|September 5, 2010||2:30 pm||BAFL II South East||2010|
15 - 29Full Time
Essex Spartans saw their impressive turnaround season come to an end with a 29-15 defeat by the Hampshire Thrashers in the BAFACL Division 2 playoffs.
After qualifying for the post-season as runners up in the Southern Division, the Spartans travelled to play the Thrashers, the Western Division winners, and played with all the heart and spirit that has defined their most successful season in 4 years.
The game pitted two evenly-matched teams together in what began as a defensive battle. The Spartans opened the scoring with a Seb Tindall field goal, and as both offenses struggled to take hold of the game, the first quarter ended with Spartans quarterback James Dawson being dropped in his own end zone for a 2-point safety.
With Spartans running backs Steven Hull and Craig “Turbo” Willis struggling to find room to rush, the Thrashers put together a dangerous drive which was killed by an interception from cornerback Tom Langford, his third of the season.
The Thashers were able to score the games first touchdown shortly after, however, and the first half ended with the Spartans on the wrong side of an 11-3 scoreline.
Some inspirational talk from the Spartans coaches and captains at halftime provided the team with the spark they needed to raise their game to the next level. Quarterback Dawson was able to exploit the Thrashers secondary, launching the ball deep downfield in the direction of star receiver Jon “Hollywood” Tottman. Tottman used his strength and skill to pluck the ball away from a floundering Thashers defender before demonstrating his breakaway speed to score a 70-yard touchdown, cutting the lead to 11-9.
A second safety of the game increased the Thashers lead to 13-9, but the Spartans showed their strength of character to force another turnover, Tom Marston ending another Hampshire drive with an interception. With the pick, Marston joined Langford for the team-lead with 3 on the season.
An inspired Spartans offense quickly capitalised, Dawson and Tottman connecting again for another sensational long touchdown pass, and despite the conversion failing, the fired-up Spartans found themselves in a deserved lead, 15-13.
The Spartans continued to battle during the fourth quarter, playing with pride and determination, but eventually the Western Division winners were able to pull away from the Essex unit. Two more touchdowns and the games third safety saw the game end with the Thrashers emerging victorious 29-15.
After the game, assistant Head Coach Sean Benton said: “The players did everything that was asked of them, and while it was disappointing that we didn’t get the result we hoped for, we fought hard for 4 quarters of football.
“The team can be very proud of their many accomplishments this season and we are already looking forward to an even more successful season in 2011”.
The Spartans will now take time to reflect on what has been a truly remarkable season, turning a team that managed a solitary win only one season before into a 6-win, playoff-qualifying contender. The team can hold their heads high knowing they have proved to not only themselves but also the rest of the League that they are once again a force to be reckoned with. In the words of the Thrashers own Head Coach – “What a transformation!”
After a short break, the team will host their annual awards ceremony which will be followed by off-season training and player try-outs. More details on these events will be announced on the Spartans website as they are made available.