Sunday 4th August 2019 against the Maidstone Puma’s at Pound Lane, Norwich
The Norwich Devils welcomed the Maidstone Puma’s to Hell’s Gate off the back of a loss to the League leaders, Essex Spartans.
Seemingly the Devils had a point to prove following the disappointing loss and with the Pumas starting with the ball, the Devils defense took just two snaps to make an impact. Defensive End Regan Cashman, beating the line pressure, jolted toward the Puma’s quarterback who’s toss to the back would fall short and be fumbled – Liam Lane scrambling to secure the ball and a turnover on Maidstones 45.
The Devils offence would stall on the first drive and look to punt away, but the eagle eyed Adam Jones would receive the snap, and see the right hand side of the field open in front of him. Scrambling up to the 30yard marker, Jones would cut infield through a pocket of three advancing Puma’s and with blockers in front of him race to the 14.
On third down, Devils Quarterback Harris Todd would fire to the corner of the Endzone toward Jones who would stretch out for the reception and Touchdown. Extra point attempt was good and the Devils took the lead. Puma’s 0 – Devils 7
The Puma’s would make a quick first down on their next play from their 20 with good blocking from the offensive line giving space to the RB but quick reactions from Line Backer Ed Bowling would shut down the next run attempt in the backfield for a loss of 3. Corner Daniel Hewitt would mimic Bowling on 2nd down to meet the Puma’s running back and force him out of bounds for another loss of 4. A holding penalty against the Puma’s would add another 10 yards and force the Pumas to punt back to the 50 yard line.
Devils Running back Tim Johnson would make use of good blocking downfield for a first down at the 36. QB Harris Todd took advanatge of a 1 on 1 match up to Wide Receiver Oli Engler, confidently catching at the 10 yard line on his back shoulder and tackled down at the 5. Tim Johnson would finish the drive, rushing into the Endzone for the touchdown. Extra point attempt clear, the Devils would lead 0-14.
Following a decent kick return, the Puma’s would push the Devils defence back to their own 30 yard line. The Puma’s QB would take a shot on a 1 on 1 matchup to his left. Safety Ricky Darrall reading the threat well would undercut the receiver to snag the ball over his shoulders for the interception, and running the ball back to the 20 yard line.
A quick back and forth between the two offenses and a good punt away from the Devils and a penalty on the Puma’s would see a favorable defensive stand on the 23. Corner Will Bridgman would turn in his Zone coverage in front of an intended receiver for an interception, his first forthe Devils, but was quickly tackled at the 29 yard line.
The Devils offense would start brightly, Richard Gray filling in at Tight End would make a smart high grab above his receiver on an out route, before bossing his way for a 15 yard pick up and and an end to a frantic first quarter.
A screen to Running Back Tim Johnson caught the Puma’s defence out, and with decent blocking in front of him, Johnson would push left to the 7 yard line where Johnson would apply the breaks and give a swanky spin move back inside to avoid a tackler and break the plain of the Endzone for a touchdown. A muted response from the Devils sideline would signal that celebrations where not to be – holding on the play would cancel the great effort out and take the Devils back to the 24.
The Devils would make amends however, QB Todd with a quick pass to WR Jones on the flats. Jones would wait for Oli Engler, in at full back, to streak behind him, pop him the ball and race to the Endzone for his first Devils touchdown. With the extra point good, the Devils would lead 0-21.
Linebacker Liam Lane would make two good stops in the Puma’s backfield for a total loss of three yards and force the punt. Back to receive the ball, Adam Jones would wait for the ball to bounce and advancing Puma to be within two yards of him at the 32 before bolting in the opposite direction up the left hand side of the field. Using his quick feet to nip between three tacklers he would find himself at the Puma’s 20. Like Le’veon Bell, Jones hesitated to let blockers find an advantage and space for him and with a healthy 5 on 2 advantage, would take the ball to the 6 yard line.
Slot receiver Matt Ward would cut effectively to leave his coverage planted to the floor on the next play, Harris Todd finding him with pin point accuracy for the Touchdown. With the extra point attempt no good, Devils extended their lead 0-27.
The Puma’s drive would make progress with their run game, taking them inside Devils territory. Defensive Lineman James Williamson would make a great grab and roll tackle to bring down the Puma’s back for a gain of 5 – preventing a first down and what could have been a much bigger play. Gang tackling on 4th would halt the Puma’s and allow the dominant Devils offence back on the field from their own 42 yard line.
Tight End Jordan Knights would make a quick grap on 2nd down out to the flats, drop his shoulder into the advancing tackler and bully his way up to the 28 yard line. A holding penalty would bring another good run from Tim Johnson back to the 38 yard line, quickly followed by an encroachment call on the Puma’s and 32 yards to find. QB Harris Todd would find Wide Receiver Adam Jones for the first down, then find space out to his right to scramble for a Touchdown. Another missed extra point would see the Devils up by 33.
