|April 14, 2013||12:00 pm||BAFA NL II South Central||2013|
|Bedfordshire Blue Raiders||0||0||6||0||6||Win|
0 - 6Full Time
The Spartans got their 2013 campaign off to a shaky start with a narrow 6-0 defeat at the hands of the Bedfordshire Blue Raiders.
Travelling with a young team, filled with first and second year players, the Spartans and Blue Raiders played out a tight and nervy contest which was impacted by a strong wind throughout the game. With both offenses stiffled by stout defenses, points were at a premium at it took a special teams mistake for the home team to score the games only points in the third quarter.
The Spartans defense had the measure of the Bedfordshire offense early on. Joe Venables marked his return to the Essex side with his first sack of the season early in the first quarter, and the home team offense was unable to move the football. However, the same can be said of the visitors – a combination of first game nerves and sloppy mistakes leading to penalties caused the Spartans to seemingly move backwards instead of forwards.
Running backs Anthony Yeboah, Andy Tomlinson and Osi Nzeako found the going tough, with yards hard to come by. First-year passer Tom Cooke showed great poise and composure in the pocket, but was unable to regularly connect with his receivers.
As the second quarter began, the Spartans defense continued to flex their muscles. Lawrence Reid, Neil Cooper and rookie Billy Swick all collected their first sacks of the season as the Bedfordshire offense sluttered and stalled. Slowly, the Spartan offense began to click, Yeboah breaking clear on a long run, and Cooke connecting with Nzeako for a 37-yard catch and run. Sadly, however, the sloppy mistakes and needless penalties continued to haunt the Spartans, negating several big plays and killing drives.
Bedfordshire will think themselves unlucky not to have opened the scoring after intercepting a Cooke pass, almost returning it for a touchdown only to be denied by a crunching last-man tackle from offensive lineman Samson Adepoju. As the first half ended, the scoreboard remianed untroubled with the teams locked in a scoreless contest.
The strong wind contiued to be a factor in the second half as both offenses found a passing game to be difficult to establish. Bedfordshire were able to find some joy with screen passes, while the Spartans continued to pound the ball with their selection of running backs. Spartan Lester Brandon forced a fumble deep in Bedfordshire territory, and with rookie Aaron Donaldson recovering, the Spartans were given good field position, but were unable to capitalise.
Disaster struck mid-way through the third quarter. Inside his own 20, punter Andy Clarke was set to kick the ball away. The onrushing Blue raiders, however, were able to get to the ball in numbers, blocking the kick, then gleefully scooping the loose ball and running it in for games only points. With the extra point attempt failing, the Spartans were down 0-6.
The game’s final quarter saw a noticeable improvement from the Spartans. Brandon and Cooper each collected sacks of the Bedfordshire quarterback, and after shaking off a crunching sack, Cooke started to cause the home team defense problems with his determination and rushing ability. As time ran down, Bedfordshire lined up to attempt a field goal, but the strong wind caused the attempt to fall wide and short.
Swick recorded his first fumble recovery as a Spartan shortly after, giving the visitors one final chance to snatch the victory. A combination of short passes and powerful running saw the Spartans move downfield, but hopes were extinguished when Cooke floated his third interception of the day to gift the ball back to Bedfordshire to run out the clock.
A reflective Spartans Head Coach Marc Saunders said, “I’m taking today’s result as an important lesson to our young team. There were some good performances on offense and defense from which to build, our focus will now be on eliminating the mistakes that probably cost us the win.”
The Spartans now have time to lick their wounds and reflect on what could have been. A week of training to iron out the creases, eliminate the mistakes, and establish exactly what worked and what didn’t. And then – it’s the Battle For The Bridge.
April 27th. 7pm. Spartans welcome old rivals Kent Exiles to Hannakins for what should be quite an event – the first “Saturday Night Lights” Rivalry game for 2013!
We hope to see plenty of our fans cheer us on as we look for our first victory of the season!