|June 9, 2013||2:30 pm||BAFA NL II South Central||2013|
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The Spartans returned to winning ways with a convincing victory, crushing the short-handed Maidstone Pumas 66-0 to chalk up their first victory of the 2013 campaign.
After struggling their way through the first four games of the season, the Spartans roared back with a dominant display on all sides of the ball – touchdowns were scored by the offense, defense, and special teams in the Essex outfit’s best team perfomance of the year.
With the Spartans offense going three-and-out on their opening possession, it was down to the Black Tide defense to open the scoring. Sack-machine Aaron Millar stripped the ball from the Pumas, allowing defensive captain Lawrence Reid to scoop up the loose ball and carry it into the endzone to open the scoring. The Spartans failed with the attempted two-point conversion, and the first quarter ended with the home team ahead 6-0.
The Spartans needed to make a statement in a game that they simply had to win. As each warrior fought hard, one man emerged above all others to totally dominate the game. Spartans running back Craig Willis was a constant thorn in the sides of the overpowered Pumas, scoring an incredible four touchdowns in a performance that will go down as one of the best in history from a man in a black-and-gold jersey.
Willis took a hand-off from quarterback Tom Overton-Smith, bounced to the right and found a gaping hole in the Pumas defense. Living up to his nickname, Turbo turned on the jets and flew his way into the endzone for a breathtaking touchdown scamper.
Having scored the opening touchdown, the Spartans defense were hungry for more. On the Pumas first play after the kickoff, they again fumbled the football, this time alert Spartan Koby Williams collecting the ball and strolling into the endzone for 6 more Essex points. Again, the Spartans 2-point conversion failed, but with Essex now ahead 18-0, it seemed the Pumas were a beaten team.
Every aspect of the Spartans team were firing on all cylinders. The offensive line, who so often go without mention, were dominating the poor Pumas, manhandling them and bullying them as the Spartans grip of the game tightened. Rookie lineman Rob Downes delivered a punishing block to free running back Osi Nzeako for another Essex score, and with Nick Mayer’s extra point conversion, the Spartans pulled further ahead 25-0. But Downes was not the only lineman to put in a stellar perfomance – Gary Warren, Max Coventry, Jack Lawrence, Dave Macpherson, Dean Payne, and Gavin Price worked alongside their player-coach Kieron Goymer to put in an eyecatching display, protecting quarterbacks Overton-Smith and Brandon Slieker, whilst carving holes in the shellshocked Pumas defense for the Spartans ground game. Always hustling, always fighting, the Spartans offense line put in their best perfomance of the season and should hold their heads high after a job done fantastically well.
Working behind the imposing Spartans offense line, Willis added his second touchdown of the day early in the third quarter. Finding a hole in the defense, Willis turned on the jets to score with another long rushing player, and with Mayer again coverting, the score stretched to 32-0.
The Spartans defense, lead by linebacker Jack Holder, were in dominant form, snuffing out every Pumas attack. After Holder recovered yet-another Maidstone fumble, Norris Owusu took the reverse play and demonstrated his breakaway speed to take the ball across the goalline for another touchdown late in the third quarter. Safety Will Still recovered a fumble, linebacker Lester Brandon intercepted a pass, and the Pumas were all out of ideas.
Nzeako delivered further punishment with his second rushing score of the day, and with Mayer converting, the game entered it’s final quarter with Essex leading 45-0.
The Pumas were forced to punt early in the final quarter – which proved to be a big mistake. Willis fielded the ball cleanly, then jinxed and weaved his way through a tired and thoroughly beaten Pumas team to score his third touchdown of the game. Mayer drilled the conversion, and the rout extended to 52-0.
The Spartans passing attack finally joined the scoring party as the game wound down, rookie quarterback Slieker throwing a beautiful pass deep downfield for receiver Joe Parsons to run onto before sprinting into the endzone for the receiver’s first touchdown as a Spartan – and Slieker’s first scoring pass of his Essex career. Again, Mayer tacked on the extra-point and the scoreline read 59-0.
It was only fitting that the icing on the cake went to Willis – another long touchdown run gave him his fourth score of the day, and with Mayer’s sixth conversion of the contest, the Pumas were sent home with their tails firmly between their legs, soundly beaten in all aspects 66-0.
A jubilant Spartans Head Coach Marc Saunders said, “This was a much-needed win for our team, but also a well-deserved one. Some great play on all sides of the ball, contributing to a 10 touchdown game”.
The Spartans now have two weeks of training before the much-anticipated “Essex Bowl” against the Colchester Gladiators. Kickoff for this game is at 7pm on June 29th, the Spartans second “Saturday Night Lights” game on the 2013 season, and it promsies to be an epic confrontation.