Reading Lions vs Bedford Blackhawks
Week two of SEC action kicked off in Bedford with the host Blackhawks looking to rebound from an 0-3 start against the always tough Reading Lions. The Lions appeared in our Heroes and Villains for failing to field a team for their opening fixtures on Easter Sunday. Further investigation revealed that the Lions allegedly brought the potential conflict to the attention of both the league and their opponents back in January. With plenty of questions around who is ultimately at fault for the missed fixtures and in turn, whether the Lions entered the day 0-0 or 0-3, it’s clear that the Reading boys needed a big day of their own. They started off hot as Nick Schippers hit a streaking Dominic Howard on the game’s opening drive for a quick 6-0 lead. A few plays later, the Lions D pushed the lead to 8-0 on the back of a Russell Cameron safety. The Blackhawks needed a stop on the ensuing possession or risk this one getting out of hand early. While they forced the Lions into a 4th and 15 situation, Schippers found Howard deep again for another touchdown. Adam Brooker corralled a tipped extra point for a 15-0 lead and the rout was on. Rarely troubled, the Lions held the Blackhawks without a first down for nearly the entire first half while building a 30-6 lead. Cameron would add another safety for the stingy Lions D while Matt Bacon found pay dirt twice in the first half himself. Despite the early lopsided score, the Blackhawks fought on and were rewarded when they were able to capitalise on their only first down of the half. Callum Papworth hit Jed Parisi to give the hosts some momentum going into the second half. However, they were unable to build upon it as Howard added two more TDs while the Reading D posted a second half shutout.
Final: Lions 43 – 6 Blackhawks
Game MVP: Joint – Dominic Howard and Russell Cameron – Lions
Reading Knights vs Ware Wolves
The Reading Knights entered the day with a deceiving 1-2 record (or 0-2 without the forfeit win over the neighboring Lions). They utterly dominated the experienced Sharks side early in their week one opener, racing to a 20-0 lead. However, they may have given their backups too much extended playing time and it ended up costing them an early statement victory. Another disappointing loss followed in the form of a one score encounter with the Thrashers. You can’t help but wonder if the talented Knights should have been 3-0 entering the day. In their opener against the Wolves, they showed their potential, moving the ball at will against Ware’s D. Andy Hollands connected twice with SEC capital Vincent Berry and three times with the immensely talented Andreas Kyriakidis en route to seven TD passes. The Wolves demonstrated some class of their own as GB Silver Lion James Woodward found his big man Callum Norton twice for touchdowns. Ultimately, it would be the Knights’ day, highlighted by Jay Bellamy doing his best Odell impression as he plucked a pass out of the air with one hand and scooted up the sideline for a spectacular first down.
Final: Knights 46 – 13 Wolves
Game MVP: Andy Hollands – Knights
Baker Street Buttonhookers vs Reading Knights
Following a convincing opening win against the Wolves, the Knights looked to ride the momentum against the Number 1 ranked Buttonhookers. The Knights have looked impressive at various points this season and are a dangerous team on the cusp of doing some real damage in this league. Jay Bellamy took his turn in the Knights’ QB rotation and quickly moved the ball down the field, hitting Daniel Woods for a 6-0 lead. Energized, the Knights played solid defense on the first drive, forcing the Hookers into two fourth downs. Baker Street would ultimately convert both, the second a short TD pass from Vince Machi to Steve Mongey. Pre-season OPY candidate Carl Szabo would add the extra point to open his BAFA league account. Down 7-6, Bellamy led another good drive but on 3rd and goal, was picked by Josh Nicholson. Nicholson contributed a big 4th down catch on the ensuing possession before Machi found Mongey for the second time and a 13-6 lead. After a Buttonhookers stop, both teams would trade touchdowns (Szabo for the Hookers, Vincent Berry for the Knights). With only five seconds left in the half, most teams would kneel. However, five seconds is an eternity for the Buttonhookers. Machi completed two passes, the second a deep shot to Szabo who simply out-jumped his defender for the TD. Nicholson’s extra point meant the Hookers led 28-13 and would get the ball after halftime. They would continue to press their advantage in the second half as Machi added four more TD passes to James Deck, Nicholson, and Mongey (2). The Knights could only muster one more score but it was brilliant as on fourth down, Bellamy avoided the rusher beautifully before finding Andreas Kyriakidis cutting across the front of the end zone.
