Saturday, 18 February 2012

Football America UK Bowl – Birmingham Lions vs. Loughborough Aces

Despite the cold, wet weather, the Double Coverage team were still willing to make the journey to the University of Birmingham to report on the biggest game of the season. Aren't we just brilliant?

Arriving in time for the coin toss, it was the Lions that won and decided to receive the ball. The opening kickoff saw Drew Newiss claim the ball and after good blocking from the Lions kick return unit, return the ball to half way; a late hit from an Aces player saw the first of many flags and moved the Birmingham offence an extra 15 yards forward.

The first series of the game saw the Lions offence relying on the rushing attack of Dan Conroy, as well as the quick passing game to convert for first downs and advance into the Loughborough redzone, unfortunately Birmingham were unable to punch the ball into the endzone as a pass attempt on fourth down fell incomplete and the Lions turned the ball over on downs.

The Lions were bringing heat early and often on Aces QB Nick Jaquet
For the first time this season, we were finally able to see the Pistol triple option of the Loughborough Aces in all of its glory in person. After two dives for no gain, the Lions brought the rushers to put pressure on the Aces and forced Nick Jaquet out of the pocket. Jaquet was hauled down in the endzone by Sam Marshall for a safety and the first points of the game. Lions up 2-0.

After the first free kick was kicked out of bounds drawing another flag on the Aces, the re-taken kick was returned by Newiss again who showed his playmaking abilities from the returner spot to give the Lions fantastic field position. On their second play of the series Johnny Glover hit Ben Brown perfectly in stride on a slant route; Brown shook off the Aces defensive back and took the ball to the house for the first TD of the game! After a blocked PAT the Lions were now up eight points to zero.

Despite the Birmingham kickoff going for a touchback Karan Lalwani still found the time to hit Paul Zinkus at full tilt resulting in the Lions LB clearly being shaken from the blow. Like their previous drive, the Aces offence were unable to muster any sort of rhythm, going three and out resulting in the first punt of the game. A debatable late hit on the punter by Kyle Burrows wasn’t flagged by the officials and the Lions had the ball at their own 30.
The battle in the trenches was hard fought
The Birmingham offence continued assert itself as a QB scramble converted for another first down, but the series ended quickly as on second down a miscommunication in the backfield saw the Lions QB and RB run into each other causing a fumble, which was recovered by a Birmingham lineman. On third down John Kenyon made up for the poor coverage on the Lions TD by batting down the Glover pass attempt to force the Lions to punt the ball away.

The final drive of the first quarter saw Adam Hope gain six yards on first down for the Aces, but that was the highlight of the series as a Kyle Burrows sack on second down and the third down run getting stuffed, Loughborough were forced to punt again! However, the Aces got a reprieve as Kyle Burrows once again hit the punter and this time the zebras got out their handkerchiefs to give the Aces a new set of downs after the fifteen yard penalty.

End of the first quarter – Birmingham 8 – 0 Loughborough.

Starting on their 40, the Aces handed the ball off to star RB Hope who gained six yards on first down once again, the Lions continued to dominate the Loughborough offence as Hope was stuffed on second down. Eddie ‘Don’ Cheadle came through unblocked to sack Nick Jaquet on third down abruptly ending the Loughborough drive as they punted the ball away again.

The Lions offence now trying to take advantage of the dominating play of their defence decided to dial up the deep pass and Glover connected with Newiss over the middle for a big gain before being brought down by the Aces DB’s. Following a short screen on first down, a Dan Conroy rushing play looked like it would give the Lions their second offensive score of the game, but a holding flag brought the play back despite Conroy Tebowing in the endzone. Birmingham didn’t have to wait long anyway as Glover hit a wide open Newiss in the endzone for his second passing touchdown of the game. A missed PAT left the score as Lions 14-0.

Drew newiss (#12) had a good game on offence with a number of explosive plays
Another Lions touchback saw Loughborough starting on their own 20 again. The Aces offence, now trying to get some points before the half came to an end started to drive on the Birmingham defence with Jaquet scrambling for a first down. Good running from Ben Burslem and Hope (including a 4th and 2 conversion) saw Lugbug move into the Lions half for the first time we can remember. Jaquet, still struggling with the wet ball, floated a pass up for Ross Hubbard who was unable to bring in the football due to pass interference by Lions safety Greg Freeman.

With the Aces at the Lions 18 and two minutes remaining in the half, all signs suggested that Loughborough would finally get on the scoreboard, but as throughout the first half, Nick Jaquet was hit whilst trying to get the pass attempt off and Sam Marshall was in the right spot at the right time as he picked off the loose ball and saw nothing but green synthetic 3G turf ahead of him and the Lions OLB took the ball the other way for the Lions third TD of the game. The chip shot PAT was good to give the Lions a 21-0 lead.

