|June 29, 2013||7:00 pm||BAFA NL II South Central||2013|
51 - 6Full Time
Under the Saturday night lights in Billericay, the Spartans were given a lesson in footballing dominance as their cross-county rivals the Colchester Gladiators extended their unbeaten run with a crushing 6-51 victory.
The victory gives the Gladiators the first Essex Bowl trophy, awarded to the winner of the annual Rivalry game betweeen the two sides, and it is a victory that was well-deserved as the short-handed Spartans simply had no answers to the Colchester offensive onslaught.
The night started badly for the home team – a mis-communication between quarterback Tom Overton-Smith and receiver George Mitchell resulting in an interception, gifting the Gladiators excellent field position. From that point on, one man grabbed control of the game and thrived under the floodlights.
Two plays after the pick, Gladiators running back Casey Campbell showed why he is so well-respected around the League as he took an option handoff and crusied his way into the endzone for his first score of the evening. With the conversion, Colchester jumped out to an early 0-7 lead, and the Spartans were in for a tough time.
With quarterback Curtis Bourke masterminding the Gladiators option-offense, the visitors were able to move the ball at ease on the usually-stout Spartans defense. Bourke lofted a gentle screen pass to Campbell, who weaved his way through a stunned Black Tide before crossing the line for his second touchdown of the contest.
While the Gladiators were firing on all cylinders, the Spartans spluttered and stalled. Punter Aaron Millar was unable to get the kick away and was gang-tackled by a surging Colchester defense, once-again gifting the visitors with superb field position. The Spartans defense held firm, and bottled campbell at the line – only to realise they had been hoodwinked with the QB option, Bourke strolling in untouched for 6 more Colchester points. With the conversion, the first quarter ended with the shellshocked Spartans down 0-21.
A glimmer of hope to open the second quarter – a Gladiator fumble deep in their own territory gave the Spartans offense an ideal opportunity to get on the scoreboard. New signing Danny Wallace wasted little time, taking the handoff and displaying a burst of speed to scamper home for his first touchdown of the 2013 campaign. Desperately trying to get back in the game, the Spartans went for the 2-point conversion, but with Wallace stopped inches short, the Gladiators remained in front 6-21.
The score seemed to light a fire in the Spartans, who showed signs of improvement as the quarter continued. The ground attack of Wallace and Andy Tomlinson started to take advantage of the strong showing by the Spartans offensive line and averaged almost 5 yards a rush. The home defense also grew into the game, beginning to get a feel for the Gladiators offense and stopping drives.
However, hope was soon extinguished when Campbell broke free again. His elusive rushing style saw him weave and dodge his way through a mesmerised defense before scoring his third touchdown of the contest. The Gladiators tacked on the conversion, and as the shistle blew for halftime, the Spartans were left looking for answers on the wrong end of a 6-28 scoreline.
The shellshocked Spartans regrouped at halftime. Coach Saunders, kitting up for the first time this season due to low numbers, tried to inspire his troops, looking for ways to overcome the weaknesses we had been exposed and exploited by the visitors. As the Spartans searched for answers, the Gladiators relaxed and savoured their deserved advantage.
The second half started badly – Millar’s kickoff was fielded by the Colchester return man, who broke down the sideline and lmost gave the Gladiators the perfect start, only to be denied inside the 10 yard line. The Spartans defense held firm, forcing the visitors to attempt a field goal which proved fruitless.
As the quarter wound down, the Gladiators began to experiment with new plays and different players, safe in their advantage. A further rushing touchdown, and a successful field goal, extended the lead to 6-38. Spartans defensive back Earnest Owusu intercepted a Gladiators pass, but with the offense unable to capitalise, the Gladiators scored again on the ground to move further ahead 6-44.
This day, however, belonged to the Gladiators, who scored their final rushing touchdown to finish the scoring at 6-51, and take home the silverware for the 2013 season and leave the short-handed Spartans to reflect on what could have been.
A reflective Spartans Head Coach Marc Saunders said, “Everyone playing tonight gave everything, some good play by everyone in black and gold. With some good practise sessions I am confident we can return to winning ways”.
The Spartans now have two weeks of training before visiting the Watford Cheetahs, who sit just one game above the Essex outfit. The Spartans have one home game remaining in 2013, a season-closing contest against Bedfordshire Blue Raiders on August 18th.