Following the BAFCA convention, Junior football restarts with a bang. Some upper echelon matchups, as well as inaugural Division Two tournaments, await us this coming weekend!
Cobham Cougars Vs Thames Valley Tigers
By Ryan Duff
After starting their maiden seasons 0-1 and 0-2 respectively, the Cougars and Tigers face off for their first victory at the Under-19 level.
TVT travel to Cobham after a 56-0 annihilation at the hands of the Solent Seahawks but will stand proud on the achievement of playing four quarters of nine-man football with just 10 players. With a hopefully more populated side-line this week, Thames Valley will hope to keep their impact players fresh and at the very least put up some points for the first time in their young history.
Cobham come into Week 5 off the back of a disappointing 20-6 home loss to the London Warriors. Last year’s youth champions’ first step into junior football didn’t get off to the best of starts, with starting QB Aidan Stammers quickly leaving the game with an injury. What followed was a series of costly turnovers leading to 20 unanswered points before RB Bliss Ukueku managed to salvage a score in the final quarter. With Stammers back in the line-up, however, the well-disciplined Cobham side will hope for a more successful second outing.
In what seems an unpredictable match, both Thames Valley and Cobham will look to turn around their seasons at this still early stage.
Merseyside Nighthawks Vs Highland Wildcats Preview
By Bruin White
The Highland Wildcats travel to Merseyside this weekend for their first fixture of the 2018 campaign in a highly anticipated matchup which has all the makings of a classic.
The Wildcats will seek to re-establish their dominance over English teams on Sunday when they face off against a competitive Nighthawks side who currently sit at 1-1. This task will by no means be a walk in the park, however.
Confident from their recent shutout victory over the Chester Romans, Merseyside are still taking things one play at a time – an attitude akin to their preseason outlook on the year. HC Rich Merrick explains they are “happy to be playing football”, and “want to play great football on as many downs as possible”. Standout Running Backs of their most recent fixture Tom Appleton alongside Jacob Diaba will look to resume the performance put on for the Romans two weeks ago, whilst Quarterback Jensen Fairhurst will be eager to add to the passing tally.
The Wildcats should suppress this dynamic offense first if they would like to start their year off right. GM Robbie Paulin describes a sense of restlessness around the team, still having not played a game so far this year, quoting “everybody can’t wait to just get on the field and actually start competing”. Highland’s All-DC Ally Gibson-led line will seek to dominate from the first snap on Sunday in order to get through their first roadblock on the long and winding road to Britbowl.
This is a game we’ll all be tuning in to see the result of.
Birmingham Lions vs Chester Romans
***PLEASE NOTE: The Chester Romans have shared they are unable to field a roster for this fixture due to a significant portion of their team currently in the middle of exams. Hope are this fixture will be rescheduled for later in the season***
In a matchup of two winless teams (though more surprising for one than the other), the 0-1 Birmingham Lions will face off against the 0-2 Chester Romans.
The Lions are looking to redeem a disappointing opening game loss to the East Kilbride Pirates, and will hope to prove that that fixture was a mere blip on their season. A Luke Fearn led Lions offence will hope to show a potency lacking in the opening fixture. The defence meanwhile will hope to maintain its second half form, where it slowed EKPs offence to only a single touchdown.
The Romans, meanwhile, will look to improve upon two close losses and capitalise on the Lions’ uncharacteristic slow start to the season. After forcing a close game with the Manchester Titans, the Romans have shown that they can keep pace with the very best the league has to offer. They will hope that this game illustrates this again, but that they can take one step further and can finally get a win.
This should be a fascinating game, and will showcase who’s start to the season has been symptomatic of their team’s real quality.
Solent Seahawks vs London Warriors
By Jack Stodel
A thrilling match up takes place in the South of England this Sunday with the feared Solent Seahawks facing off against the 1-1 London Warriors.
After defeating the Cobham Cougars in their last game, the Warriors will be confident going into this face off with GB dual threat QB Matthew John leading his Offense, equipped with fellow GB WR Issai Aluko to bring terror to the Solent defense.
Solent too are feeling very confident going into this one as their own GB QB Louis Benzey will look to wreak havoc on the Warriors makeshift defense with Farnham recruit Ben Thomas, a touchdown machine, locked and loaded.
Their defense led by Pre-Season Player to Watch Toby Naylor will look to push QB John into being as unproductive as he looked against the Blitz. In Solent’s last game with the recently folded Sussex Thunder, Naylor recorded a pick six and a handful of tackles and will surely look to repeat that this weekend.
After speaking to multi-talented QB Bruin White, although the Seahawks are confident, they hope that their rookies can live up to the task of the fast-paced Junior league. However under a well-established team of Coaches, they are confident they will prevail.
He also noted that he sees a 28-6 scoreline on the cards, which is score they were defeated by in their last matchup with the Warriors two years ago.
This will definitely be a game to watch, with two talented sides lining up against one another and an array of GB talent on show to liven this game up.
At a time when more and more teams are unable to field full teams at the Junior level, all credit must go to Russ Hewitt for setting up a 7v7 league for those developing teams who could not field a team for the 2018 season!
The first tournament between these teams comes in the North, with the Black Country Vipers, Leeds Academy Assassins and the Chorley Buccaneers facing off: a trio of former 9v9 teams from last season.
The hosts, the Chorley Buccaneers, started off this season in Division 1, but unfortunately were unable to field a large enough squad to remain at the 9v9 level. However, this foundation of 9v9 will stand the Buccs in good stead, having formed a strong core of talent over the past few years of competition.
The Black Country Vipers, meanwhile, decided early to withdraw from full competition. Despite this, the team has retained some very strong foundational pieces which will prove problematic for oppositions. Boasting a pair of GB defensive linemen in Theo Eddy and Louis Gallagher, Vipers HC Tom Edmonds is confident that the Vipers will be able to improve on last season’s disappointing 0-6 record, and push for a successful year.
Leeds’ side suffers from the same issues as most at this level, with low numbers according to Coach Bottomley. However, the size of its squad is not representative of the team’s experience, as this team has been together for many years. Starting as an Under 17s squad, many of the players will have been together for almost five years, which will promote great squad cohesion.
Overall, this should be a fascinating first tournament at this level, and we here at DC eagerly await to see how it goes!
The South also sees three Div. 2 teams square off, with the chance to draw first blood at this level!
Firstly, the hosts, the Kent Exiles. The problem with the Exiles has never been a lack of talent, but instead a lack of numbers. A mere two years removed from a Britbowl victory, the Exiles find themselves in a 7v7 format. Whilst this is certainly not what Kent would have desired, this level still offers a lot of opportunities to display the talent of their players and coaches. Hopefully this will drive increased interest and lead the Exiles to bounce back to Division 1 by this time next year.
The other two teams in this tournament provide somewhat unknown quantities. Both the Ipswich Cardinals and Wembley Stallions will have a lot to prove, and will be excited to showcase their young talent early on this season. We will see how such young and inexperienced squads adjust to the under 19s game.