Sunday 5th May 2019 at East Kent Mavericks, Canterbury
The Devils headed south to Canterbury to face the East Kent Mavericks in their second consecutive away trip of the season.
The Mavericks, relegated from Division 1 last season, where looking to bounce back from their season opening loss to the Ipswich Cardinals. The Devils on the other hand looked to continue the win streak following victory over Maidstone Puma’s in April.
Mid week notifications to both teams from BAFRA could have meant this weeks fixture would be cancelled due to officiating shortages. Keen to avoid rescheduling the Devils and Mavericks agreed to push forward with the fixture and supplied two neutral parties each to referee for the day.
The Mavericks kicked off proceedings straight through the back of the end zone of the 90 yard pitch, handing the first drive to the Devils from their own 20 yard line.
The Devils offence looked to make a quick impact, and after gaining 18 yards on the run, QB Harris Todd looked for a one on one match up down the right sideline to WR Adam Jones. Leaping in the air with both arms stretched out toward the incoming ball, Jones was lifted up and dragged out of touch before the ball could reach him, forcing a pass interference call on the Mavericks corner back, a 15 yard penalty took the Devils onto 1st down and 10 yards on the Mavericks 37 yard line. QB Harris Todd, sensing a blitz coming made a quick pass to WR Adam Jones for a 16 yard gain, but the Devils would have to settle for a field goal as the Mavericks defense held strong in the Redzone. 0-3 to the Devils.
The kickoff to the Mavericks didn’t flow as planned, giving the Mavericks a good field position to start their offensive drive from the 45 yard line. The Mavericks began with the run game and heavy middle pressure from the Devils defence caused the Mavericks running back to smartly bounce outside and taking advantage of missed tackles in the backfield streaked up the sideline for a gain of 45 yards and into the Devils Redzone. Scorned by the quick advance, the Devils defence stood strong and forced the Mavericks to level the score to 3 a piece with a field goal of their own.
The Devils second offensive drive began with Running backs Tim Johnson & returning veteran Matt Ward alternating reps, securing two first downs between them. The 7th play of the drive gave RB Tim Johnson room to shine, darting out wide on a short backfield toss and following some superb blocking from Rookie receiver Sam Simpson (his first start for the Devils), Johnson was able to force the offence into the Redzone, picking up 15 yards for his 2019 stat sheet. Two more quick runs saw the Devils looking at a 3rd and 4 and with the ball spotted on the right hash, RB Tim Johnson looked all but sure to secure the first touchdown of the game, only to be thwarted inches out by the Mavericks linebackers. The fresh set of down gave the Devils the opportunity to punch it home, but after the middle run was stuffed by a blitz on first, QB Harris Todd looked to the pass game. The Devils offensive line provided a perfect pocket for QB Todd, giving him time to track TE Charlie Keohane, cutting across the back of the loaded tackle box into the Endzone for a touchdown, and a Devils lead 10-3 (Extra point was good).
The Devils Defence took to the field after the lengthy offensive drive and were keen to get in on the action. Defensive lineman Luca Ferrara & James Sambandan forced the Mavericks QB to a hurried throw toward the sideline for a gain of a yard on 1st down, before Linebacker Liam Lane swallowed up an outside run for no gain. A defensive turnover in the Mavericks endzone would bring up the end of a busy 1st quarter.
Despite excellent field position to open the 2nd Qtr, The Devils offence stuttered. A field goal attempt on 4th and 16 was low from the kick and ricocheting off a leaping Mavericks defender, the Home team would take over on their own 20.
The Mavericks took to the air with a deep ball to start their next offensive drive, however the pin point 25 yard pass was spilled by the accelerating Mavericks receiver, much to the relief of the Devils sideline. With no advances, the Mavericks would punt away to the Devils, who, despite some good running and a first down would fumble under heavy gang tackling.
Feeling a change in momentum, the Mavericks where able to mix pass and run to good effect, stringing together 8 plays for 29 yards before a high snap on a field goal attempt would force a turn over back to the Devils Offence. QB Harris Todd looked for a quick hit on the takeover of downs, but an uncharacteristically short throw from the playmaker was picked off. Momentum was truly flowing in the Mavericks favour, as the Home teams offensive unit ground the Devils defence to 1st and goal and looked all but set to drive the ball home.
