The Exeter Falcons had an impressive debut, so FFW decided they should get to know the new kids on the block. We spoke with Lewis Phillips – Quarterback and President of the Exeter Falcons;
So how did the Falcons come to be?
There were a number of factors that went into the inception of the Falcons. I’d played flag football a long time ago for the Cardiff based South Wales Warriors but left in 2011 to go to University in Exeter. I played 4 years of Uniball, tore my ACL and graduated. I wasn’t sure if I’d ever play contact football again after such a serious injury, and found myself missing flag football a lot!
I used my recovery time to do something I’d always promised myself I’d do – I finally got around to organising the Marcus Price Memorial Tournament; a friendly charity event to honour the memory of the former South Wales Warriors coach and raise money for the hospital that looked after him – Velindre Cancer Trust, Cardiff. The event was a success and a huge achievement for me, but more importantly, I caught the bug!
When I got back to Exeter I toyed with the idea of getting back in to flag – setting up my own team though seemed like an awful lot of work and I convinced myself “Plymouth isn’t that far away”. However, upon attending a session at the Buccaneers (I didn’t drive at the time); I discovered that it was going to be too expensive and arduous to commit – I was left with one option if I wanted to play flag again.
I discussed it with a friend at work who said it sounded like a great idea. Stacey was our first player (and would go on to become VP and my right hand woman!). Stacey dragged some of her friends along; I floated the idea on Facebook and put a message on my work’s internal notice board. I also coach at the University, so with the help of some Exeter University Demons players, we had a good little group to get things started.
It takes a lot of organisation and time to run a club in the league. What made you decide to give it a go?
I think the biggest decision maker was the South West Series. We’d started up at around November 2015. We’d been practicing for a couple of months, played some friendlies against Exmouth College, Plymouth Buccaneers, Hereford Stampede and the improvement was definitely evident – but it was all too late for the 2016 season anyway. Shortly after, Ieuan Tucker from the Marjon University Lions and Plymouth Buccaneers contacted me and asked if we’d be interested in joining a mini-league based in the South West. There was to be 8 game days from October right through to March using a very similar format to the National League and would include ourselves, the Plymouth Buccaneers, Marjon Lions and Plymouth University Bolts; I jumped at the opportunity. We’d practiced all summer with little to no competitive game time – the prospect of a 15 game slate, on a regular basis throughout Autumn and Winter was exciting and I thought would give us valuable game time, but would also simulate how a league GameDay might feel.
We had a great Series! We posted up a 10-5 record and came second in the table to Plymouth Buccaneers, a well drilled side that had been in the league a number of years and had just come off their most successful season to date and going to the playoffs – we’d not done badly for a team less than a year old. But most importantly, we’d come such a long way as a team. We displayed some brilliant football offensively and defensively. We’d cruised to some victories, and lost some blowouts together; we’d lost in the final seconds, and pulled off some amazing comebacks. Throughout the Series we’d been able to keep our cool and stay focussed and we always stayed competitive – we’d been through every emotion possible and that was when I knew that this team could compete in the National League.
One of the hardest decisions is coming up with a good name that is also not already taken, what made you go for the Falcons?
Haha! The team name! This was a nightmare. In the beginning, I didn’t think everyone was yet committed enough to form a proper committee as essentially, we were still a bunch of guys throwing a ball in the park – so most of the decision making fell to me. However, I refused to be the sole person responsible for something this important. I created a Facebook poll in our group and came up with some off-the-cuff suggestions to get the ball rolling and encouraged the team to add their own ideas – trying to be as original as possible. The poll went on for weeks! Eventually I had to call an end to it and the name with the most votes at that time was Falcons… The rest is history.
How did you prepare life in the BAFA league?
Just like it was any other training session. Nailed down the fundamentals, tightened up on playbook knowledge and execution and made sure not to let the occasion overwhelm us. We’d been practicing, preparing and playing competitively throughout the Autumn/Winter – by April we were used to it.
What were the general feelings in the team on the build-up to and on the first game day?
Truth be told I personally was a mixture of nerves and excited – but I think I’ve always been that way. But as a team I think we went into it like the other South West Series games. It was in Plymouth so it was familiar territory, and our first game was against Plymouth so it was a familiar opponent – in terms of easing into the League, I don’t think we could have asked for a better first game day. We’d recruited well since the end of the Series and we’d taken a strong squad. We were new to the league; we had nothing to lose, everything to gain and were excited, but equally relaxed and focussed on getting the job done.
You had a pretty productive first day at the office, albeit with one less game to play, can you tell us how it went?
