Sunday 2nd June 2019 at Ipswich Cardinals, Ipswich
Norwich Vs Ipswich… Those words can spark a debate no matter what sport. With the Football championship long behind us and the summer sun breezing into the East of England it was time for American football to provide a tantalizing setting for the local Derby.
The Home side sat undefeated with a draw and a win to begin their season, whilst the visiting Devils had built a solid collection of away victories to set the stage for a cracker at the Northgate Sports Stadium.
Devils lost the toss but with Cardinals deferring, decided to receive. The opening kick would fly through the end zone for the Devils to start on their own 20 yard line. Despite a first down the Devils drive would stall and allow the Cardinals to begin their first drive of the game in the Devils half at the 37 yard line of the Cardinals 90 yard field.
The Cardinals looked to their run game alternating between running backs John Rodgers (#5) & Henri Clements (#36), who combined for strong gains to put the Cardinals within field goal range on 4th & 19. Bradley Ling converted to give first blood to the Cardinals, 0-3.
The Devils offence return to the field and saw Quarterback Harris Todd connect with Running back Matt Ward on a screen to pick up 18 yards around half way but a series of in-completions would stall further progress and pass proceedings over to the Devils defense on the Cardinals 35 yard.
Strong running again from the Cardinals running core was this time stunted by some great tackling from Linebacker Ed bowling on second down, and with a errant pass on 3rd down the Cardinals would look for another field goal attempt, this time sailing left of the uprights to bring the end of a frantic first quarter. Devils 0 – Cardinals 3.
The missed field goal would enable the Devils offence to start from thier 40 yard line and after two downs with no gain, the Devils looked for a quick pass to the wings. Despite no gain coming from the play, a flag flew high from the back judge, an easy decision of roughing the passer as a Cardinals player crashed into the Devils Quarterback a good three seconds after the ball had left his hands, giving the Devils a 15 yard penalty.
Cardinals discipline would come into question again on the very next play – despite great coverage to swamp a quick screen for a loss on downs, Cardinals #20 Josh Jackaman would be penalized for a block in the back on player not involved in the play some 10 yards away from the rest of his team mates, giving the Devils a 1st and 25 yards. Quarterback Harris Todd looked for a quick deep shot to Wide Receiver Adam Jones, who made the catch in the end zone, only to be flagged for offensive pass interference.
Running back Richard Gray would power up the middle on second down to give the Devils a first and 15. An offside penalty gifted the Devils another five yards before Running back Tim Johnson would shed a tackle behind the line of scrimmage, firing through the gap created by his offensive line and downfield blockers for a Devils touchdown. The Devils sideline, sensing the pace of game swinging in their favour, would go for two. The Cardinals loaded the box and pushed hard expecting the run, only for QB Todd to find Tight End Charlie Keohane streaking behind the rushing defence for 2 points. Devils 8 – Cardinals 3
The Cardinals offence responded immediately, taking advantage once again of their power run game against a Norwich Defence, that had to date been a stalwart of the Devils success so far this season, they struggled to hold the run and the Cardinals punched in a touchdown on their 6 play drive. The extra point was good and the Cardinals took the lead, 8-10.
The Devils defence, responding to the previous drive, would shut the Cardinals down to bring up 3rd and 7 from the Cardinals own 27 yard line. A spilled snap on the punt and heavy pressure from Edward Bowling would see the Cardinals punter rush on 4th, only to run out of touch and give the Devils offence a chance to capitalise from 1st and 29 with seconds remaining in the first half. A quick pass to Running back Joe Jacobs would give the Devils 5 yards, and enough distance to go for a 30 yard field goal on 3rd down and second on the clock. A clean snap from Long snapper Chris Miller and a good strike from Adam Jones would give the Devils the lead going into the half.
Half Time Devils – 11 – Cardinal 10.
The teams returned to the sun drenched field and Quarterback Harris Todd would get the Devils off to a flying start by finding Wide Receiver Adam Jones with a smart back shoulder catch for 35 yards. Despite the gain, the Cardinals defence where quick to shut down the Devils, to force the punt.
With such success running the ball in the first half, the Cardinals went back to their ground game and quickly found room to move, and with a Devils penalty for a tackle out of bounds, The Cardinals bounced up to the half way line.
An excellently executed left Guard pull split the Devils defensive line, and with Running back Clements leading the way, Rodgers was able to bounce outside his blocker and find himself with only the Devils Safety Ricky Darrall to beat. Darrall however stayed on his toes to bring the quick back down with just yards to go. Clements would go on to score and with the extra point good the Cardinals took the lead 11-17.
The Devils next offensive drive didn’t begin as planned, A spilled ball on the run would bounce fortunately into the Cardinals path, who would take the ball up to 1st and goal. Wasting no time, the Cardinals drove the ball into the Endzone to give the Home side a 11-24 lead, and the Devils a mountain to climb.
The Devils seemed to rally themselves on the Sidelines, an excellent kick off return took the ball up to the Cardinals 40 yard a line, an additional 10 yards where tagged on for a push in the back from the Cardinals Special teams unit.
