The most northern conference has finished up its regular season, and its the Glasgow Hornets and Aberdeen Oilcats advancing from the competitive division! Here’s the 5 things we learned from the final game-week!
Hornets Clinch Top Seed
Coming in to the day, the Hornets knew that only 2-0 would guarantee them the top seed throughout the playoffs. One loss would put them behind the Buttonhookers, as the Baker Street side had a vastly superior point differential. They came in to the day down arguably their three most consistent performers of the season – QB Alan Young, WR and Safety Grant McLennan and blitzer Kas Arshad. The task was always going to be tough, especially against the Comets who were looking to end on a high, and the Britbowl chasing Aberdeen Oilcats.
The day started out with a comprehensive win against the Comets, as the Hornets showed their class, but their battle against the Oilcats was another one for the ages. The Oilcats took an early lead through Greg Sim, but the Hornets answered with a Richie Moore TD grab. The Oilcats then re-captured the lead, and turned over QB-for-the-day Nicky Farrell twice with interceptions from Gary Elliott. A third Farrell interception with 12 seconds remaining in the half was returned the length of the field by Callum Stopani, and the Oilcats suddenly had jumped into a two score lead with 3 seconds left before halftime. That proved to be too long, as Nicky heaved a deep Hail Mary into the Aberdeen endzone, and the ball was caught by Craig Murray to bring the Hornets back within a score.
In the second half, the Oilcats started with possession and regained their two score lead through Michael Scott. But that was all the success the Oilcats would have in the half. A Nicky Farrell interception on defence gave the Hornets the ball back after being turned over on downs again, and the high powered offence went to work. Tom Jeffereys and Craig Murray kept the ball moving downfield. The Hornets pulled back within a score, and clawed back to within a point after Cameron Shaw returned a pick for a huge score. The Hornets, with momentum on their side, went for the 2 point conversion but failed. They were down 26-25 when yet another interception, this time from Julian Holburn-White, gave the Hornets the ball on the 6 yard line of the Oilcats. Another Moore TD gave the Hornets their first lead of the game, and a miraculous XP grab from Holburn-White, in between a number of colliding bodies, put the Hornets up by 7.
The Oilcats had little time left, but got the ball back with just over a minute remaining. Time started to run away from them, and a desperation heave on the last play was batted away by Craig Murray, filling in as a member of the hands team!
The win gave the Hornets top seeding in the premier division, and a date against the Northants Titans Blue to look forward to. Trailing in games isn’t something the Hornets are used to, but they rose to the occasion to cement their perfect regular season.
Aberdeen Punch Their Ticket
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for Aberdeen, not by a long-stretch. A win over the Outlaws was enough to book their spot in the 2018 edition of Britbowl, and the Oilcats duly delivered with a typically dominant performance. The celebration was short lived as their loss to the Hornet relegated them to the #4 seed from the North. Their reward? A date with the 2017 champion Baker Street Buttonhookers!
The Oilcats come in as a 4 loss team, but that’s an incredibly misleading number. In all of those losses, there’s only been a score in it, and they’ve had the ball in their possession with less than 2 minutes to go. They were fairly comfortable against the best the MEC had to offer, and have talent riddled throughout the side. Their QB situation is far more settled with Scott McDonald at the helm, as he’s been lights out for the majority of the year. Oh, and that’s not to mention that Gary Elliott is arguably at the top of his game right now.
Broncos secure Winning Record
The Broncos were down to the bare bones on the final week of the season. Injuries had the Broncos left with only Scott McKenzie and Matty Ross from the regular starting lineup in attendance. Kevin Simpson and Jimmy Thomson were the other Broncos suiting up, while three call-ups were given to members of their Colts side.
The Broncos raced to an early 4 score lead against the Comets, as interceptions continued to hurt the Inverclyde side for the second game-week running. The Comets began to claw their way back into the game to pull within 2 scores. They had the Broncos in a 4th and goal situation with time running out, but couldn’t get the important stop to give them a chance. The Broncos held on for a big win which ensured that they’d be above .500!
The Broncos will take on the Northants Phantoms in the Plate playoffs. If they can get Liam Fleming and Callum Woods back in the lineup, they could be a team to watch.
Edinburgh Finish Strong
While Edinburgh suffered a heavy loss against the Oilcats, they managed to finish the season on a high with a pretty historic win over the Broncos. Alright, it was a very under-strength Broncos side, but the history books will always show that the Outlaws finally beat the Grangemouth side.
The day pretty much summed up how the Outlaws have seemingly approached the games on their scheduled. When they’ve been outgunned, they know to conserve their energy and keep the score as low as possible. When there’s a chance at a W, they’ve come out with a positive game-plan, and earned some excellent victories – the scalping of the Broncos can go next to their win over the Crows.
They’ll have a tough contest against the Reading Lions in the plate, but if they can get through that match, they’ll fancy their chances of perhaps making the final!
Comets Bide Their Time
The Comets were locked into their 5th spot in the HNC prior to the game-day even kicking off. A spirited display against the Broncos in the second half was followed by a heavy loss to the Hornets, but there was little to nothing to be gained from the day for the Comets, outside of chemistry.
Despite the lack of success on the field, the Comets should be commended for their efforts throughout the year. They’ve always turned up with a sizeable, albeit inexperienced squad. They’ve never been in danger of forfeits, and when they were at their best, they showed they can hang with the premier division – as evidenced by their win over the Oilcats.
The Grangemouth Colts have emerged as the challenger from the HNC Division One. The good news for the Comets is that the Colts QB, Andy Brown will be absent from the game, giving the Comets a fairly easy route to survival. On balance, they probably deserve to stay up, and a relegation would be harsh on the 2nd year side.