Cambridgeshire Cats vs. Essex Spartans

Heartbreak continued for the Essex Spartans on Sunday as they went 0-6 at a feisty Cambridgeshire Cats side.

Only a field goal from #52 Tom Kitchen put points on the board for the visitors, as what was a narrow lead of 0-3 at the half unravelled with three touchdowns scored against in the final quarter.

Both teams displayed a shaky start as each team was awarded a 15-yard and a 5-yard penalty on alternating downs and struggled to get the game off the ground. Cats looked likely after an interception from #45 and a touchdown scored from a snap on the 10-yard line, but was called back for a false start and Spartans held them.

After losing #87 Joe Parsons to a knee injury, Kitchen’s field goal rejuvenated the visitors somewhat and as the Cats missed their attempt at field goal, the Spartans led by three points at the half.

The home side quickly made up for the miss by scoring a field goal early in the third, levelling the field to 3-3, after the Spartans had held off conceding for 18 drives. The Cats piled on the pressure but lost considerable grounding with a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness and a 5-yard for a false start, ending the third quarter an unusual 3-3.

As the final fifteen minutes counted down the Cats took no prisoners with an early TD at the start of the quarter, a convincing conversion and an interception very soon after to retain their dominance. Defensive coverage slipped on the part of the Spartans and Cats ran it home with a successful kick conversion just shy of the two-minute warning.

A deeply disheartened visiting side lost control of the red zone at the close and a final touchdown for the Cats in the dying seconds finished up the game 24-3.

The Essex Spartans now sit bottom of the table without a win, and take on equally 0-6 Ipswich Cardinals this Sunday in a desperate battle on both sides for that first victory.

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Cambridgeshire Cats vs. Essex Spartans

2012 has been a long and hard season for the Spartans, and the team took one more step towards the end of the year with a 14-68 destruction at the hands of the Cambridgeshire Cats.

As the sun poured down on a warm Sunday afternoon, so did the Cambridgeshire points as the Cats dominated all aspects of the game. The injury-depleted Spartans fought bravely, but were ultimately outclassed as the Cats were able to use their extensive roster of American servicemen to full effect.

The offense, again lead by first-year quarterback Steve Watson, found the going tough in the early stages of the game. The Cats blitzed early and often, and the Spartans ground attack was unable to get out of first gear. The day started badly, running back Ryan Towey being down when the ball came out, only for the ball to be judged a fumble and the Cats being gifted possession.

The Cats marched down the field behind an effective passing game and a punishing running game, and quickly opened the scoring with their first touchdown of the game.

The points racked up as the Spartans spulttered and stalled, unable to move the ball. The Cats, on the other hand, had the measure of the Black Tide defense, and were able to tear through it with relative ease. But as the scoreboard went higher and higher, so did the sense of Spartan pride.

Injuries have taken their toll on the Spartans campaign – but the entire season has been “Next man up”. One man falls, another steps in to fill the hole. Players were forced into roles they had not played before, but did so without question, without a complaint – such is the Spartan way. When your brothers need you – you will be there to answer the call.

Spartans Head Coach Marc Saunders led by example, unleashing a devastating hit on the cats quarterback, jarring the ball loose. Alert lineman Lawrence Reid scooped up the loose ball and sprinted into the endzone, sparking scenes of celebration on the Essex sideline – but it was not to be, one official ruling Reid was down by contact before he scored, denying him the touchdown.

Special teams played a huge role in the Spartans season of 2011, and it was to thank for their opening points of this confrontation. Spartans kick return magician Ally Minto weaved his way through a stunned Cats defense on his way to a 90-yard touchdown return, and the Spartans were finally given a reason to celebrate. With Watson connecting with Paul Cossu for the two-point conversion, the Spartans had some points on the board.

The second half saw the Spartans continue to rotate players, with some Spartans playing “Iron Man” football on both sides of the ball. The heat and the small numbers started to take their toll, with the Essex team unable to keep up with the free-scoring Cats.

Veteran passer James Dawson took over the offense, and was able to find some joy with a passing attack, but the scoreboard remained untroubled as the Spartans offensive woes continued. The Spartans defense played tough, hard-hitting football, but the Cats were able to combine passing and rushing plays to effectively move downfield and pile on the points.

Linebacker Neil Cooper registered his second interception in as many games in the final quarter, but it was again the Spartans special teams who added points to the board. After another Cats touchdown, return whizz Craig “Turbo” Willis fielded the kick before weaving his way through the cats return team, on his way to a 90-yard return for 6 Essex points. The conversion attempt failed, and the dust settled on a 14-68 loss.

After the game, a reflective Coach Saunders commented, “Injuries have really taken their toll and attrition played a massive part in today’s game. It’s going to take some real Spartan courage to go toe-to-toe with the Cats next week but I have confidence that the team will rise to the challenge.”

The 2012 season has become one to forget for the Spartans, but the team will not go out without a fight. Injuries may have reduced the number of players in black shirts, but nothing will reduce the amount of Spartan pride and fight inside the players that wear them. With one game to go, the team will look to end 2012 on a high as they welcome the cats to Hannakins Farm for the return matchup.

Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30pm on Sunday, July 29th. The Cats may have had the measure of the Spartans this week – but look for the team to clip their claws at home!


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