Linebacker Ace Faatuai didnt think so though, torpedoing himself through the Mavericks line as they pulled their right guard, allowing him to pounce on the Mavericks running back for a loss of 5. Sensing blood, Ace launched into the Mavericks offensive guard on the next play and with a swift push, broke into the backfield, capturing the Mavericks running back just as the hand-off occurred. Defensive End Luca Ferrara, joining forces with Ace, drove the helpless running back to the ground, ripping the ball out in the process. Seeing the ball come loose, Regan Cashman dived to the floor for a Devils recovery, keeping the Devils in the lead as the half time whistle blew.
Half Time – Devils 10 – Mavericks 3
The start of the second half brought a swapping of possessions between the two sides, with both defenses holding strong. Facing a 4th and 6 from the 20 yard line, the Devils looked to punt away via Adam Jones. Seeing pressure from the right hand side upon the snap, Jones had to step up to avoid a hit, and seeing space open up in front of him bolted toward the chains on the sideline to sneak the first down. The good fortune wouldn’t last however, as two plays later a pass from QB Harris Todd, which was a fraction too high for his intended receiver, was athletically caught by the diving Mavericks safety on the 32 yard line.
The Mavericks looked back to the run game, utilizing their powerful and quick running back to gain good ground on the drive. On 2nd down and 33 yards, the Mavericks QB stood strong in the pocket, and fired a deep shot downfield. Beating the Devils secondary, the Mavericks receiver made an excellent reception over his shoulders as he hit the endzone for a Mavericks touchdown. A bizarre decision followed the extra point attempt, as the kick – blocked by a Devils hand, looped and fell into the endzone, a melee ensued as the ball was downed but the play should have been blown dead. After lengthy discussion from the referees, the Mavericks where awarded two points giving the Mavericks a one point advantage with the scores at 10-11.
Looking to fight back immediately, The Devils Offence made good ground on the next seven plays to complete two first downs and encroach in Mavericks territory. A 3rd and long saw the Mavericks bring a blitz, forcing QB Harris Todd out of the pocket and on the scramble, but unable to find an open receiver toward the end zone the mavericks would regain possession with the clock ticking down to the end of the 3rd Quarter.
With time now of the essence, the Devils defence looked strong against an onslaught of run plays to bring the Mavericks to 4th and 10 from just inside the Devils half. The Mavericks looked long, but the Devils secondary held strong to give the Devils offence another shot to take the lead. QB Harris Todd, keeping composure despite a collapsing pocket, found WR Adam Jones 35 yard from goal. Jones’s quick feet miraculously found him navigating between three Maverick defenders to bounce outside toward the sideline. A heavy pursuit from the Mavericks couldnt keep up with the receivers acceleration and with TE Richard Gray making a key block downfield, Jones romped to the Endzone. The Devils went for 2 points to put pressure on the Mavericks with the clock ticking down and converted well to take the lead to 18-11.
It was the Defence’s time to shine deep into the 4th quarter, and after a quick 10 yard gain from the Mavericks offence, relentless pressure from the Devils front line took a hold. Outside pressure from Regan Cashman spun the Mavericks QB back inside and scrambling backwards with Ace Faatuai, Matt Thomson and Ed Bowling in hot pursuit. Running into touch forced the Mavericks back 14 yards to cancel out their previous gain, and would result in a turnover of possession. With minutes left on the clock, the Devils offence knew they had to grind down that time but a handling error caused a fumble, the Mavericks gleefully taking over just under the half way line.
Defensive Captain Ed Bowling, who had been solid in shutting down run plays most of the day lead the final charge toward victory, pouncing on another two runs in the back field to hand possession back to the Devils offence with the clock down to the two minute warning who kneeled to close out the game and take a hard fought victory.
Final Score : Devils 18 – Mavericks 11
Defensive MVP – Ed Bowling
Offensive MVP – Adam Jones
Head Coach Andy Starling reflected on the game this week;
“Tough day going to East Kent on Sunday. We had adversity to face given that we found out late Wednesday night that there would be no provision of BAFRA Officials at the game, so we had a frantic couple of days trying to get Qualified Coaches available to officiate the game – massive thanks to Game Day Manager Laura Handley for her efforts there.
So a long trip, the likelihood of dubious decisions all day on the field, and a game against the team relegated from the tier above last season was in store.
There was a lot to take from this game, some good performances and plenty to learn from. The most important thing for me is that the team as a group kept their composure when they could easily have lost it, and even after falling behind found a way to come back, regain the lead and see out the game.
Hard times reveal character – the Devils showed tons of it on Sunday”
We would like to thank all the fans who made the trip to support the teams and look forward to seeing you at our next game.
The Devils will head to the East Essex Sabres on 26th May 2019 for their third away trip of the season.
Game Report Written by Charlie Keohane