With a walkover win for the Solent Seahawks in the South, the only match played this weekend took the form of the Northern Trophy final between the Highland Wildcats and the Merseyside Nighthawks.
Highland Wildcats V Merseyside Nighthawks
By Bruin White
In a spectacular Northern Trophy gameday setup complete with a smoke machine, entrance music and national anthems, the Scottish hosts trumped the Nighthawks once more this year – defeating them 32-12.
Despite a rather predictable scoreline – Highland having beaten Merseyside by the same 20-point margin earlier on this year – the event as a whole was full of brilliant surprises. The first of the pleasant surprises was that the Nighthawks even travelled to compete in the game. A strange thing to say, perhaps, but prior to the game on Sunday there had been no English team travel to the Wildcats since 2013!
Following this lead came an assembly of BAFRA officials, usually a myth in the Highlands of Scotland, to officiate the contest being played at Bught Stadium in Inverness. Pre-game, the national anthem was sung after the teams had come out to entrance music with smoke machines. A DJ played music throughout the all-day event which was a great advertisement for Junior football and a great send-off for the graduating players of either team.
Things started off shaky for the hosts, however, as the improved Nighthawks team started strong in the first quarter. Despite the Merseyside head-start, though, the Wildcats had taken control of the game by halftime.
Highland running back Rory Grant had a huge day, averaging 17.9 yards per carry over 12 rushes and even bagged a touchdown. Alex Roberts recorded two rushing TDs and Euan Trommino came up big with both a rushing and receiving score, the pass being thrown by quarterback James Maclean. For Merseyside, two clutch graduating players scored touchdowns: both Jacob ‘JD’ Diaba and WR Jake Moore managed to find the endzone. However, this was not enough to beat a Highland defence led by cornerback Lewis Robertson who nabbed two interceptions for himself on the day – helping the Scots to a 32-12 victory.
Despite the loss, Merseyside HC Rich Merrick states “I can never be unhappy with my guys when they play with effort and heart”, an admirable reminiscence of his preseason statement about focussing on the process and taking the season one play at a time. A great improvement from their 1-4-1 2017 campaign, Merrick reflects “hopefully [we can] carry on our upward path”. It will be exciting to see this team’s progression in years to come.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats retain their Northern Trophy title. GM Robbie Paulin thanks BAFA for being so supportive of the event as well as thanking Merseyside for making the trip up to the Highlands, proclaiming “they are a fantastic squad, on and off the field”.
Paulin congratulated the team captains on the day – Trommino, and linemen Colin Hamilton, Fergus McIntyre and All-DC Ally Gibson for leading the team this year. All four captains are of the nine Highland players graduating this year, although the organic influx from the prestigious youth programme is currently tallied at 25 – so the 2019 year should be just as exciting for this acclaimed academy.