|April 27, 2013||7:00 pm||BAFA NL II South Central||2013|
20 - 12Full Time
We’d been waiting for this one. Rivalry game. Kent Exiles. Saturday Night Lights. Floodlit pitch at Hannakins Farm. Trophy on the line. But ultimately – we just couldn’t get it done.
The Spartans showed signs of vast improvement from their opening-day defeat to the Blue Raiders to push the Exiles hard, but fell short. Down 0-20 going into the games final quarter, Essex fought back to score two touchdowns but were not able to take home the trophy, losing 12-20.
With a record crowd in excess of 100 people cheering the team on, the Spartans were fired up early. As the sun set, and the floodlights came on, you could feel something special in the air. This was an evening to remember.
The Spartans defense were able to force a three-and-out on the Exiles opening possession, but the Exiles defense were able to match that feat, forcing the home team to punt with on their first drive. Shortly after, Spartan quarterback Tom Cooke was forced to withdraw from the game through injury, thrusting diminutive backup Tom Overton-Smith into the lineup.
As Overton-Smith found his feet, the Exiles were able to capitalise on some early jitters from the Black Tide defense. Quarterback Zac Richie connected with receiver Alex Clifford for a long gain over the middle, and the pair connected again on the next play to leave the Spartans defensive backfield stunned as Clifford sprinted home for the score. The extra point attempt failed, giving the visitors an early 0-6 lead.
One score became two shortly after – with the Spartans offense struggling to move the ball, Richie again took to the air, hitting Colin Chislett for another aerial touchdown. With the conversion, the Exiles lead 0-13.
The Spartans showed signs of improvement in the second half. Overton-Smith, now settled into the game, was causing the Exiles defense headaches with his elusive scrambling style, and the Spartans were beginning to drive downfield, the first-year quarterback connecting with rookie receiver Norris Owusu for a long gain. However, the visitors were able to come up with the stops when they needed to, killing drives with interceptions or big 3rd-down stops.
Exiles running back Ben Abbott started to find holes in the Spartans defense, opening the final quarter by powering home for a 13-yard touchdown rumble. With the conversion failing, the Exiles pulled further away 0-20.
The Spartans opened their 2013 account on their next drive – Craig Willis looking like he was stuffed at the line, but somehow managing to burst through for a long touchdown run. The 2-point conversion attempt failed, but the gap was cut to 6-20.
With the home team defense now having the measure of the Exiles, the Spartans found themselves in a position to score shortly after. Lee Millar took the handoff and powered his way in for a 2-yard touchdown, sparking signs of jubilation on the Spartans sideline. Again, the 2-point conversion failed, but with the scoreline now 12-20, and with a little over 2 minutes to play, there was hope.
Sadly, however, hope was extinguished when Andy Clarke’s attempted onside kick was recovered by the visitors, who ran out the clock to emerge victorious and claim the innugural Battle For The Bridge trophy.
“We were definitely slow out of the blocks which kept us on the back foot for the whole of the first half, but lessons were learned and the performance in the second half really showed this”, said Spartans Head Coach Marc Saunders.
“A loss never feels good but the near-comeback showed that these Spartans have plenty of heart. Hopefully we can carry this on into next week’s game.”
Next up, the Milton Keynes Pathfinders visit Hannakins Farm for a battle of two winless teams. Neither will want to drop another game and find themselves at the foot of the table looking up, so the game promises to be a great one. Let’s see you all there!
We hope to see plenty of our fans cheer us on as we look for our first victory of the season!