American Football BAFA Division One Central
By Twm Owen
South Wales Warriors 16, Solent Thrashers 41
The South Wales Warriors failed to claim their first win in the final game of the season but did play their part in an action-packed encounter.
Visitors the Solent Thrashers only needed to avoid defeat to secure their place in the play-offs and showed their intent straight away when Adam Bowley returned the opening kick-off to the Warriors 18-yard-line.
Four plays later the slim-line and elusive running back slipped into the end zone from one yard out to open the scoring. Dom Williams added the extra point.
The Warriors haven’t won all season and are doomed to relegation but their offense seemed determined to make more of an impact than they have in their recent tame performances.
Running back Daniel Abruzzese rushed for two first downs on the Warriors’ opening possession. The home team attempted to gamble on fourth down, when they needed five yards, but fumbled the snap to bring what had been a promising opening drive to a halt inside the Solent half.
But Solent kept up the pressure when quarterback Brad Sawyers hit receiver Dayle Greenfield on a long pass to take the Thrashers right back to the Warriors one-yard-line.
Big full back Robert Bloodworth looked to have been stopped in his tracks when he attempted to punch in a score but kept moving to fall across the goal line. Williams’ conversion, though, hit the post.
At the end of the first quarter, Warriors defensive back Dan Dacey recovered a fumble when the Thrashers center snapped the ball against his leg to send it rolling downfield.
The Warriors looked as if they would fail to capitalise on the turnover until QB Max Ayoul connected with receiver Josh Hurford for a 32-yard gain down the left hand sideline on third down. But the attack stalled and the ball turned over when the Warriors again failed to convert on fourth down.
Solent would complete the first-half scoring with a field goal when moments earlier it looked as if advantage might finally swing to the Warriors. The Thrashers found themselves in fourth and 28 and a poor snap placed their punter under pressure.
But the on-rushing Warriors defender caught hold of the kicker’s facemask to give Solent an automatic first down when the Warriors could have taken possession inside the Solent half.
Tempers threatened to flare over among the Warriors defenders as they lost their discipline and their cool and penalties marched the visitors further down field.
Bowley took Solent to the Warriors one-yard line but the Thrashers had to settle for a short range Williams field goal and a 16-point advantage at half-time.
The Thrashers enjoyed an even better start to the second half when returner Andrew Kidd took the re-start all the way for a touchdown, even after seeming to pull a hamstring and limping for the last 20 yards. Williams added the extra point.
The Warriors would soon strike back, however, when the Thrashers were forced to punt from under the shadow of their own posts.
Nate Webb took the short kick back to the Thrashers’ 25-yard-line. It seemed the Warriors would fail to take advantage of the excellent field position when they found themselves in a third and eight. But receiver Rob Jones kept the drive alive with an impressive one-handed catch.
Jones, a doctor by trade, had just the tonic for his ailing team when he pulled a nine-yard Ayoul pass over his shoulder for their first touchdown since losing at Solent three games earlier.
The Warriors added the two-point conversion when Dr Jones made an even more impressive catch to hold on to the ball as he fell backwards.
The Warriors tried to keep their momentum going by attempting an onside kick but Solent recovered for their offense to start at the Warriors 40-yard-line.
A facemask penalty and a Sawyers bullet to Greenfield took Solent to the one-yard-line from where the QB sneaked over for his side’s fourth touchdown to open the fourth quarter. The Warriors stopped Solent running in for the extra two.
Scott Samuel replaced Sawyers under center when Solent switched to the three running back wishbone formation. But they over-complicated matters in the backfield and fumbled which was recovered by South Wales’ Australian line backer Dai Lewis.
Ayoul showed his talent, connecting with receivers Jones and Warren Coombes for first downs as well as sprinting for one himself before throwing for a 30-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline to Josh Hurford.
The receiver showed great concentration when he took two attempts to catch a Ayoul bullet to complete the two-point conversion and bring the score to 16-29 with just under nine minutes to play.
The Warriors again attempted an onside kick and the home team were questioning the officials who ordered a re-kick when it appeared the hosts had recovered the ball.
Undeterred, the Warriors again attempted the short kick but Solent recovered. With a shortened field it didn’t take long for Sawyers to add a fifth touchdown.
He hit Greenfield with a 20-yard pass but the Thrashers failed to add the extra two to leave the score at 16-35.
A Jervace Ramsay Linton interception killed off any remaining threat from the Warriors and on the ensuing drive running back Tom Davies took over.
Davies carried his team downfield and capped the drive with a five-yard TD run. The only thing Davies couldn’t do was run in the extra two and the game finished 16-41.
Solent head coach Steve Rains paid tribute to the Warriors who were the first to fall to the Thrashers this season after they’d lost their opening two fixtures.
“The Warriors are a tough team and a hard bunch of lads. I think their record doesn’t reflect their value as a team,” said Rains.
“Having said that my guys really applied themselves and have done a great job of turning around an 0 and two start to finish six and four and in the play-offs.”
Warriors offensive coordinator Dean Jackson said: “I think we played better than the score suggests but we failed to finish chances in the first half. We got better as the game went on but we were chasing it.”
Warriors wide receiver Zac Taylor, who required treatment during the third quarter for a suspected head injury, was taken to hospital by ambulance as a precaution but was discharged shortly afterwards.
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