|August 28, 2011||2:30 pm||BAFA NL II East||2011|
0 - 7Full Time
The Spartans saw their 2011 season come to an abrupt end with a 7-0 defeat to the Lancashire Wolverines in the first round of this years BAFANL playoffs.
Second-place in the ultra-competitive East Division meant the Spartans qualified for the post-season as the 7th-seeded team, and travelled to play the 2nd-seeded Wolverines, who had lost only once during the regular season.
On an unseasonally cold and dull August day, the Spartans were unable to continue their dominant form of the regular season, and were held scoreless for the first time in 2011 as Lancashire progressed through to the semi-finals.
The Wolverines scored the only points of the game in the opening quarter, and the Spartans suffered a further setback when quarterback James Woodward suffered a broken collar bone. Woodward incredibly continued to play despite the injury, but the Essex offense struggled against a tough Lancashire defense.
Ally Minto displayed his breathtaking acceleration by returning a punt to the endzone, but the Spartans celebrations were cut short with a block in the back penalty calling back the score.
The game quickly became a defensive battle, with the Spartans making uncharacteristic mistakes. Fumbles and interceptions combined with the strong Wolverines defense to make it a tough afternoon for the Essex outfit.
The Wolverines attempted to extend their lead in the second quarter with an ambitious long filed goal attempt, but kicking into the wind, the attempt fell well short. The Spartans defense were keeping the game close, Lawrence Reid and Tom Langford both recovering Lancashire fumbles to ensure the half ended with the score 7-0 to the home team.
Lineman Ash Woods marked his return to the Spartans lineup following injury with a fumble recovery in the third quarter, but the Spartans offense turned the ball over again, quarterback James Dawson having a game he will want to forget in relief of the injured Woodward.
With Dawson struggling, the injured Woodward returned to the field, but was unable to generate any points. Minto killed a Wolverines drive with an interception, and as the teams entered the final quarter, the game was simply too close to call.
An interception by Reid gave the Essex team the ball inside the Wolverines 5-yard line, but another Spartans turnover left the offense coming up empty once again. Woodward was finally out of the game following a crunching hit, and with Dawson fumbling again on the Spartans final drive, the Wolverines were able to run out the clock and emerge with the victory.
“We travelled well to Blackburn and I am proud of the season we have had this year, we just fell short on the day”, said a reflective Coach Saunders.“Time now to recharge the batteries and begin planning for next season.”
And so the Spartans travelled back to Billericay reflecting on the end of an impressive season. The team may have exited the playoffs, but that should not overshadow the teams achievements in 2011.
The team will now begin their off-season programme, including their end-of-season awards presentation, and full details will be made available via the teams website.