Monday, 12 December 2011

GOTW Review: Derby Braves @ Loughborough Aces


In one of the biggest rivalries in the BUAFL the Derby Braves (3-2) and the Loughborough Aces (5-0) clashed at 'The Cage' in Loughborough last weekend. This game would go a long way towards confirming one of the top seeds in the MAC division, with the loser potentially looking at a trip to the plate playoffs.

Loughborough won the toss and choose to receive. On the second play of the game, Ben Burslem managed to get outside the Derby defence and outpaced everyone for a 35 yard TD. Derby looked to reply early as they attempted to drive the ball with their 'slow and steady wins the race' approach of moving the chains a few yards at a time, but Loughborough were stopping them dead in every 3rd down situation. On Loughborough's second possession they managed to score again with Loughborough's key man Adam Hope powering through the middle of Derby's injury riddled defence. A PAT later and the score was 14-0 to Loughborough. 

Derby realised at the end of the 1st quarter that Loughborough's defence was stopping their inside run, so they began to open up the field with their passing game, which has been successful this season with the pickup of American QB Joe Brammer. Derby began to gain a grip of the game in the 2nd quarter with dump offs to running back Marcus Francis, who was picking up 15 yards each time. Francis managed one of the plays of the game as he hurdled a cornerback to set Derby up on Loughborough's 35 yard line. Joe Brammer threw down the middle to an open Tom Singleton-Wells who shook his man and ran it in for a touchdown with less than 20 seconds left in the quarter. 

At the half it was 14-7 to Loughborough with Derby to receive the ball at the start of the second half and would look to keep their momentum. Loughborough adjusted their defensive formation to accommodate for Derby's aerial offence and after 7 passing plays in a row Derby were stopped and were forced to punt from their 39. 


On the following drive Loughborough's offence was held at the 25 and they were forced to punt the ball back to Derby who would attempt level the game. Once again forcing Loughborough into a state of panic Derby drove the ball down the field until eventually they were stopped dead on the Loughborough 38. 

The frantic Aces would get the ball back on the 38 and on the first play of the series Adam Hope ran the ball up the middle all the way down to the 10 yard line. After 3 attempts to punch it in the Aces attempted a field goal to give them a two score cushion, but it was no good as the kicker hit the left upright. This swung the momentum back in Derbies favour and they moved up the field hitting hitches and quick outs. Eventually the Loughborough defence broke through and sacked Brammer twice forcing Derby to turn the ball over on the Aces 21. 

As the 4th quarter began the Aces methodically moved the ball down the field with their workhorse running back powering through the middle of a battered Derby defence. Ben Burslem reached the end zone at the end of the drive to make the score 21-7 to Loughborough. 

Derby weren't about to give up and they attempted to reply with their effective passing game. After a few quick gains Brammer took advantage of a matchup and threw the ball deep to Singleton Wells who took the ball in stride and changed the dynamics of the game 21-14 Loughborough. 

Following the kickoff the Aces powerful offence took advantage of two big plays to move the ball from their 30 to the Braves 1 yard line. The Aces had three attempts through Hope to punch the ball in, but couldn’t manage it. Instead of going for a field goal on fourth down, they decided to go for it and their triple option was perfectly executed. The Derby linebackers swarmed Adam Hope and hit him behind the line, but both sidelines looked in shock as Aces QB Nick Jaquet had kept the ball himself and ran it around the outside, walking into the end zone to give Loughborough a 29-14 lead. 

After a short period on the front foot, Derby now found themselves losing their grip on the game and emotions flared on both sidelines. Derby opened their next possession with a return to the 50 yard line and after the first play moved into the red zone with a nice sideline catch by the Singleton-Wells. 

Three downs later the Braves were looking at 3rd and long and some heavy pressure from Jonathan Varney forced Brammer to step into the pocket, but he slipped in the muddy conditions leaving Derby with a long 4th and 14. After a timeout and much discussion on the Derby sideline they decided to go for it, but Loughborough dropped back into deep coverage and the Braves were completely covered, Brammer was forced to rush but fell 4 yards short of the down marker, all but ending the game for Derby. 

As the Braves heads dropped the Loughborough offence shocked the Braves defence with a well-executed but controversial (ED: Those Braves and their controversy!!) reverse play resulting in a touchdown. Loughborough celebrated the game sealing TD whilst the Braves sideline emotionally appealed for out of bounds, but to no avail. 35-14 Loughborough. 

The Braves were moved back onto the field on offence and started from their own 38, but with 7 seconds left the ball was tipped off Marcus Francis into the hands of Jonathan Varney, who ended up in a foot race with Joe Brammer for the end zone who was able to down Varney on the 1 yard line. The final whistle was blown, and the game was over 35-14 to Loughborough.

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