|June 2, 2013||2:30 pm||BAFA NL II South Central||2013|
8 - 44Full Time
The Spartans saw their nightmare 2013 campaign continue with an embarrassing 8-44 destruction at the hands of old rivals Kent Exiles to leave the team winless on the year.
On a day that saw the Spartans Youth team return to the gridiron after many years away, the senior team spluttered and stalled, struggling to make any impact at all on the game. As the Exiles christened their new home with a powerful display, the Essex side struggled with depleted numbers and were soundly beaten.
As the sun beat down on the lush grass, the Spartans offense found themselves pinned deep in their own territory after their opening drive ended in a 3-and-out. Punter Aaron Millar set to kick – only for the snap to sail over his head, sending Millar scurrying backwards, falling on the ball to gift the home team excellent field position. The Exiles capitalised shortly after, powerful running back Ben Abbott forcing his way in for the score. Quarterback Anthony Clarke, deputising for missing starter Zac Richie, ran in the conversion, and the home team found themselves ahead early 8-0.
Spartans quarterback Brandon Slieker, making his first start for the team, struggled to direct the Spartans passing attack. With the running game also finding yards hard to come by, the Exiles defense held firm, and gave their own offense an opportunity to extend their advantage. Shortly after, Exiles running back Ryan Critcher crossed the goalline, and although the conversion failed, the home team were up 14-0.
Hope was restored on the very next play. A short kick was fielded by Spartans return wizard Norris Owusu, who ducked and weaved his way through the home team defense before turning on the burners for a 60-yard kick return touchdown. With Osi Nzeako’s rushing conversion, the Spartans ended the first half with reasons to feel positive and a 14-8 scoreline.
The visitors saw their offense slowly gel as the game continued, Slieker connecting with receivers for short gains, and Nzeako and Andy Tomlinson able to grind out tough yards. The offensive line was giving their young QB time to connect with his receivers, and the Spartans were able to put together drives. However, the Exiles defense were in dominating form, and killed hopes of any further Spartan points with tough play and key turnovers.
The Spartans defense, low on numbers, began to bend as the heat played a part. Anthony Clarke and Ben McCarthy connected on a deep pass over the head of Spartans coverage king Nick Mayer to give the home team the ball at the 2-yard line, and on the next play Abbott bulldozed his way in for his second score of the game. Clarke’s 2pt pass fell incomplete, but the Exiles had pulled further away, 20-8.
The Spartans were down, but they were certainly not out. The offense continued to show signs of life, putting in arguably their best performance of the season. The Spartans defense, although tiring, were fighting hard, Mayer forcing a fumble which Earnest Owusu scopped up to give the ball back to the visitors. But for as well as the Spartans were playing, their hosts seemed to have the upper hand in all aspects of the game. A hot, bothered, and frustrated Spartans side saw themselves end the half down 20-8.
The second half saw bad, turn to worse. Nzeako’s fumble turned the ball over to the home side, but the Spartans defense held firm. The Spartans were unable to move the ball, however, and it was another special teams misfortune that saw the Exiles extend their lead – Millar’s punt was blocked and sailed out the back of the endzone for the safety and a 22-8 scoreline.
While the Spartans showed slow signs of improvment, the Exiles seemed to be coasting to victory. As the visitors defense tired, the Exiles moved the ball seemingly at will. Clarke took the ball in for a rushing score late in the third quarter, and with the conversion failing, victory slipped further from the Spartans as the Exiles went ahead 28-8.
The final quarter saw the home team continue to pour on the pressure. Unable to consistently move the football, the Spartans offense was unable to trouble the scoreboard, being forced to punt, or turning the football over. Clarke added a further rushing score late in the game, and with Exiles linebacker Aaron Alexis returning a Slieker interception for a touchdown, the Spartans were soundly beaten by a final score of 44-8.
A reflective Spartans Head Coach Marc Saunders looked for positives on a bleak day. After the game, he said, “A disappointing scoreline for us, for sure, however I am really pleased with how a massively-depleted defense did today and our offense made significant improvements on the field.”
The Spartans winless streak now extends to 10 games, and sees the team rooted to the foot of the table with an 0-4 record. With both Bedfordshire (4-0) and Colchester (3-0) pulling away at the top, time is running out for the Spartans to turn things around.
The team hopes to return to winning ways with the visit of the Maidstone Pumas to Hannakins Farm on Sunday, June 9th. The Pumas also remain winless, meaning the game promises to be a clash of two teams both hungry for that sweet taste of victory.
Kickoff for this critical matchup is scheduled for 2:30pm. The Spartans will be keen to reach the halfway stage of the season with a victory under their belt, so let’s see plenty of our fans there to cheer us on to victory!