Wednesday, 15 February 2012

BUAFL Match Report: Northumbria Mustangs @ Edinburgh Predators

Due to a postponement in the first week after the holiday period, Northumbria headed north on Sunday to match up against the Edinburgh Predators for their first action of the new year.

The Predators entered the game as the favourites, after the previous week’s victory over cross town rivals, the Napier Knights.

The Predators received the ball to start the game. Opting to spread the Mustangs’ Defense out, Edinburgh came out in three and four wide sets, looking to put the pressure on the secondary. Northumbria’s Defense has played well through the first four games and this game was no exception. An interception by rookie Linebacker Danny Bomken halted the first Predators possession abruptly, handing the ball over to QB Leonard Birnie and the Offense.

A quick 25 yard TD run by WR Dan Leather, followed by a two point conversion by RB Tega Diegbe put the Mustangs up 8-0 early.

After their Defense forced a Predators punt, the Mustangs continued their attack. They drove into Predators territory with relative ease, after a couple of big gains on the ground. This was capped off with a 40 yard Diegbe TD run, as he took the ball on a toss sweep to the right behind some solid blocking. A failed two point conversion attempt left the score at 14-0.

The Predators continued to set up in three and four wide sets, hoping to take advantage of one on one match ups on the outside. Northumbria’s defensive backfield stepped up to the plate, blanketed opposing receivers, and forced another Edinburgh punt.

A strong rushing performance by Diegbe, as well as a successful fourth down conversion, put the Mustangs in striking range yet again to start the second quarter. They were unable to finish the drive with a TD, as a great defensive effort by the Predators, coupled with several offensive penalties, forced a punt from inside Predators territory.

   The teams traded punts, with both Defenses playing well. Another long run by Diegbe broke the stand-off, putting the ball inside the Predators 20 yard line. This time, the drive was capped off with a TD strike on a reverse pass from WR Dan Leather to WR Dan Laskey. The two point conversion was added on a keeper by Birnie, putting the score at 22-0.

Some solid defensive play by both sides kept the opposing offenses in check for the remainder of the half.

An aggressive decision to attempt an onside kick paid off for the Predators, as they recovered the ball to gain the first possession of the quarter. This was a big momentum shift, as Northumbria have had a habit of starting slowly in the second half of games this season. However, the Predators were unable to take advantage of this momentum, as a fumbled snap lost them possession of the ball.

The two teams again traded punts, as both Offenses failed to regain any semblance of their first half performance. A spark was finally provided by the Predators no.9, who managed to run back a punt to the Mustangs 28 yard line. A couple of good stretch plays put the ball inside the 20. This was as close to the endzone as Edinburgh would get for now, as a block in the back negated a TD run, and the Mustangs Defense made a valiant fourth down stop.

This crucial momentum was not carried over by the Offence, as they were again forced to punt the ball from deep inside their own territory.

The start of the fourth quarter saw the loss of Mustangs’ Defensive Captain Matthew Singleton, who was hit on a massive crack back block by the Predators’ Dan Cameron. He would not return to the game. This loss would prove costly on the proceeding play, as Predators RB no. 12 unleashed the speed he had shown all game, and raced for a 50 yard TD. With a failed two point conversion, the score stood at 22-6.
   Again, punts were traded, before a fumbled Mustangs exchange turned the ball back over to Edinburgh near midfield. A couple of good pass completions put the Predators in striking range, although they were unable to capitalize.

The outcome was sealed when Danny Bomken intercepted his second pass of the game, giving him six for the year, a club record.   

Truly a game of two halves, Northumbria came out fast in the first half, but never regained that momentum in the second. The Predators showed flashes throughout, and will hope to regain a spot in the postseason race when they face off against the (4-1) Stirling Clansmen in Week 11. Northumbria move on to a rematch with Teesside at Gateshead stadium.

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