Final: Buttonhookers 54 – 20 Knights
Game MVP – Josh Nicholson – Buttonhookers
London Rebels vs Reading Lions
Easily the day’s most salivating matchup on paper, history promised us a thriller. Last year, the Rebels won both meetings by less than a touchdown combined! With two of the nation’s top QBs, playmakers aplenty, and little love lost between the two squads, we expected plenty of fireworks. The two SEC heavyweights traded blows early and often. Nick Schippers connected with Adam Brooker and Dominic Howard for the Lions while Calvin Tarlton found Kenny Bello and Akshay Singal for a 14-14 scoreline after two possessions each. Singal, making his 2017 debut after missing week one, shined for the Rebels, contributing either a touchdown or extra point on each of the Rebels’ first five scores. Howard and Brooker would each score again and as halftime approached, the Lions held a 26-21 lead with the Rebels in possession. On the half’s final play, the Rebels ran a two QB gadget play with Tarlton throwing back to Bello. After scanning the pitch from his own half, Bello heaved a bomb towards the end zone where Singal was able to snag a momentous score. Another clinical Rebels extra point gave the London side an improbable 28-26 halftime lead. The second half would see each team finally record a stop as Bello and Howard collected interceptions for their respective sides. These moments of defensive brilliance were fleeting however as the teams resumed their scoring fest. Nick Schippers would lead two more methodical drives, finding Matt Bacon and Howard for scores. The Rebels would keep pace as Tarlton hit Bello and then Andrew Eastwood for a 42-39 lead. With under two minutes left, the Lions were driving for the win. Schippers hit a cutting Howard, who weaved between two Rebels defenders and then made his way to the end zone for a 45-42 lead. However, the quick score meant Tarlton had ample time to lead a comeback of his own. Furthermore, after converting their first two extra points, the Lions were only able get one more the rest of the way while the Rebels had converted every chance they had. As such, the defending champs only needed a touchdown for the win. The Lions’ defense finally made life rough for the London side, making inbounds tackles and forcing the Rebels to use all their timeouts and downs. The Rebels had one final chance and after buying some time, Tarlton rolled right and fired to the back left of the end zone where Rudy Dominick was waiting to make the winning catch. After securing it, the entire Rebels team celebrated their dramatic win as can be expected but oddly, the Lions were already on the field celebrating themselves. Why? Just as Tarlton was releasing the ball, Reading blitzer Russell Cameron pulled his flag for what the Lions believed was a game ending sack. Onlookers tended to side with Reading’s interpretations of events, though it was far from clear (where is instant replay when you need it?!). After a referee’s conference, the touchdown was awarded and the Rebels escaped with a somewhat controversial win.
Final: Rebels 48 – 45 Lions
Game MVP: Joint – Dominic Howard – Lions, Akshay Singal – Rebels
Baker Street Buttonhookers vs Ware Wolves
With both teams having already faced the Reading Knights with very different results, this looked to be a mismatch from the outset. However, the Ware Wolves, led by James Woodward, would not simply roll over. Woodward led an efficient opening drive, completing every pass including a short TD to the towering Callum Norton. George North added the extra point and the Wolves had a quick 7-0 lead. The slow start for the Hookers turned worse as Vince Machi’s first pass was nearly picked after Carl Szabo fell awkwardly. Szabo would leave the game and not return in a big blow to Baker Street. However, the Hookers’ biggest strength may be their depth and they were able to adequately replace Szabo’s production as the game wore on. Casey Fitzsimmons scored the first TD with Josh Nicholson adding the two point conversion for an 8-7 lead they would never relinquish. Woodward led another strong drive but untimely drops forced him to take a deep shot on fourth down, which Nicholson intercepted in the end zone. From there, it was all Hookers. Machi would throw nine TDs and the defense would hold the Wolves to one more score on the day, a second half Woodward pass to Andre Martins. Casey Fitzsimmons would star for the Buttonhookers, collecting four touchdowns, an extra point from each distance, and an interception on defense.
