Thursday, 26 January 2012

BUAFL As it stands: Championship Playoffs Final

After the dramatic semi-finals that saw Birmingham and Hallam advance to the championship final we now find ourselves at the grand finale of the BUAFL season.

Birmingham Lions vs. Hallam Warriors – John Charles Stadium, Leeds

The Hallam offensive huddle.
Photo courtesy of 

Following an extra week to rest before the big game, Birmingham and Hallam found themselves walking out to an impressive sized crowd for the climax of the 2011-12 BUAFL season. After the national anthem and the coin toss it was Hallam who started with the ball after the Lions deferred the toss until the second half.
The battle for the Neil Reynolds (WHY!?) trophy began with a short kick return for the Warriors and their first offensive series didn’t last long, as it was the lions D who dominated from the beginning forcing the Warriors three and out.

Trying to reclaim their BUAFL crown after a one point loss last year, the Lions were hoping for a quick start and managed to churn out good yardage against the hard hitting Warriors defence. The Lions relying on the two headed rushing duo of Dan Conroy and Eni Osonaike to drive the ball down the field, however the drive soon ended around midfield as an incompletion on 3rd and 7 forced the Lions to punt the ball back.

The Warriors first play of the next series resulted in positive yardage, as the Lions D bit on the fake to Danny Pyle and James Musonda took the handoff on the misdirection for a 43 yard gain. Once again though the Lions D stepped up and stopped the Hallam offence for minimal yardage and we saw the third straight punt of the game.

Hallam would soon have possession of the ball again as Matthew Marsden hit Dan Conroy after a short gain and in a repeat of last years championship the forced the ball loose! Nathan Morrow was the first player to dive on the ball giving the ball back to the Warriors. Danny Pyle was the first player of the game to reach the endzone as he converted the turnover into points to put the Warriors up 8-0 after a successful two point conversion.

The first quarter ended with the Lions in possession of the football down 8-0 to Hallam.

The second quarter was again dominated by both teams respective defences as the Lions and Warriors both ended up punting on their first drives of the quarter. On the Lions second drive of the quarter it was Ben Brown who sparked some life into the Birmingham offence as he took a WR screen for a 66 yard gain to get the Lions into the Warriors half for the first time in the game. Conroy would make up for his earlier fumble, diving inside he pylon to get Birmingham onto the scoreboard, after a successful PAT the score was 8-7 to Hallam.

Hoping to extend their lead quickly, the Warriors looked for a quick score. The drive almost came to an end as the Warriors failed to convert on 3rd and 1 to bring up 4th down, but Hallam decided to go for it and FB Richard Griffiths number was called to try and get a new set of downs. The decision paid off as Griffiths gained four yards to bring up the first down.

The drive ended suddenly as a Chris Webber pass attempt was intercepted in the endzone by Lions DB José Van Oosten for a touchback. A deep pass down the side line to Brown once again got Birmingham in the Hallam redzone for the second time in the game. The Warriors defence stood firm to force the Lions into attempting a field goal on 4th down, the kick was good and the score was now 10-8 Birmingham.

After generating no offence on their next series the referees blew for half time. The score at the half – Birmingham 10 – 8 Hallam.

Lions Coaches discuss half time adjustments
Photo Courtesy of Mike Hinton
The Lions began the third quarter with the ball and quickly gained positive yardage with short passes to Drew Newiss and William Hussey driving the Lions into the Warriors half once again. After a first down run by Dan Conroy for 23 yards, Osonaike ended up receiving the ball on second down and broke free to carry the ball into the endzone for his first touchdown of the game. After the successful PAT attempt the Lions now led 17-8.

After a poor decision by the Warriors returner to try and return the ball instead of taking a touchback, Hallam began the drive on their eight yard line. After a tackle for loss on first down, Dbl Coverages face of the franchise  Denzil Byron (Ed: who else...) brought down Webber in the endzone for a Lions safety and extended the lead to eleven.

The game was riddled with turnovers as Sope Dirisu threw his first interception of the game to Aden Flannagan who returned the ball to the Lions twelve before being tackled by Stefan Rowden, but staying true to the flow of the game a centre-QB exchange for the Warriors was fumbled and Josh Vines dived on to the loose ball to give it back to the Lions offence.

The Lions couldn't take advantage of the turnover and ended up punting as Hallam ended the third quarter with the football and losing 19-8.

The Warriors needed a score on their series to have any chance of winning the game with the clock running down and their run heavy offence draining the clock. They didn’t disappoint, grinding out yards down the field and finishing with Pyle ending the drive in the endzone following a 7 yard score. Musonda converted the two point score to bring the Warriors within three.

The Warriors would end up having an opportunity to take the lead after a surprise onside kick was recovered by Flannagan. Hallam managed to drive within the Lions 20, but were forced to go for a field goal. The Sheffield dominated crowd hushed as the kicker stepped up to try and get the game tying score, but the spirit of Billy Cundiff was alive in Leeds and the kick sailed wide right to give the ball back to Birmingham with less than eight minutes left in the game.

Dirisu led the Birmingham offence down the field once again and Conroy muscled his way into the endzone to give the Lions a double digit lead after the missed PAT attempt.

With the game all but over the Warriors offence still had one more chance to drive down the field to try and win the game; however a sack fumble by George Prudden was recovered by a Lions player who emerged from the pile with the football.

Dirisu and the Lions were then able to take two knees to end the game and win their third BUAFL Championship in four years. Dan Conroy recivered well from his initial fumble and ended up winning the game’s MVP title with 107 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Birmingham Lions earn their 3rd crown in 4 years.
Photo Courtesy of Mike Hinton. 

The final score – Birmingham Lions 26 – 16 Hallam Warriors

1 comment:

  1. Considering that Hallam have lost five starters to season ending injuries and have a squad of 32 it would take nothing short of a miracle to get any where near the. Final. They will lose in the playoffs fairly early as lack of depth and talent bite them.


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