|July 29, 2012||2:30 pm||BAFA NL I Central & South||2012|
49 - 14Full Time
A season to forget finally came to an end. The Spartans welcomed the Cambridgeshire Cats to Hannakins Farm for the return fixture between the two teams, and much like the previous matchup, it was almost all one-way traffic.
Last weeks defeat to the Cats condemned the Spartans to last place in Division One Central & South following the teams promotion from Division 2 East in 2011. The team went into their final game of the season with only pride to play for, and perhaps with no pressure knowing there was nothing on the line, gave one of their best performances of the season.
Injuries had further depleted the Essex team, with the team fielding their lowest number of players all season. They were soon to discover others had also stayed away from the game, noticeably Lady Luck – quarterback Steve Watson saw his first pass of the game slip through the hands of receiver Adam Bristo and land in the hands of the waiting Cambridgeshire linebacker for an early turnover. A few plays later, it was 7-0 Cambridgeshire.
One touchdown soon became three and a 21-0 advantage, but the Spartans were playing hard. Defensive back Jamie Whiteaker delivered a punishing hit on a Cambridgeshire receiver, the sound of contact akin to a clap of thunder. With Watson struggling, veteran James Dawson took control of the offense, connecting with tight end Paul Cossu for a 21 yard gain to move the chains. The Cats may have been winning the game, but the Spartans were not letting them have it all their own way.
Whiteakers hit wasn’t the only source of thunder – as the black clouds gathered overhead, the Black Tide continued the fight on the pitch. A further Cats score meant they lead 28-0 at the half – and then the Heavens opened.
A thunderstorm in July. Lady Luck may have deserted Essex, but Mother Nature wasn’t going to miss out on the party. Two lightning flashes in the sky resulted in a delay of almost an hour for the restart – and the Spartans came out a transformed team.
Spartan cornerback Nick Mayer turned the tide with an interception of the Cats quarterback who elected, unwisely, to pass the ball into Mayer Island. Catching the pull in mid-flight, Mayer turned on the juice to return the ill-advised pass for an 80-yard touchdown, sparking scenes of celebration on the Essex sideline. With Aaron Davidson slotting home the conversion, the Spartans had cut the lead to 7-28.
The Spartans defense was firing on all cylinders, pressuring the Cats quarterback and registering sacks through Lawrence Reid and Shulba Hunte. Penalties allowed the Cats to move the ball downfield, and with another score, they extended their advantage to 35-7.
Dawson was efficient and effective, marching the Spartans downfield with short, accurate passes. Connecting with Bristo and Cossu, he moved the team downfield as the offense, which has spluttered and stalled for the majority of 2012, finally breathed signs of life.
A further Cats touchdown meant the Spartans were up against it going into the final quarter, but Dawson kept his cool, marching the team downfield. Cossu slipped free of his coverage in the endzone, and the alert Dawson delivered a bullet to his tight-end. Touchdown Spartans! With Davidson again converting, the Spartans sideline rejoiced as the score changed to 14-42.
Kieron Treacy was dominant, recording tackle after tackle as the Spartans stiffled the Cats as the game wound down. Dawson again moved the team into scoring position as the game entered its final two minutes, but his 4th down pass fell incomplete, giving the Cats the ball back deep in their own territory.
One play later, the scoring was complete – the Cats quarterback connecting with his running back for a deep pass play that ended the scoring with the Spartans going down 14-49.
After the game, a reflective Spartans Head Coach Marc Saunders said, “So much of this game is reminiscent of this whole season, flashes of good performance, glimmers of a winning side but at the end the scoreboard still has us on the losing side”.
The Spartans can now take a deep breath, and put the 2012 season behind them. Preparations can now begin for the 2013 campaign, and the quest for the return to glory!