Final: Buttonhookers 62-13 Wolves
Game MVP: Casey Fitzsimmons – Buttonhookers
London Rebels vs Bedford Blackhawks
Following their dramatic triumph against the Lions, it was always going to be a challenge for the Rebels to avoid a letdown. What looked to be a straightforward fixture was anything but for the defending champs. The Rebels’ offense, unstoppable for most of the Lions’ game, looked a bit slow and lethargic. Combine that with a much improved effort from the Blackhawks and this tie remained close into the second half. While Calvin Tarlton was able to connect with Rudy Dominick for two touchdowns early, the Blackhawks never were far behind as Callum Papworth hit Jed Parisi for a score with Jake Cooper adding the extra point. A Kenny Bello touchdown would stretch the Rebels lead to 20-7 at the half but Bedford would come right back. Papworth led a methodical drive, capped off by hitting the athletic Jonnie Stratford for six. Parisi would add an extra point and the Blackhawks were within touching distance of the champs. The Rebels would again find some breathing room as Tarlton hit Andrew Eastwood and subsequently Bello on the XP. Showing plenty of resolve, the Blackhawks would come right back as this time Parisi would score and Stratford would add the extra point to cut the Rebels lead to 27-21. The Rebels would then show their championship mettle as Tarlton found veteran Len Rinaldi to extend their lead to 34-21 before their defense came up with a big goal line stand to finally halt the Blackhawks’ threat. A late Akshay Singal touchdown would provide the final margin but the Blackhawks should be commended on a valiant effort against the perennial BritBowl favourites.
Final: Rebels 40 – 21 Blackhawks
Game MVP: Jed Parisi – Blackhawks
Reading Lions vs Ware Wolves
The third game of the day for each of these teams would pretty much follow the expected script. The Lions, looking to rebound from their heartbreaking loss to the Rebels, marched down the field at the outset. Nick Schippers capped off the drive with a TD pass to Matt Bacon and a 6-0 lead. After a couple stops, the Lions would stretch their lead to 20-0 behind TDs from Bacon and Adam Brooker. The Wolves would then answer as James Woodward connected with George North to give Ware some life at 21-6. Just before the half however, the Lions would push their lead to 27-6 as Schippers found Nick Heaven in the end zone. Despite the lopsided scoreline, the Wolves did not lie down in the second half. Their defense held twice as Callum and Woodward contributed interceptions near their own goal line. Unfortunately, Woodward banged his knee on the ensuing return and had to sit for the final couple drives. Out trotted Wolves’ veteran QB “Dr. G” who showed some real moxie, completing a no look touchdown pass to Matt McIntyre. Despite the admirable effort, the Wolves would finish second best.
Final: Lions 39-13 Wolves
Game MVP: Nick Schippers – Lions
Reading Knights vs Bedford Blackhawks
The Knights and Blackhawks looked to rebound following tough losses to our Number 1 and 2 ranked teams, respectively. Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they experienced déjà vu as they remained within touching distance of their opponent for the second game in a row but were unable to break through. Andy Hollands threw three touchdowns to Jay Bellamy and two to Andreas Kyriakidis, pacing the Knights’ offense. (Side note: Kyriakidis is a dynamic talent – with the right coaching and development, he should absolutely compete for a spot in future GB squads). The Blackhawks D simply didn’t roll over though. Tom King and and Jonnie Stratford collected interceptions which their offense was able to turn into points. Stratford scored twice on offense with Jake Cooper contributing a third. It would ultimately not be enough as they fell to 0-6 on the season.
Final: Knights 33-18 Blackhawks
Game MVP: Andreas Kyriakidis – Knights