Sunday 26th May 2019 at East Essex Sabres, Benfleet
The Devils headed to Benfleet in the first of back to back away games, keen to improve on the two wins notched so far this season against a Sabres side, who had a record of one win, a draw and a loss this season.
The Devils kicked off after the Sabres won the coin toss and decided to receive, starting the game on their own 26 yard line.
The Devils Defence showed their intentions early, putting pressure on the Sabres Offensive line and stopping the Sabres first drive on a 3 and out, Defensive Lineman Luca Ferrara and Line Backer Ed Bowling forcing a sack and loss of 10 yards on the play. The punt would allow the Devils offence to start from the 50 yard line.
It would seem that the Sabres Defensive unit where in an equally boyant mood forcing the Devils to a loss of two and a punt back the Sabres. Despite a clean snap from Long Snapper Chris Miller, pressure forced punter Adam Jones to abandon the punt, and with 4 Sabres in the back field the GridIron opened up, allowing Jones to secure a first down and add a further 15 yards. An offensive flag however would take the Devils back, cancelling out the additional gain.
The Devils offence, unable to move the chains further would have to punt back to the Sabres.
Sabres looked to their run game, a big push from their offensive line gave the running back a good gap to work with, but Linebacker Thomas Mason spotted the danger, getting across to make the tackle for a short gain. Flags from the back and line judge would call offensive holding on the Sabres right tackle, negating the positive play and forcing the Sabres onto their own 3 yard line. Looking long on 3rd down, Sabres QB took a shot toward his wide receiver on the right. Safety Ben Rayner, (back to full health after a terrible leg/ankle break last year) reacted instinctively to slip in-between the receiver and in-flight ball to force an interception. This gave the Devils a great shot just outside the RedZone, however the offence failed to fire on all cylinders and despite going for it on 4th down couldn’t capitalize.
In an almost replica of their previous outing, the Devils defence took advantage of a fumble in the back field to force the Sabres offence backwards before a 18 yard throw to the right hand side was meet by Linebacker Edward Bowling, jumping smartly beyond the tall Sabres receiver for another Interception on the Sabres 25 yard line. The Devils Defence wouldnt get much of a break though, despite a strong gain from a run on 1st down, the Devils offence would fumble the handoff on second and loose possession. A quick three and out thanks to further pressure from a boisterous Devils front line would bring the end of the first quarter
The Second quarter began in the same vein as the first, with both the Sabres and Devils defences holding offenses to minimum gains.
WR Adam Jones made a smart catch across the middle of the field for a first down, but with free space ahead of him he was able to pick up an additional 15 before being thrown heavily to the ground out of bounds. The Devils worked the territory, with Tight End Charlie Keohane picking up 8 yards before Quarterback Harris Todd took off toward the sideline on 4th down and 2 to pick up another set of downs for the Devils Offence in the Sabres Red Zone. The joy was short lived, as the Sabres where able to jump on a loose ball which had been snapped into the path of the Tight End in motion.
The Defence sensed an opportunity to push the Sabres back further and a run play was quickly swallowed up in the backfield thanks to pressure from Lineman James Sambandan and Luca Ferrara. On third and long from their own 7 yard line, the Sabres looked to run the ball, but the QB spotted danger from persuing Lineman Regan Cashman and, peeling right, the Sabres QB looked all but set to be tackled for a safety by Corner Will Bridegman who was unceremoniously pushed in the back and blocked out of the play. With a flag in the air for the block, Linebacker Ed Bowling finished the play off with a strong tackle to halt the QB and the referees awarded a safety to the Devils Defence, 2-0.
The Sabres offence found some rhythm on their next possession, enabling them to creep up to the 45 yard line. Another strong stop from the Devils Defence forced a punt and gave the Devils the ball back on the 35. Running Back Matt Ward picked up a quick 9 yards on a toss play before QB Harris Todd secured the next set of downs. QB Todd took a step back into the pocket on 1st down and launched the ball 30 yards downfield toward WR Adam Jones who had beaten the coverage and had the endzone in front of him, but unfortunately took his eyes off the ball at the last moment and spilled the ball – an uncharacteristic drop from the Veteran receiver.
QB Todd then looked to his Slot receiver Taylor Lawson on his left on a quick out route. With a clean catch and room in front, Lawson bullied his way through three defenders for another 1st down.
A perfectly executed screen pass from the Sabres 36 yard line saw the Devils Offensive line bear down on the Sabres secondary, giving Running back Matt Ward the perfect lane behind them and shoot back across field with 4 Sabres in hot pursuit but to no avail – Matt Ward scoring his first touchdown for the Devils. With the extra point good, the Devils took a 9-0 lead going into the half.
Half Time – Devils 9 – Sabres 0
Good Defensive plays on both sides of the ball saw possession switch with little progress or fluidity for either offenses at the start of the third quarter.
The Devils found themselves at their own 30 yard line after a deflected punt was picked up and progressed by a Sabres returner, who fumbled the ball upon the tackle, the Devils quick to jump on the recovery. Despite regaining possession the Offensive unit couldn’t progress and would look to lean on the Defence to hold off the advancing Sabres. A reverse sweep threw the Devils who bit toward the left run, only to see the sweeping receiver pick up the ball behind three advancing Lineman. A well executed play which lead to a 15 yard gain and 5 yards from the goalline. The Sabres completed the drive with their QB struggling over the line. The extra point failed due to a low snap. Devils 9 – Sabres 6.
Running Back’s Matt Ward, Joe Jacobs and Richard Gray joined forces to make some excellent yards with tough runs, driving the ball upfield with some key blocking in the secondary to bring up the 4th quarter.
Another period of swapped possession ensued with little gain for either offence. The Devils would come up short on 3rd down and go for a 35 yard field goal which they wouldn’t convert.
The Sabres took over and following a quick gain of three yards looked to thier passing game. With the pocket collapsing around the Sabres QB and his primary receivers quickly captured in douoble coverage, he peeled out to see his slot receiever open down the middle of the field who he met with a perfect pass and with no one else to beat streaked to the end zone. Celebrations for the Sabres where cut short with a flag on the play and after quick discussions the referees called Offensive holding – much to the relief of the Devils sideline. This took the Sabres back to their own 5 yard line who couldnt progress further and punted away to the Devils.
The Devils looked to continue to wind down the clock, having more success with the run game over previous drives. Running back Richard Gray leading the charge with some exceptional running and lead blocking put the Devils to the 20 yard line. The Devils opted for a field goal on 4th down and striking the ball 25 yards out kicker Adam Jones slammed the ball between the uprights. Devils 12 – Sabres 6
Taking over on their 30 yard line, the Sabres looked to chase the game with some deep passes, but some excellent coverage by the Devils secondary and strong pressure from the aggressive Defensive lineman Dan Thomas forced both a hold call whilst claiming himself a sack on the play. The Devils Defence held strong in the final moments to bring home the win.
Final Score – Devils 12 Sabres -6
Defensive MVP – Regan Cashman
Offensive MVP – Richard Gray
Head Coach Andy Starling made the following comments after the game;
“Another tough, hard fought game this week. The Sabres are a good Football team, better than their record suggests. We’ve had 3 good, tight games against these guys in the last two years and they’ve all been played with great spirit and Sportsmanship. We were missing a couple of players but played to our game plan. We scored points in all 3 phases of the game which is always good. The focus of this team is to win one game at a time and we are doing that. There are areas we need to improve but right now the Team are 3-0 which is where we wanted to be. We’ve got a tough stretch of games coming up with Ipswich away this weekend.”
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 Ipswich Cardinals on 1st June 2019 for their final away trip of the season.
Game Report Written by Charlie Keohane