The Exeter Falcons put themselves in pole position for the second playoff spot with a phenomenal 48-39 victory over the Coventry Cougars Mixed. Sadly a one point loss to the Titans White denied them a winning rookie season as they finish 8-8 on the year. Hereford Stampede saw their playoff challenge suffer a huge setback with a 0-3 day. A close defeat to the Phantoms was followed by a disastrous 32-24 loss to the Panthers. In the final game of the day they were outclassed 74-20 by ten-touchdown receiver Drew Newiss and the Birmingham Lions. After Leicester forfeited, the Thunderducks only had one game to play and looked much improved, losing to the Titans Blue by just two points.
I Tawt I Taw a Puddycat
Birmingham came into this game with a 12-0 record in SWC competition. However it seemed that this brought with it a certain complacency which the Hurricanes punished with a dominant first half performance.
After the Lions scored on their first drive, Drew Smith’s defence took control of the game, keeping Birmingham at bay for the rest of the contest. A phenomenal tackling display for the entire defensive unit forced the Lion’s Quarterback to look for longer passes. Despite the loss of Drew Carey (hamstring) the deep coverage prevailed leading to four first half interceptions, three from Joe Cotterill and one from Andrew Krag.
These efforts gave QB Matt Thomas the field position and momentum to attack the shaky Birmingham defence. Despite being obviously nervous about the magnitude of his task, Matt performed brilliantly. In fact (excluding extra points) Matt’s first ten pass attempts resulted in the statline: 10/10 for 140yds, 5TDs. Richard Phelps, an ever reliable target, was the main outlet grabbing three scores, with Chris Jones and Joe Cotterill adding the others.
Coming out of the break with a 31-7 lead, the game began to tighten up with neither team wanting to concede any more points. The heroic tackling of Cardiff’s defence continued, and Chad Stevens finally saw his consistent pressure pay off, recording two important sacks as Cardiff had their backs to the endzone. The offence was unable to gain any more traction against a rallying Birmingham defence, but it was too little, too late for the Lions, as the Hurricanes recorded a historic win.
Offensive MVP: Matt Thomas 15/31 for 200 yds, 5 TDs
Defensive MVP: Hurricane Defence 22 tackles, 5 PDEFs, 2 Sacks, 4 INTs
A Bolt from the Blue
After the elation of beating Birmingham, Cardiff lost focus early in their second game of the day against the dangerous Northants Titans. Unlike in the first half against the Lions, the offence really struggled to get going. A pick six from Joe Cotterill gave the ‘Canes an early lead before a fourth down pass interference penalty gave the offence a chance to push on. Matt Thomas found Joe on a short pass and Cardiff found themselves 12-0 to the good.
Northampton came storming back, with Nathan Coles providing them with a rangy deep option, and by the half they had taken a 13-12 lead. The two teams traded scores at the start of the second period as the introduction of impressive rookie Sam Kimish gave the Hurricanes a new lease of life. On a dump-off pass Sam galloped the length of the field, scooting round all five of the Titan defenders. 20-18 Titans.
Having difficulties after his two-way exploits against the Lions, Matt Thomas graciously allowed himself to be replaced by Joe Cotterill at Quarterback for the final few drives of the game. Joe repeatedly found Sam in space, and the rookie added another touchdown soon after. Due to injuries, receiver Kostas Karras was recruited by the defence and he used his athleticism to make some big plays late in the second half, recording 4 tackles, 2 pass deflections and an interception.
A huge fourth down pass deflection from Andrew Krag with the score at 26-26 gave the Hurricanes four seconds to win the game. Joe launched a Hail Mary deep into the Titan endzone and five players went up for the ball, which bounced off several before landing in the hands of a Northampton DB who was able to take it the length of the pitch for a heart-breaking Northampton win.
Offensive MVP: Sam Kimish 6 catches, 95 yds, 2 TDs, 1 XP
Defensive MVP: Kostas Karras 3 tackles, 2 PDEFs, 1 INT
The Hurricanes ended their day in Northampton with a comfortable 54-0 victory over the Coventry Cougars Ladies. On offence Andrew Krag took over Quarterback duties, throwing 31/40 for 285 yds, 6 TDs and 1 INT. Josh Cranton and Sam Kimish both added two touchdowns to their season hauls, with Josh becoming the first Cardiff receiver to surpass the 1000 yard mark. Victor Gonzalez Requena made his first start in a Hurricane uniform, catching 5 passes and scoring the first extra point of his young career. Coaches Alex Vakili and a questionably attired Gareth Price also made appearances late on in the game, but after Gareth’s belt fell down on a deep curl, he figured out he was probably better served on the sideline. Chris Jones, Richard Phelps and (somewhat surprisingly) Drew Smith were responsible for the other offensive touchdowns.
On defence, Cardiff were able to try some players out in new positions, as they kept a fairly one-dimensional Coventry offence at bay. Matt Thomas certainly didn’t let his intensity drop, recording 8 tackles and getting into a wrestling match with a Cougar lady on a 50/50 ball. Chad Stephens recorded his first interception of the season, as he took a well-deserved break from blitzing, whilst Chris Jones seemed to be enjoying himself against a wayward passing game, the hair-bunned speedster shooting up the defensive stat chart with 4 interceptions and two pick sixes.
In the end, finishing the day 2-1 should be considered a success for the Hurricanes, a huge statement win against one of the best teams in the country and a fifth straight SWC South title sealed. However the manner of the defeat to Northampton was a nasty blemish on an otherwise fantastic day.
Offensive MVP: Andrew Krag 31/40 for 285 yds, 6 TDs, 1 INT
Defensive MVP: Chris Jones 4 INTs, 1 PDEF, 2 TDs