Entering the tournament already Division champions, the undefeated Essex Spartans American Football U17 side completed another trio of wins on Saturday to cement their place at the Britbowl finals, and into Spartans history.
After successfully seeing off the Hertfordshire Cheetahs, Bedfordshire Blackhawks and Colchester Gladiators no fewer than four times each this season, the South Essex outfit will enter the coveted Britbowl championships in September ranked a minimum of third in the country.
Game one against the Cheetahs left the Spartans trailing 0-6 on the first play, but Teddy Geddis and Tobi Olarigdbe made up the first 8 points for the Spartans. A quickfire retaliation TD from the Cheetahs plus another from Spartans Geddis saw the half end 13-12 in favour of Essex.
The second half continued in much the same vein with an impossibly tight scoreline; touchdowns from Sheku Jusu-Sheriff and Aaron Jackson were closely followed by TDs from the Cheetahs, leaving the score 27-24 with only a few minutes to go.
Two final TDs from Frankie Hart and a stunning interception from Billy Draper saw the tables finally turn fully in one direction, and the game ended 33-24 to Essex.
Game two against Colchester Gladiators was equally tight with a strong defensive performance from both sides. An early TD from Jusu-Sheriff remained a 6-pointer after the conversion was missed, and a later TD from Hart saw the conversion flagged for caught in the back field, leaving Essex only 12 points ahead of the Gladiators at the half.
It was the visitors who opened scoring in the second but Spartans Max Stansfield blocked their conversion, keeping it to a minimum of six. A later TD from Geddis put the Spartans ahead once again and the white-knuckle saga ended at 27-6 to the Essex Spartans.
The final game against Bedfordshire Blackhawks saw a truly stellar performance from the visitors, who attended the tournament with the absolute minimum of just five players to complete their three games. It was the minimal Blackhawks who opened scoring with a TD and successful two-point conversion, leaving the Spartans trailing 0-8 after just a few minutes.
A highly dramatic first half included two successive TDs for Hart and a 2-point conversion, a defensive TD from Hamzah Mahmud and a fiery retaliation from the Blackhawks ending the half 20-13 to Essex.
The Spartans could only take advantage of their increased numbers against a diminished Bedfordshire squad for the second half, and a number of outstanding rookie performances along with further TDs from Hart, Geddis, Stansfield and two from Matt Clark saw the Spartans finish an outstanding game of football 52-20.
The Spartans U17 team return to practice this weekend ahead of the Britbowl National Finals, expected to be held in Sheffield in early September (date TBC).
The Essex Spartans Academy are always recruting new players or looking for anyone able to assist the team in an off-field role, and would encourage anyone interested to contact us via email.