Wednesday, 22 February 2012

BUAFL Match report: SEC Upset!



The garden of England provided a beautiful day for Football when the 2-3 Cambridge Pythons travelled to Canterbury to face the 4-0 Kent Falcons on Sunday. The Falcons were heavily favoured going into the game, with an undefeated streak at home that stretches back to 2010, whilst the Pythons had their tails up  following  a dramatic fourth quarter victory against LSBU the week before.


The game was decided on big plays, and fittingly began with one, as Falcons Wide Receiver Aaron Whitworth took the opening kick-off back 60 yards into Cambridge territory, a field position that Kent failed to capitalise on and after a 3 and out, gave the ball to the Pythons for the first time in the game. Cambridge began to work their way towards the goal line, and after a tentative start, broke off a big pass that split the Falcons DBs to put them in the red zone, a drive that was punctuated with a smash into the end zone by Running Back Nick Roope, his first of a three score tally on the game.  After a successful 2pt conversion the score was 8-0 to the visitors.

#10 Nick Roope had a big day against Kent
After the score, the rest of the half was all about the Defence. Cambridge Defensive End Thomas Piachaud was relentless in his pursuit of Quarterback Brenden Spangler, and it was this pressure that resulted in three First half Interceptions by the Falcons signal-caller, as he desperately tried to get some momentum going for Kent’s faltering Offense.

Both teams struggled offensively as the defences took over the game; and it took a fortunate but excellent heads up play by Falcons Wide Receiver #28 Harry Carter to break the stalemate. With the Pythons front four in his face, Spangler broke out of the pocket and bought himself some time before heaving a long pass downfield towards the goal line, where a flurry of hands tipped the ball to Carter who gratefully rolled into the end zone for Kent’s first points of the match. Aaron Whitworth caught the conversion and the game was all tied up at 8-8 going into half time.

#88 Lajos Torok breaks a big run
Following the deadlocked first half with a lack of offensive inspiration, both teams were looking to set a tone early by getting some points on the board. After the return the Pythons had a costly and rare turnover in the form of a fumble caused by #68 Aidan Lo that gave the Falcons the opportunity to take an early second half lead. It was Wide Receiver Devonte Osar-Emokpae that took advantage of the situation as a broken coverage enabled Brenden Spangler to throw a rocket to him wide open in the end zone. A Failed 2pt conversion gave the home side a 14-8 lead early in the 3rd Quarter.

Unfazed, the Pythons began their comeback from the frontline with Running Backs #10 Nick Roope and #88 Lajos Torok, who continued to frustrate the Falcons by smashing their way up the middle for medium gain runs and first downs. The rhythm and production from the Cambridge running game moved them up the field seemingly at ease, and they had clearly come into the game with a mind-set and plan that Kent were unprepared for.  The Falcons usually dominant front four, led by #60 Benny Ogidan, struggled to get pressure on the quick and tricky running plays of the Pythons, and after a rare pass play pushed them into Kent territory, Nick Roope rushed for his second TD of the day, which, after another failed conversion attempt, left the score 14-14 going into the final quarter.

#4 Aaron Whitworth scores the go ahead touchdown
Kent finally managed to get some progression from their passing game in the final quarter, with Spangler and his receivers making up for first half interceptions and drops through a rhythm based scheme that involved bubble screens and dump offs to the Half Backs that helped get some much needed first downs. Kent made the most of the best field position they’d had all game, with two major attempts in the Pythons red zone. The first resulted in a blocked field goal by #51 Pythons Linebacker Harry Clifford, who surged through the line to bat down the kick following a holding error. After a Cambridge 3 and out the Falcons passed their way down the field and with 3 minutes left Receiver Aaron Whitworth caught a short pass and ran the last 10 yards to sneak into the end zone. A failed quarterback run left the score at 20-14, with the ball in the hands of the Pythons O.

An excellent return put Cambridge on the 50 yard line, as they began their drive with two time-outs in the final minutes of the game. The atmosphere begged for a comeback as they again turned to their extremely well drilled running game that had been so successful throughout the day. It proved to be an excellent decision as Lajos Torok muscled through several Kent Linebackers and took off past the secondary for a monster 40 yard gain to put them inside the 10 yard line with 1.30 on the clock. MVP Nick Roope punched in his hat-trick and the 2pt conversion to give the Pythons the lead for the final time leaving the score at 22-20. The come from behind victory was completed when a Hail Mary pass in the dying seconds was picked off by the Cambridge defensive backs, to leave the final score Cambridge Pythons 22, Kent Falcons 20.

#51 Thomas Piachaud puts more pressure on Kent QB Brendan Spangler
The Cambridge Pythons bullied the game through a combination of steady, productive offense that overwhelmed the Falcons, and a determined refusal to turn the ball over that wore the Kent Defence down throughout the game, which ultimately proved to be the difference in a close affair that was defined by defensive errors and big plays.

The ground and pound mentality from the Cambridge O was complimented by the pressure the Defence continued to get on Brenden Spangler, with DE/C Thomas Piachaud and LB Shawn O’Donnell making their presence known in all aspects of the game. A failure by Kent (4-1) to adjust to these two crucial factors cost them a chance to cement their status as an elite team in the South Eastern Conference, as well as Cambridge (3-3) proving with consecutive wins that they aren't just a flash in the pan, and are certainly a team to look out for during the reast of the season.

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