Normally, most teams would have folded after such a huge play, but not the Aces! Jaquet started having a greater influence on the game on several QB keeps and after two solid first down gains of twelve and eleven yards respectively to move the chains, the Aces gave the ball to Burslem again for another first down run. In the Lions redzone for the second straight time, Jaquet tried another pass attempt and tried to hit John Mathewson in the endzone, unfortunately for Loughborough, it was A.J. Crabbe who wanted to ball more as he picked off the pass attempt in the endzone to give the Lions the ball back.

Glover took a knee to end the half with the Lions leading 21-0.

After the HT team talk, we were fortunate to grab a quick word with Birmingham HC Wayne Hill and asked for his thoughts on the first half. Coach Hill replied:


“We played good discipline football, stuck to our game plan, our defence played exactly how we wanted them to play against their scheme and we need to continue to do that from a defensive stand point. Offence, we’ve done things in parts so we need to make sure we have a good long sustained drive in the second half to start off and we’ll go from there, but Loughborough are going to come back at us, we know that, they’re a great football team, but we need to stay focused and disciplined.”

The second half began with Adam Hope returning the ball to the Aces 40. The Loughborough offence came out passing early as Jaquet connected with Burslem on first down who managed to move the chains, Jaquet continued to show his rushing ability as another keeper up the middle was good for a fresh set of downs. Jaquet and Burslem one again connected for another first down, with Jaquet keeping the ball once more to convert for another first down! The drive ended as Jaquet hit Mathewson in the endzone for the first Aces score of the game. A poor snap on the PAT meant the score was now Lions 21-6 Aces.

GB Lions and All-European defensive end Kyle Burrows was seriously injured during the game
For the Lions, the drive was overshadowed by the injury to the Lions team captain and All-European defensive end Kyle Burrows. Burrows was unable to put any weight on his leg as he was carried to the sideline and his knee was heavily strapped and iced. He did not return to the game. We wish him all the best in a speedy recovery.

Birmingham’s first drive of the second half began at their own 30, with Sope Dirisu now in at QB, the Lions were forced to punt after a short drive due to good tackling from Ross Watson, Jon Varney and the rest of the Aces D.

Loughborough were now hoping their no huddle offence would start to wear down the Lions defence and it looked as if they would get on the scoreboard again following good running from Hope and Chris Ossom, but on 3rd and long in the Birmingham half, the Aces called a screen play which was hauled in by Mathewson despite being behind him, only for him to then fumble to ball! Lion’s safety Jose "Columbia" Van Oosten was the first to dive on the ball and after a short discussion from the refs it was ruled a turnover and Lions football!

Just like that, Loughborough were back on offence as a centre-QB exchange was fumbled and Jean-Paul Jones was the quickest to react and dive on the football for the fumble recovery! The third quarter ended with the Lions leading 21-6.

After generating nothing on the first three plays of their drive, Loughborough decided to go for it on fourth down. Jaquet, after keeping the game alive, tried to hit Mathewson, but it was a Lions players who ended hitting Mathewson before the ball was anywhere near him to draw the second PI call on the Lions D and giving the Aces a new set of downs!

Aces RB Adam Hope had a superb game.
Hope continued to show why he’s one of the best RB’s in the country as he took a dumb off from Jaquet and gained solid yardage. Hope kept the drive alive once again as he converted another 4th down, this time fourth and inches to put the Aces offence inside the Lions ten. After a PI call on both teams, Hope caught the ball in the flats and dived for the goal line for the Aces second TD of the game! The PAT was good to bring Lugbug within a score! GAME ON!

Loughborough went for the onside kick and looked to have recovered the ball, but the refs decided otherwise and judged that the Lions player hadn’t touched the ball before the Aces player, giving the ball to the Lions offence.

The Aces defence now pinned their ears back and forced the Lions offence three and out resulting in a Lions punt! Surely the Aces couldn’t muster a comeback and take this game to overtime?!?

This game by now had well and truly turned into a defensive battle and not wanting to be outshone by their opposing defence, Birmingham forced the Aces to punt the ball back to the Lions offence.

With just over three minutes left in the game, the sun decided to come out as the Lions offence started to drive on the Aces D trying to kill the clock and end the game. After a Sack on Dirisu, Coach Hill and the Birmingham offence decided to go for it on fourth down! The screen pass to Conroy was converted for a touchdown, BUT! Just like his TD in the first half, it was called back, this time for Newiss being offside, effectively ending the Lions drive as they punted the ball back to the Aces offence.  