The Devils defence would stand strong on the next Puma’s drive and bring up half time with a quaterback sack – pressure coming from Regan Cashman, James Williamson and Bobby-Lee Weston.
Half Time – Puma’s 0 – Devils 33
With Puma’s kicking off the second half, Adam Jones would receive the ball and take it up to the half way line. Seemingly with nowhere to go, Jones would rely on his instict and quick feet again, darting back and forth between blockers and missed tackles for the field to open up again for him, and another huge gain up to the 14 yard line.
With a healthy lead, the Devils turned to squad rotation to give valuable game time to rookies and backups.
Quarterback El Foley would start proceedings with a good throw toward open receiver Matt Ward, only to see his intended target pushed in the back, the ball hitting him square in the face cage as a result, but no flag came in. Foley would hand off to Running back Richard Gray who, with a good gap created by his offensive line, decided he was going to score a Touchdown – and no one was going to stop him – as he launched himself through a defender. The extra point attempt would fail again but the Devils would be up 0-39.
The Devils Defence would once again force the Puma’s to punt – good group tackling would force a quick 3 and out and allow the Devils to take over at the 44 yard line.
QB El Foley would look to his receiver on an out route but good coverage from the Puma’s defence would undercut the route, snag the ball and surge home for a pick 6. A two point attempt would be shut down with a belting tackle from Corner Daniel Hewitt. Puma’s 6 – Devils 39.
A 3 and out from the Devils offence gave the Puma’s the ball back on their own 40. Making progress on first, the Puma’s found space between the Devils D line on second – good blocking gave the Running back acres of room to power down to the Devils 25 yard line before being brought down by Safety Ricky Darrall. A pass in the backfield would give space for a 1st down. Replicating the recent success, the Puma’s would like to the left on a run again, this time the back finding space up to the Endzone for a touchdown (Extra point attempt failed). Puma’s 12 – Devils 39.
The Devils would bring QB Todd back in who immediately found Adam Jones for a 20 yard pick up. Tim Johnson would pick up a screen pass for a gain of 14 followed swiftly by another 1st down, WR Oli Engler for the reception from Todd. Receptions to Slot Taylor Lawson and WR Adam Jones would take the Devils inside the 10. Quarterback Harris Todd would have ample time in the pocket to pick out Oli Engler for his second Touchdown of the day. A fake point attempt saw Harris Todd take off to the left, shoveling the ball to his kicker Adam Jones for the 2 points. A swift confident response from the Devils to take the score to 12-47 at the end of the third quarter.
Linebacker Ed Bowling would keep his eyes in the backfield on a second down for the Puma’s and as the ball left the QB’s hand for a shovel pass out wide, he accelerated like a damaged missile to halt the play for a loss of 2, Corner Daniel Hewitt supporting to bring the player down. Two long passes overshot their intended recipients to allow the Devils to take over on downs.
Making no forward progress, the devils would punt away, but a squib kick would set the Puma’s up at the Devils 31 yard line. The Puma’s would find holes in the Devils defence to run the ball for a 1st down at the 21. The Puma’s QB would fake a double handoff and bolt to the left sideline to put his side within touch distance of the goal line. A trick reverse would allow the Puma’s into the Endzone for a touchdown and with the extra point good, the Pumas took the score to 19-47.
Returning kick off to the 50, the Devils offence would take to the field, led this time by backup Quarterback Chris Wilkinson. Running back Richard Gray would power through the heart of the Puma’s defense for two first downs in succession. Jordan Knights in at running back would secure another first down and take the Devils up to the redzone. QB Wilkinson would find his Wide Receiver Sam Simpson, who managed to dodge a tackler, bounce round a second and into the endzone for his first Devils touchdown, much to the delight of the home crowd. Another missed extra point would take the score to 19-53.
The Puma’s would be stumped on 4th down with Defensive End Luca Ferrara smartly disengaging from his blocker to bring down the quick running back, force the turnover and allow the Devils offence to take a knee for the win.
Final Score – Pumas 19 – Devils 53
Offensive MVP – Devil’s Offensive Line
Defensive MVP – William Bridgeman
Head Coach Andy Starling reflected after the game;
“Last game of the regular season against Maidstone Pumas. Whilst we’d beaten them convincingly in the first game of the season we weren’t taking this game lightly. We respect their resilience, we also knew they had been recruiting well so we weren’t taking this game lightly. We planned well and took a good lead by half time and then did the right thing to rotate heavily and give players reps. We needed to win this game to ensure a home field advantage for the playoff’s next week. We did our jobs, executed well. First Devils TD for Oli Engler & Sam Simpson – congratulations to both. First pick by Will Bridgman. Proud of the development of these guys. Our focus now turns to our Playoff game at home next.”
The Norwich Devils finish their second regular season back in the league with 6 wins, 1 draw and a loss. A fantastic achievement for all members of the club and another visit to the playoffs!
Pictures courtesy of Mgphotography, Thankyou Maddie!
Game Report written by Charlie Keohane