|June 19, 2011||2:30 pm||BAFA NL II East||2011|
|Bedfordshire Blue Raiders||0||0||0||6||6||Loss|
6 - 20Full Time
The Spartans returned to Division 2 East action this week with a hard-fought 20-6 victory over rivals Bedfordshire Blue Raiders that continued the teams impressive unbeaten run and left them top of the standings.
With the withdrawal of the Norwich Devils from the League, the Spartans found themselves with a longer-than-expected mid-season break, and the benefits of the extra training time were on display as the Spartans manhandled their opponents in a bruising encounter.
On an overcast day, events started brightly for the home team, welcoming back Graham Sorhaindo from long-term injury. Sorhaindo was honorary captain for the day, and the entire Spartans organisation welcomes him back warmly.
The first quarter saw both teams struggle to move the ball effectively, with defenses coming out on top. Defensive lineman Aaron Millar recovered a Bedfordshire fumble, but the Spartans offense was struggling to find a rhythm, quarterback James Woodward being forced to make quick decisions by the impressive Bedfordshire pass rush.
In the second quarter Woodward was able to begin to dissect the Bedfordshire defense , connecting with Samuel Clarke for a big play across the middle of the pitch and later with Jon Tottman for a long gain to put the team in a position to open the scoring. Receiver Sim Clarke broke free of his cornerback and hauled in the pass from Woodward for the receiver’s second touchdown of the season and a 6-0 Spartans lead.
The defense was once-again in dominant form, lineman Eugene Tangney recovering a fumble deep in Blue Raider territory. However, the Spartans were unable to capitalise, returning the favour and fumbling the ball on the very next play. Their joy was short-lived, Tangney recovering his second fumble in as many defensive plays to give the Spartans another chance to extend their lead.
Woodward threw a strike to receiver Jon Tottman who strolled into the endzone for an easy score, and although the conversion failed, the Spartans were beginning to flex their muscles with a 12-0 lead. Defensive captain Ally Minto snuffed out any Bedfordshire hopes of scoring in the first half with an interception on the final play before the break.
Woodward continued to lead the impressive Spartans offense in the second half, with a perfect blend of rushing and passing. Running back Steven Hull was able to find more room to run as the game progressed, punishing some soft tackling by breaking free for longer gains, and soon the home team were knocking on the door once again.
Woodward threw his third scoring pass of the day, connecting once again with Tottman , then finding rookie receiver Andrew Clarke in the corner of the endzone for the conversion. The Spartans defensive were punishing the Blue Raiders offense, lineman Lawrence Reid recovering another fumble, and cornerback and special teams captain Tom Marston snagging another interception, and the third quarter ended 20-0.
Bedfordshire were able to score a late consolation touchdown of their own in the final quarter, but with Koby Williams grabbing his first interception as a Spartan, it was too little too late as the Spartans improved to 5 wins and 1 tie and took first place in the Division with the 20-6 victory.
Head coach Marc Saunders said: “Bedfordshire gave us a tough game this week, one which needed every Spartans to step up to the challenge. This win is well-deserved by the players and we will aim to use the momentum going into next weeks game.”
One Blue Raider commented, “You are a classy team with a spread offence I thoroughly enjoyed ‘defending’ against. I use ‘defending’ loosely as you made some great passing football.
“Year on year you guys have gotten better and I was pleasantly surprised to be picked up by my opponent at the end of each play, very classy”
The Spartans now travel to face the Watford Cheetahs, who started the season brightly with 3 wins but have now dropped 2 on the row with losses to Kent Exiles and Milton Keynes Pathfinders. With the Blue Raiders facing the Kent Exiles on the same day, it promises to be a crucial weekend for the Spartans, and every player will be focused on the task at hand.
Day by day – we get better and better. Until we can’t be beat. We WON’T! BE! BEAT!
The Black Tide rolls on!