Kilbride’s defence really is that good. The Assassins made the long journey up to Scotland, but could not find their first win of the season there, coming off on the wrong side of a 50-20 score line.
The Wildcats showed their offensive firepower early in this matchup, being up 34-6 at the half. Quarterback Euan Crawford in particular had a huge day, tallying five touchdowns: three through the air and two on the ground. Their defence, too, did a good job of containing a dynamic Leeds offence, with Mark Pyper picking the ball off twice, and scoring a receiving touchdown of his own.
The Assassins have had an exceptionally hard schedule this season, playing against each of the top five teams in their division thus far. Despite this, Leeds have been determined to make their opposition work for their victories in every game, and Sunday proved no different. Whilst it would have been easy for them to have let their heads get down at the half, the Assassins fought throughout, playing Highland close in the second half, to a score of 14-16. Of particular note were rookies Ben Jordan and Waleed Rana who both had standout games.
Highland next face the Chorley Buccaneers in a matchup that could prove pivotal in determining which of them reaches the postseason. Leeds, meanwhile, face yet another tough matchup against the Buccaneers, and will be seeking their first victory of the season. Irrespective of their record, however, Leeds will have taken a lot from this season, and are another outfit who could easily make the leap in the coming campaigns.