Kings Lynn Patriots v Norwich Devils
Sunday 4th June
Report by Alan Baxter-Smith
You know that perfect morning when the sun is shining, the birds are singing and you finally get to play competitive football after what seems like forever. The Norwich Devils were having that morning as they rolled up at the Kings Lynn Patriots on Sunday. After 5 rebuilding years the squad of mainly inexperienced rookies were about to play their first associate game of 2016. Spirits were high but expectations muted. Following two scrimmages with the, likewise associate level, Patriots the team were fully aware of the strong challenge facing them. The idea was to continue the development of the team and give them a good game. If most were honest, nobody really expected what would occur over the next few hours.
Once the game kicked off this challenge became immediately evident as the Patriots quickly got into their stride and after a 10 play drive broke the goal line with a 1 yard pass quickly followed by the extra point conversion.
The Devils offence, showing some rookie rustiness, were unable to respond on their opening drive and were forced to punt. But this turned out to be just what the doctor ordered as Punter Adam Jones launched a 63 yard bomb which Kiefer Bellamy was able to chase down and then force the Patriots to fumble the return. Long snapper Chris Miller dived on the ball at the one yard line. One play later, Captain and fullback Alan Baxter-Smith was able to walk into the end zone, following devastating line play from Guard Liam Lane and Tackle Russ Groves, and score the first competitive points for the Devils in five years. Hence the wild celebrations from the team back on the sideline. Jones added the extra point to level things up.
Scoring seemed to spark something in the Devils, as is often the case, and not only did the special teams unit again cause havoc with the Patriots return on the kick off, this time Arron Phillips with the chase and tackle, but the defence quickly slowed the Patriots drive with a sack from Linebacker Mark Stewart and then stopped it completely with an interception from safety Ricky Darrall.
The Devils offence were unable to capitalise, failing to move the chains, as the Patriots came up with a sack of their own, and were forced to punt on the final play of the quarter. From this the Patriots produced a superb 38 yard return to push the Devils back into their own half.
End of 1st Quarter Score 7-7
The second quarter started as bad as the first for the Devils as the fast Patriots QB was flushed from the pocket and proceeded to run in from 33 yards, following some uncharacteristically poor tackling by the Devils defence. The extra point was good and the 7 point lead for the home team was restored.
The Patriots ended the Devils next drive by forcing a fumble from Running back Abdallah Bryce but the Devils defence had hit their stride and immediately stopped the Patriots on their next Drive with a sack from Defensive Lineman Conor Cantle. Both teams then struggled to put together a long drive as both defensive units started to click, until an offensive block in the back penalty call against the Devils on a 25 yard catch and run play seemed to kick the Devils offence into overdrive. Bryce began to pull out a number of long plays on a 50 yard drive which took the Devils within touching distance of the Patriots goal line. However on the final play of the half receiver Bellamy was stopped just short of the end zone and the teams went into halftime with the score remaining the same
Half Time Score 14-7
The second half began with dominance from both defensive units as both teams failed to progress offensively. and following a punt by the Patriots, forced by a sack from Linebacker Richard Gray, the Devils made a change to their lineup, bringing on Chris Mills at fullback. He immediately made an impact with a series of powerful runs made possible by the improving offensive line and backed up by Bryce the Devils marched 70 yards down the field with a 10 play drive culminating in a ten 10 yard pass from Quarterback Chris Wilkinson to receiver Adam Jones into the end zone. Even the missed extra point didn’t damper the Devils spirits after what had been an electrifying drive.
End of third quarter. Score 14-13
The two teams traded missed field goal attempts before the Devils entered dreamland early in the 4th quarter. With some good pressure from the Devils defensive line, Cornerback Ben Rayner was able to intercept the ball and run it back towards the Patriots goal line, only being denied glory by an excellent last ditch tackle which knocked the ball from his grasp. Linebacker Stewart was on hand however to dive on the ball as it rolled into the end zone and the Devils sideline erupted. The extra point quickly followed and the Devils looked towards the scoreboard and saw themselves in the lead for the first time.
The Patriots again showed their excellent running game on their next drive but were eventually forced to punt following great coverage on the throw from the Devils secondary. The Devils then began to run down the clock with a series of ‘Ground and pound’ plays from Baxter-Smith. Helped massively by the now dominant offensive line. However the game wasn’t over just yet and following a missed field goal attempt by the Devils the Patriots refused to give up and showed their quality by taking themselves 60 yards downfield within the last last 2 minutes of the game. It all came down to one play from the Devils 17 Yard line. The Patriots held the Devils strong rush long enough for their Quarterback to launch a perfect spiral into the end zone. But like a Hollywood movie, Safety Darrall grabbed his second interception of the day on the goal line and delirium ensued for the Devils. Many tears were shed as all the hard work had resulted in us taking the big W back to our family and friends.
Final score 14-20
The win marked the Devil’s first competitive game since 2011 and the team’s first competitive victory since 2010. After the game Devil’s head coach Mark Hoskins commented, “It’s a great win for us and a fantastic milestone for both clubs. It’s taken a while but then we knew it would. It was important to get the club sorted and move it back to being a club for the members. We’ve got a great committee in place and a great bunch of lads working hard to play good football… I’ve got to say I’m extremely proud of the guys today though. Coming back from a score down, in your first ever competitive game against a very good opponent is simply fantastic. Keeping your composure like that is such a hard thing to do and shows real maturity. So, yeah… I’m very pleased.”
The Devils will be playing more associate games in 2016 as they look to rejoin the league for the 2017 season. Check out the website or like our Facebook page for updates on the upcoming competitive fixtures.