OXFORD LANCERS 26-0 bristol barracudas
Legendary American football coach Knute Rockne once mused that ‘Football is a game played with arms, legs and shoulders, but mostly from the neck up’. The Oxford Lancers proved this adage true on Sunday, as brainy and brawny players alike collided on Wheatley field during the first matchup of Hilary term.
Coming off an unfortunate loss against Southampton in November, the Lancers managed to get back on track against Bristol this week. The game originally had all the earmarks of a classic grudgefest, with neither the Lancers nor the Barracudas putting points on the board for the majority of the first two quarters. The tide finally turned with less than two minutes to go in the half, as seasoned Quarterback Will Syzmanski characteristically skipped into the endzone to give Oxford their first touchdown.
Bolstered by the lead, the Lancers decidedly dominated the second half. Key contributors came in the form of five new players, four of whom are visiting students fresh from the United States. University of Georgia student Tyler Metcalfe grabbed an impressive 20 yard catch from Szymanski in the third quarter, while fellow UGA Bulldog William Morris held his own in his first start at Center. Not wishing to be outdone by their fellow Americans, Austin Broth snagged an interception, while Aidan Salamone of Stanford University garnered four tackles (and two tackles for a loss) earning him the coveted Defensive MVP award after the game.
The second touchdown of the day came when rookie Wide Receiver Zak Carroll found his way into the endzone after a 25 yard pass from Szymanski. Though the ego of the Lancer’s long-time QB needs no coddling, it must be said that the impressiveness of his throws rose incrementally as the afternoon wore on. After his third touchdown, a 30 yard pass to Wide Receiver Jamie Fowler, Szymanski punched in the PAT and put the Lancers up 20-0, effectively extinguishing any remaining ray of hope for the exhausted Bristol team.
Perhaps some of the most inspiring plays of the day came from 30 year old Harvard veteran Andrew Badger, who played with a tenacity befitting of his last name. In the fourth quarter, Badger made a jaw-dropping over-the-head catch from Szymanski, who had launched a dangerously wobbly yet sufficiently-aimed 40 yard bomb towards the Lancer sideline. The play proved to be the final nail in the coffin-corner for the weary Barracuda defence.
While the second half performance of Szymanski and his receiving corps was superb, some of the team’s most impressive contributions came from the chronically under-appreciated offensive line, which gave Szymanski enough time to launch all those bombs downfield. Richard Heit, Rob Main, Guanze ‘Glen’ He, and Chris Mathew all had strong performances, lending weight to ‘Human Joystick’ Dante Hall’s observation that it’s the linemen who ultimately control the game.
The Lancers defence, meanwhile, looked as formidable as ever. ‘Hammer’ award winner Rory Smith and the ever-versatile Rob Main helped hold down the D-line for the men in blue, earning a total of 7 and a half tackles and a sack between them. The secondary also put on an impressive show, as veteran defensive backs Josh Allen (4.5 tackles), Tom Mattinson (2 tackles), and Yune Kwon (2 tackles) ensured that no maroon jerseys found their way into the endzone.
Interestingly, watching all of this unfold from the Cuda sideline (with what were surely mixed feelings) was Ben Lacey, Oxford’s beloved former Offensive Line coach, who brought his talents to Bristol this season. Also observing the match was his dog Coco, the Lancer’s adorable former mascot. Now that the game is over, the team can go on wishing Coach Ben and Coco all the best in their new gig.
All in all, Head Coach Adam Goldstein has much to be proud of as his Lancers prepare to take on their arch rivals, the Oxford Brookes Panthers, in the annual Cavalier Cup this Sunday. Given the unfortunate Super Bowl lineup this year, it’s safe to assume that the Cup will make for better watching, especially if Oxford continues to bring its A-game.