Wow, yeah, it was pretty unbelievable. I think on any other day I’d say I had mixed feelings about it all – what with a shutout loss to Cardiff. But truth be told, we know how good Cardiff are and, despite what the score suggests, I like to think we didn’t make it easy for them.
The Plymouth game was amazing; they’d beaten us 4 times out of 5 in the South West Series so to come out and get a big win like that in our first ever League game was incredible – everything just clicked that game. Cardiff was a gut check. Although, I honestly don’t think the Plymouth game played into it, I still felt we were focussed and knew Cardiff was going to be a challenge. We played really well on Defence, forced a couple of turnovers, frustrated the quarterback once or twice but essentially it came down to inconsistency on Offence. We had some flashes of great play but, that Hurricane defence is pretty solid and unfortunately, we couldn’t string enough together to finish drives off.
It was a real shame that Merthyr couldn’t take the trip – I’m actually from nearby originally, so it would have been exciting for me to play my ‘home’ team, but we would have just loved to have played more games. But I’d been telling the guys all offseason how great the Flag Football community is so when we played the little scratch game at the end for Dylan who’d travelled down the night before only to find his team weren’t joining him that was exactly what I meant.
All in all, we all had a great day, it was great fun, all that we wanted it to be and more and we can’t wait for the next one.
Compared to the friendlies you experienced prior, how did you find the standard of play?
It’s tough to comment on the standard because we only played two games, and one of those was against a team we’d seen more than our fair share of haha. We knew what we were up against in Plymouth and we knew the Hurricanes would be an even tougher game but I don’t think that’s enough of a sample to make a judgement on the standard of the national league.
Ask me again after a Conference game 😉
What were the team’s feelings at the end of the day?
I definitely think it was positive. We’d played well and competed at the top level. Wins and losses are going to happen but as a new team entering the league, all I wanted was that we gave a good account of ourselves and I think we did that. We had a ton fun, won a game and most importantly, alleviated any lingering doubts about being ready to join the league.
What would you say is the team’s main strengths?
Well this is a difficult question. On the field I think it’s our resiliency – no matter the score we have a never say die attitude and play right to the very end. We’ve also got a good group of receivers and a playbook that works to their strengths. When we first started I never thought I’d say this but our defence has also come a heck of a long way and become one of our major strengths – certainly kept us in the game for the majority of the Cardiff game.
But I think generally it’s how close we are as a team. We’ve gotten in some tense situations and we’ve always had each other’s back. We’re a close knit family, we never turn on each other or pass around blame. We’re all here to have fun and that’s
Which players should we watch out for?
I think there’s a couple worth keeping an eye on. He’ll never let me forget this but Ed McKenna is definitely worth watching out for. He can sometimes play a little risky at safety (and has an ego the size of a house) but to be fair he’s got the athletic ability to make some phenomenal plays and throws his body around with reckless abandon.
Jay Kewley-Joy is another safety who has a very good understanding of the game and of our playbook. With less of an ego Jay is like a silent killer; he has an uncanny ability to lose himself in the fray and suddenly come out of nowhere to make a play on the ball.
Offensively it’s a little more difficult to pick out individuals. Paul Hindle and Ashley Jones are both tall receivers with sneaky speed and great hands while Jake Fortescue is a great technical route runner. Nick Gould has proven to be able to make some circus catches and Tom Bridge is a shifty runner that can make you miss tackles…. Keep an eye on that quarterback too 😉
Will the Falcons be entering any tournaments outside the league, such as NuOla or even the European competitions?
Probably not this year, we’ll see how the national league goes first – travel and money is always an issue for us as we don’t have sponsorship as of yet. But if we can make it to Northants at the end of the year then who knows, NuOla could be next, we’d love to be able to take the trip to Scotland and then… the world is our oyster! I’d love for the Falcons to be able to get involved in the European competitions one day in the not so distant future – it’s a very exciting time for Flag Football, but at the moment we’re just not quite at that point in our set-up that we can get to these places.
What are the Falcons goals for 2017?
Honestly, I just want us to give a good account of ourselves. Like I’ve said before, we’re new; we’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. The goals for our first season are essentially to survive and be competitive. That being said, I think we can win 8-10 games and place 3rd if not 2nd in the SWC South.
For players that might want to join the team, where and when would they find you training?
At the moment, through the grace of the Exeter University Demons we are training at the University of Exeter Sports Park. However, we usually train at Flowerpot Fields. So really it depends on the time of year – it’s best to get in touch.
Thanks to Lewis for giving us such an interesting insight into the formation of one of the leagues newest and exciting looking teams. If you want to keep on top of their progress or get in touch you can so on the below links
Exter Falcons Website: https://exeter-falcons.com/