While most football fans’ focus will be on the NFL draft, it is business as usual in the UK.
The BUCS’ division two Conference Cup finals should have been played a month ago when it was cold and snowy. The postponed game for the south between the unbeaten teams the Brighton Panthers and the Southampton Stags was played last weekend in brilliant sunshine on the south coast.
The game’s month delay showed on the Stags in the early skirmishes as they found it difficult to move the chains while the Panthers began with a solid ground game that knocked back their opponents. Brighton was a team full of confidence and not afraid to gamble on fourth downs to ensure they extended their drives.
At the beginning of the second quarter, the Panthers’ superiority gained its first reward when Karar Ghassem broke through tackles for the first touchdown. With the two-point after attempt failing, Brighton took a 6-0 lead.
The Panthers maintained their control through to half time adding another six points after driving 61 yards and finishing with a 5-yard touchdown run from Nils Ebeka to extend their advantage to 12-0.
While the Stags were struggling on offense, their battering ram Ademola Labis remained on the sideline relaxing at halftime enjoying the sunshine. Those rays of sun must have acted as a catalyst to spark the player and the Stags into life.
The third quarter saw the Stags unleash a ground game that rolled over the Panthers defense after their special teams gave them good field position on their 45. The Stags moved the chains just twice before Labis powered his way through tacklers to score with a good point-after attempt.
The Panthers were not overwhelmed by Southampton’s explosive start to the second half and replied by driving 62 yards before Ghassem took the handoff to sweep left for an 18-yard touchdown run that produced an 18-7 lead.
After another good kickoff return, the Stags began their next series on the 43 and with the added energy from Labis on offense put together a potent drive they completed with another touchdown run from the running back. The successful two-point after was a smart move by Southampton to reduce the difference to just a field goal, but it was in vain as the Panthers continued to dictate the outcome.
In a game dominated on the ground, it was a superb catch by Johnny Ward in the final period that set Brighton up for the closing score. After breaking tackles, Ghassem ran in to complete the Panthers 24-15 triumph.
Brighton deserved to take the victory while Southampton’s head coach Graham Thorpe was philosophical about his team’s loss when acknowledging the team’s aim at the beginning of the season had been to win promotion.
BAFA’s NATIONAL LEAGUE HIGHLIGHTS
As the spring like weather finally hit the UK, the National League entered its second week. In the NFC 1 South, the Leicester Falcons and the Shropshire Revolution both went 2-0 while the Hastings Conquerors and the Hertfordshire Cheetahs won’t get to play until the end of the month.
The 2017 BritBowl champions, the Tamworth Phoenix began their National League title defense by overwhelming the newly promoted Manchester Titans 60-7. The Phoenix would have enjoyed their run out before they travel to Copenhagen to make their debut this Saturday in the North European Championship when they play the Towers. The Towers also had a comfortable 40-0 win in the first game of their season.
The Somerset Wyverns were edged out 8-6 in their debut game in the SFC 2 West by the South Wales Warriors while in the SFC 2 East, the Norwich Devils’ return after a 6 years absence will see them travel to play the London Blitz B this Sunday.
Sunday will also see the newly merged Northumberland Vikings travel to the Shropshire Revolution for the first test of their synergy.