|May 22, 2011||2:30 pm||BAFA NL II East||2011|
|Milton Keynes Pathfinders||0||7||0||0||7||Loss|
16 - 7Full Time
The Spartans embarked on their first road game of the season on Sunday, May 22nd, travelling to face the Milton Keynes Pathfinders. It seems games against the Pathfinders are like buses – the two teams had never clashed before this season, and now faced off for the second time in as many weeks.
Following last week’s 35-6 destruction of the Pathfinders, the Spartans went into the game knowing a victory would give them a firm hold of the Division – a loss, and their season would have been dealt a huge blow.
On a windy afternoon, neither team managed to take control of the game early on, both offenses struggling to make an impression with the weather certainly doing its best to stifle either team’s attempts to get a passing game going. This quickly became a game of field position – and the Spartans were struggling.
The team were unable to move the ball on the Pathfinders, unable to enjoy the dominance they had experienced only 7 days earlier. With the passing game hindered by the wind, the Pathfinders were able to stuff the Spartans usually efficient rushing attack, and the frustrations were beginning to build.
They say defence wins Championships – and the Spartans have a defence that strikes fear into the heart of every opponent. While the offense spluttered, the Black Tide picked up the slack – limiting the Pathfinders to one failed field goal attempt whilst delivering some punishing hits to ensure the first quarter ended scoreless.
It was going to take something special to break the deadlock – and sadly for the Spartans, it was the home team who drew first blood. A booming punt was fielded by the Pathfinders return man deep in his own territory, and he proceeded to weave his way through the entire field before crossing the line to score the game’s first touchdown. With the extra point, the home team were leading 7-0, and the Spartans were stunned.
At the end of the first half, the Spartans found themselves in a hole – away from home, and trailing at half-time for the first time this season. This was a big moment for the coaching team of Marc Saunders, Sean Benton, Wes Bourke, Kieron Goymer, Craig Brittney, and Chris Hunt – the Spartans needed a lift. Their defence had kept them in this match, and it was time for the offense to show its strength.
The Pathfinders took the second half kickoff, sending the Spartans defence onto the field. With their coaching staffs motivational words echoing in their minds, they did not disappoint – Tom Marston intercepting the Pathfinders on only their second offensive play of the half. Fired-up, the offense clicked, putting together a drive with both the passing and running game gaining yards. But this was becoming a war – players on both teams were picking up injuries as the confrontation on the field grew in intensity. Just like a bar-room brawl, this was going to come down to who wanted it most.
The Pathfinders benefitted from a Spartans mistake to find themselves with the ball deep in their own territory – but the Spartans defence could smell blood, and with passions high, they again flexed their muscles and gripped the game by the scruff of the neck, denying the Pathfinders any yards before forcing a mistake by their quarterback. Linebacker Gary Wilson scooped up the loose ball to give the resurgent Spartans excellent field position.
Inspired by their defence, the Spartans offense then powered their way into the end zone. The offensive line, who had struggled in the opening half, started to manhandle the Pathfinders, paving the way for Steven Hull to force his way in for both the touchdown and the two-point conversion to give the team an 8-7 lead. The tide had started to turn – the Spartans were starting to show the benefits of all their hard work in the off-season, all the hard work and dedication by every single player and member of the coaching staff. There was one quarter of football to go – the Black Tide needed to stay strong.
They dug deep. They fought hard, they fought fair. This would be no walkover. There would be no repeat of the previous week’s scoreline. But day by day – we get better and better.
Until we can’t be beat.
The Spartans defensive was punishing – and the offense, which miss-fired for most of the first half, was moving the ball with a perfect blend of accurate passing and powerful rushing. The Spartans ate up the field and the clock and again found themselves in a position to score.
Running back Hull lined up in the slot receiver position – and with James Dawson floating a pass in his direction, Hull leapt, snagged the ball, and with the entire Spartans sideline willing him on, fought his way in for his second touchdown of the game. With Captain Jon “Hollywood” Tottman grabbing another Dawson pass for the conversion, the Spartans had breathing room with a 16-7 scoreline.
There was still time for the Spartans defence to add to their achievements – Marston grabbing his second interception of the game as the clock wound down, sparking scenes of celebration on the Spartans sideline. They’d emerged victorious, and now sat alone atop the British American Football Association Community League Division 2 East with three wins and a tie.
The Pathfinders had proven to be a true test for the team. They had improved dramatically from the previous week, and were able to truly push the Spartans all the way. But the Spartans know they can improve of this performance. And they know they will.
WE WON’T! BE! BEAT!
A reflective Head Coach Saunders commented after the game, “A very tough game and a true test of the Spartan mettle. This win sets us up well for the second half of the season”.
The Spartans can now lick their wounds and heal their injuries before travelling to Norwich to face the Devils on Sunday, June 5th. Can the Spartans maintain their unbeaten season?
The Tide Rolls On!