Running back Matt Ward would find his Offensive Lineman Josh Allgood, Glen Skoyles & Jay Pegg pushing back the Cardinals defence to open up a running lane, allowing him to scamper between defenders for a gain of 10 yards. Cardinals loaded the box on 3rd down and 3,but more superb blocking from the Offensive unit would allow Running back Tim Johnson up the middle to the 10 yard line – the ball popping out on contact. Quick reactions from Running back Richard Gray would keep the drive alive.
Richard Gray got the ball on 1st and goal, the Devils Offensive Line punched their way forward to give another great gap, allowing Gray to truck his way into the secondary and up to the two yard line. With three tacklers on him, Gray showed true grit by lurching forward, stretching out to break the plain. Devils went for two and the Devils offence surged behind Gray on the run, forcing him over the line for 2, taking the score to 19-24.
The Devils Defence came out to face a continued run game but as the Cardinals pulled their right guard, Linebacker Dan Walker quickly sensed the play and bolted 10 yards to meet the running back behind the line of scrimmage and popped the ball out in the resulting tackle. Defensive Lineman James Sambandan pounced on the ball to grace the Devils offence with just 32 yards to gain the endzone.
The Devils offence looked for a quick hit whilst the flow of the game was in their favour and with swift running from Matt Ward and Richard Gray they where able to get into the Redzone. Running back Jordan Knights pushed through the gap in his offensive line and looked certain to drive in for the Touchdown, only to be held up by 4 Cardinals defenders at the 1 yard line. Quaterback Harris Todd took no chances and went for the QB sneak up the middle to score. The Devils went for another 2 points but couldn’t convert – the score on a knife edge at the end of the third, 25-24 to the Visitors.
With the ball back in their possession, the Cardinals would carry on utilizing the power run which the Devils defense had struggled to contain on mutliple downs throughout the day. Tiredness was beginning to set in and with a 4th and two around the 30 yard line, the Devils had to stand tall to try and regain possession. The Cardinals back dipped his shoulder and drove his feet to secure the first down. Drawing the defence closer to stop the run, the Cardinals QB Matt Agate launched the ball to the right hand side of the field, Wide Receiver Fabian Ortiz Barr leaped above the Devils Cornerback to make an outstanding catch and hold possession through to the ground. The Touchdown was good and with the extra point up and away the Cardinals would take the lead once more 25-31.
The Offensive unit would start their drive all the way back at the 20 yard line. An outside run and great blocking downfield would allow Tim Johnson space to eat up 20 yards and with a flag on the Cardinals defence the Devils would have 36 yards to reach the endzone but would stall and go no further.
A quick first down for no gain and a penalty would would drop the Cardinals back to their own 17 yard line. Defensive Lineman James Sambandan shot through the Cardinals offence on second down, swamping the advancing running back for a loss to bring up 3rd and long but an over thrown pass would force the Cardinals to punt away, one last chance for the Devils as the clock wound down to the two minute warning.
Driving the ball up to the 30 yard line with the run game, the progress looked to be swaying with the Devils, but pressure showed as a flag came out for two men in motion. Facing a 4th & 25th the Devils day looked all but done.
The Devils, however, never quit.
Bringing his Tight End in motion, QB Harris Todd stepped back into the pocket and with his offensive line gifting him time, he picked out TE Charlie Keohane who had streaked past the Cardinals Linebackers and sprinted beyond the first down marker much to rapturous roars from the Devils sideline. A good tackle from the Cardinals Nate Hamer would stop Keohane 10 yards from the Endzone. The Devils would take it to the one yard line before QB Todd would go for another sneak on 4th to try and tie the game. The Cardinals filled the middle but with Running Back Richard Gray reinforcing the forward surge, Todd broke the plain to score and tie the game 31-31. The Devils couldn’t convert the extra point and it was the Cardinals sideline who could celebrate.
With seconds left on the clock the drama hadn’t finished. The Caridnals QB would go long on the last play of the game, a 40 yard throw would be caught by Ortiz Barr and the Devils looked in trouble. Some smart blocks downfield from the return team gave room for Ortiz Barr to look Endzone bound, both sets of fans screaming at the field. Linebacker Connor Tooke, who had made an excellent sprint and pursuit downfield grabbed the advancing Cardinal to drag him down and out of play at the 8 yard line and a huge sigh of relief erupted among the Devils players and staff, an exhale of disappointment echoing from the Ipswich Supporter stand as the final whistle blew.
An enthralling game of American Football and a draw, a fair result for the effort of both sides to complete the local derby.
Final Score : Devils 31 – Cardinals 31
Defensive MVP – Connor Tooke
Offensive MVP – Harris Todd
Head Coach Andy Starling reflected on the game this week;
“Wow that was a tough game and to be honest what I expected in this rivalry. We went behind, then took a lead going into the second half. Then conceded two quick scores. At that point it’s easy to crumble, easy to fold. We didn’t. I’m going to pull out a line from an ESPN Film, “It’s easy to be first in line when things are going well”.
Well things weren’t going well, and everyone took a step forward. I can’t ask more of a team than that. Devils move to 3-0-1 after 4 Road games. Now the home games begin!”
We would like to thank all the fans who made the trip to support the teams and look forward to seeing you at our first Home game on June 16th against the East Essex Sabres.
Photo’s courtesy of Photography by Rachel. More photos of the game can be viewed on her Facebook page here
Game Report Written by Charlie Keohane