Youth team reaches halfway point undefeated

Essex Spartans Academy U17 maintained their strong start to the season with three more victories in their second tournament.

The young Spartans travelled to Colchester for the second of four tournaments in the 2016 Outer London East Conference, where they faced the hosting Gladiators, along with old foes the Hertfordshire Cheetahs and 2016 rookies the Bedfordshire Blackhawks.

After taking three victories in the opening tournament, the Spartans opened as the number one seed, and knew that only three further victories would ensure they ended the day where they started – atop the table, and with their eyes on the BritBowl place that goes with it.

With many players unable to travel due to academic commitments, the Spartans called on the strong depth in their squad and were able to ensure some of their new players for 2016 were able to see significant game time throughout the tournament. The players involved knew they would be given their opportunity to impress, and they grabbed it with both hands.

The opening game saw a titanic battle with the host Gladiators, a team the Spartans had dispatched in Tournament one, 12-6. With Essex pride on the line, both teams knew this would be another hard-fought and even contest. The Spartans offense flexed their muscles early, with impressive showings both on the ground and through the air, but were unable to convert their opportunities as the first half ended scoreless.

In tight games, it often takes one moment of fortune or outstanding play to turn the tide – and the Spartans defense provided that moment late in the second half, intercepting a Gladiators pass deep in Sparan territory before returning it the length of the field for the touchdown. The conversion failed, but the Spartans showed their strength and held on for the narrow victory, 6-0.

After a close defensive battle, few could have expected what was to happen in game two, when the Spartans faced off against the Hertfordshire Cheetahs.

Again, the Spartans offense clicked early, and were able to move the ball effectively and with almost-instant results, jumping out to a quick 8-0 lead. However, the Cheetahs used their elusive running style and their deep passing game to move down the field and narrow the Spartans lead to 8-6.

The game quickly becasme an offensive shootout, with both teams able to score almost at will. At halftime, the Spartans lead 24-20, the highest scoring game the team has been involved in this year.

The second half continued much like the first, both teams battling hard, but the Spartans were not to be denied – in a game in which they were never behind, they emerged with the high-scoring victory, 48-36.

The tournament ended with the sad news the Bedfordshire Blackhawks would be unable to complete their schedule due to low player numbers, gifting the Spartans a 1-0 victory by way of forfeit, and a perfect 6-0 record at the midway point of the 2016 season.

Speaking after the tournament, an elated Head Coach Steve Watson said; “All the players, and coaches, should be incredibly proud of their achievements so far – to reach the halfway stage of the season undefeated is simply fantastic.

“However, we know that’s only half the job done, so we will continue to work hard in training to get even better for the next tournament on June 25th, where we hope to continue to improve and take another step towards the Division title and the BritBowl spot.”

The young Spartans now return to training ahead of their third tournament, June 25th, at the Bedfordshire Blackhawks. Three more victories there would give the Spartans a firm hold on the Division title ahead of their final tournament, at home on July 23rd.

The Essex Spartans Academy are always recruting new players or looking for anyone able to assist the team in an off-field role, and would encourage anyone interested to contact us via email.