Loughborough's offence really turned around in the second half
By now, both sets of coaches were suffering mild heart attacks as the Loughborough offence had the ball. The first play of the series was a well-executed Hook and Ladder play, but the Lions D executed their coverage perfectly and the play only gained eight yards. A sack on second down now forced the Aces into bad field position, after minimal gain Loughborough were forced to go for it on fourth down, but the pass fell incomplete! The Lions offence took the knee to end the game with the Birmingham Lions winning 21 – 13!

The Double Coverage team were fortunate enough to be involved in the post-game huddle where founder of Football America UK, David Hagger named Birmingham Lions defensive end #83 Josh Vines MVP and it was fully deserved after important tackle for losses and key sacks throughout the game! It was also announced that Football America donated £500 to the winning team, but it was agreed that the teams would split the money instead.

After the game we managed to get interviews with both head Coaches, as well as team captains for both sides and MVP Josh Vines.

We asked for their opinion of the game.

Coach Hill – “It was a great game, we knew it would be a great game coming into it and we came out of the blocks really well in the first half, we knew Loughborough would come back in the second half which made it close for us and we had to dig deep in the second half to make sure we pulled it off. All credit to Loughborough to comeback in the second half and I’m sure we’ll be seeing them again come playoff time.”

Coach Sherratt – “We were slow and got ourselves into a hole early with bad field position and made some mistakes, towards the end of the first half the big interception was pretty much a two score swing, but I’m really glad with the way we responded and did really well in the second half and if we started faster who knows what would’ve happened?

Next up, defensive captain and head of media relations Greg Freeman on his thoughts of the game.
GF – “That was tough, that’s what football should be like every week, we came out, we balled and then in the second half they came and shut us down. After that…god damn I’m sore!

Thoughts going into the final drive?
GF – “Honestly? Absolutely terrified! It’s always tough to lose a player like Kyle Burrows; I honestly looked at the defence and didn’t know we had it in us as it was an offence we’d never faced before, but as I just took the defence to the side and said – I’ve never been so proud in my defensive players as I have in this game.

Finally, thoughts on the season ahead?
GF – “Warwick next week, we’ll hopefully go and play some good ball there, if we have to play Derby then hopefully take it 8 n 0. I know it’s playoff football and as we proved against Loughborough last year, anyone can come back and win in the playoffs so…we just need to gear up. 

That game was actually a playoff game from our point of view. We need to play harder, need to be more intense and we need to believe that we have to work our arse off every play to win a championship, we’re going to have to go to Herts, Sheffield or Loughborough and play hard every single play in the playoffs.

Josh Vines had a great game for the Lions defence
A quick word (literally) with MVP Josh Vines on his thoughts for the game.
JV – “It was a really, really hard game thought well by both sides, really impressive in the end and really happy!” (Ed: ORLY?)

Happy with your performance?
JV – “Yeah really happy after no game for three months, I thought we balled it today and quite glad with myself.”

Last but not least, Aces star running back Adam Hope with his thoughts on the game.
AH – “Well it was a very close game, firstly congratulations to Birmingham they really had our number and came out strong. My thoughts – first the offence was too slow out of the blocks, the second half we got into our rhythm, but that was helped by Kyle going out the game unfortunately.

Once we got into our rhythm we started to pick up and really get the ball moving, I just think it was the slow start that lost us the game. Well played Birmingham, it’s a close rivalry and I wish there was more teams like this to play every week, hopefully the FAUK bowl game will continue and make it a good rivalry game every year.

Thoughts on the rest of the season now that you have one loss?
AH – “Praying that we don’t go to the plate, no offence to the players in the plate, but we are relying on the Outlaws to beat Northampton and hopefully they’ll do that so we can play Birmingham again.”

It was good to see at the end of the game the level of respect both programs have for each other as they joined in one huddle for the presentation of the MVP award by Football America UK owner Dave Hagger.

This is surely BUAFL at it's finest, with two top teams respectful of each other playing a hard fought game of football, then going down the pub after to share a few drinks afterwards?


The excellent photography provided in this report was provided by Mike Hinton, who has uploaded all his photos to this album on Facebook.

This brings an end to our coverage of the FAUK bowl, until next time – you stay classy Double Coverage fans!

We apologise for any mistakes. Please email us at dblcoverage@hotmail.co.uk for any corrections and DON'T leave it in the comments. It's been a long and cold day!

6 comments:

  1. Great Report, keep up the good work!

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  2. the safety was by sam marshall not the don cheadle.

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  3. Any news on Burrows?

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  4. literally this is what british football is about...we need this kind of coverage ALL AROUND the league, even if it takes donators or some English version of T Boone Pickens we need it!

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  5. The next meeting will be different!

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