OXFORD LANCERS 12-14 Oxford Brookes
Cavalier Cup VIII
The eighth Cavalier Cup was played in the historic Oxford Blues Rugby stadium to a loud audience of 300.
The Lancers went into this game with a series lead of 4-3. In 18/19 the Lancers destroyed the Panthers 48-0 and now the Oxford Brookes team were hungry to make amends. The Panthers brought a very large squad to the event (as well as their cheerleading team for the half time show) while the Lancers fielded a team mainly of rookies.
Special teams working early
The Lancers received the kick off and veteran receiver Arb Xhameni returned the ball for 51 yards to the Panther's 35 yard line. Despite a great starting position the Lancers could not do much. The Panther's defensive line duo smothered running back, Connor Thompson in the backfield for a loss. He was able to make twelve yards on the ground the following play, before two short passes to Dom Reedy and then another stuffed run sadly forced a turn over on downs.
The Panthers responded by testing the Lancer's secondary. The long pass however was over thrown and before the Panthers made 16 yards on the ground over two plays. Then stepped up rookie defensive end, Antoine Longeville, who made a sack for a 8 yard loss before rookie safety Cristobal Gomez made a tackle for a 4 yard loss which forced the home team to a punt. The Panthers punter struck the ball cleanly (as he did all game long) forcing the Lancers to start from their own 10- a rather large swing in momentum.
The Lancers put together a string of seven runs, using four different runners, chipping away with short gains, but sadly they turned the ball over on downs at the half way. The Panthers retorted with their run game. A 15 yard run was stopped by rookie cornerback George Newick, which moved the chains for the Panthers, but they smelt blood and then they did the exact same play to the other side but this time their running back ran it in for a 30 yard Touchdown. The Panthers tacked on the extra point making it 7-0 to the Panthers.
On the ensuing kick return, the elusive Arb, weaved past defenders once more, this time for a 25 yard return. Though after a sack for a loss of fifteen yards the Lancers punted away to just inside the Panthers half. The Lancers D stood strong giving up 13 yards before veteran lineman, Rob Main made a tackle for a 2 yard loss, then Leon Hughes forced a huge tackle for a loss of 11 and the Panthers subsequently punted, but once again the Lancers ended up in their own back yard.
Incomplete or Fumble? Two lucky plays
Working from their own fifteen yard line, it was soon second and 11 for the Lancer. Rookie Quarterback, Nolan Whitcomb stayed in the pocket ready to the throw the ball, his arm was cocked- ready to release and as he moved his arm forward to pass, a Panthers defender knocked the ball out. The ball went forward, hit a panthers defender, and the ball bounced back towards the Lancer's endzone. The Panther's defender and subsequently landed on the ball in the endzone and the referees bizarrely whistled it a defensive Touchdown… but was it? It really should have been called an incomplete pass. The Panthers converted the Pat and the score became 14-0. The Lancers were going to need to make a mighty comeback.
On the very next play the Panthers chose to “squib” the ball so it would not land in Arb’s hands. The ball quickly went twenty yards and then hit a Lancer’s shin before bouncing back into the hands of a Panther for an (accidental) onside kick. That was now two huge plays that the Lancers unfortunately lost out on.
From the onside kick, the Panthers got the ball to the Lancers 25 yard line on the ground. On fourth and twelve they “went for it” and they fired a strike into the end zone, but the ball did not connect and the Lancers had the ball back via a turn over on downs.
The Lancers run game was proving difficult and they had to try and make big plays. Sadly two incompletions were thrown and the Lancers set up for a punt on fourth and seven.
Veteran wide receiver, Andy Badger set up to punt, but he rolled out and zipped a fast ball to Connor Thompson on a fake punt, who picked up twenty two yards. That was the kind of boost the Lancers needed. A couple of short runs later and a Panthers penalty saw the Lancers at the Panther’s 15 yard line. With the defense poised for a run attack, Nolan had other ideas and saw Andy Badger open across the middle. He fired in a laser for a 15 yard Touchdown. Sadly Connor Thompson hit the upright on the Pat taking the game to 14-6. Yet the comeback certainly felt on after that 65 yard, 12 play drive.
The Panthers had one more drive before the half with just minutes left on the clock. The Panthers gashed the Lancers for a 45 yard run and then a 26 yard run getting them into the red zone with just a few plays left before the half time whistle. Rob Main made a huge tackle for a loss and the referees called for half time to the Lancer’s relief.
The Half time speech and defensive turn around
Head Coach, Ian Hiscock gave an emphatic half time speech, and made adjustments to the defensive scheme to stop the powerful Panther’s run game. The problem was that the Panther's were going to get the ball after the break.
Connor Thompson struck the ball well for the kickoff, the Panther’s returner was hit hard by Tal Jeffrey who forced a fumble giving wide receiver, Dom Reedy, the opportunity to jump onto the loose ball. It was a huge moment- giving the Lancers the ball back with a short field straight after the break. This was exactly what the Lancers needed, but could they make the opportunity count?
Offensive co-ordinator, Patrick McAleer dialed in another pass. Nolan Whitcomb, dropped back and sent up a beautiful pass to Arb who made a great catch and run into the end zone for a 32 yard Touchdown strike. Down by two the Lancers were forced to go for a two point conversion, sadly this time the defenders covered Arb well who sadly could not hold onto the ball, making it a 14-12 game.
The Lancers defense then really showed up, stuffing the Panther’s run game forcing them to punt. The Lancers made a first down but they then punted back. The Lancers defense then made two sacks and a tackle for a loss making giving the Panthers a fourth and 37! They punted it away but the Lancers were still unable to get the ball moving in the air and this time the fake punt did not work. The Panthers were winning the “punt” battle as the home team kept starting around the halfway while the Lancers kept starting in their own red zone.
A long drive ensued for OBU who twice ran it in for long Touchdowns, though both were called back for offensive penalties forcing them to punt, but this did drain the clock significantly. The Lancers saw a three and out before a lifeline.
Fourth quarter lifeline
After a poor punt from the Lancers, the Panthers had the ball on Lancer’s twenty yard line. However rookie defensive lineman, James Sutton forced a fumble and got on the ball causing a lifeline for the Lancers. A scoring drive was needed.
The Lancers knew it was going to be a long drive and it would take up a lot of time, because the Panthers defense were very good at stopping big plays. The hope was to score with very little time left on the clock. A ten play drive saw multiple runs for Connor Thompson who was getting gang tackled play after play but was still making yards. Arb moved the chains on an outside run, and other than one incomplete pass every play in this bruising drive had positive yards. The Panthers big defensive line finally looked tired especially once the Lancers got to their 15 yard line. Things were looking goof on third and seven, when Nolan ran it outside an managed to make the seven yards for a first down but the Panther’s were aggressive in the tackle and sadly Nolan fumbled the ball for a turnover.
With under two minutes to play, the Panthers needed a first down or two to pretty much secure the game. Their one and only connected pass made 14 yards before they got another couple of run plays in to make another first down before and then kneeled it out for the victory.
It was a heart wrenching game for the Lancers who actually had more offensive yards than the Panthers, but sadly the conversions made the difference, and the boot of the Panther’s punter who consistently gave the Lancers a long field to work with. The Lancers can be proud to nearly win after being 14-0 down. The Lancers defense was particularly impressive in the second half.
The Lancers played their best game all season against a really tough and physical opponent. This strength in character will no doubt inspire them for the rest of the season.
51 Plays. 191 yds. 2 Pass Tds. 2 penalties
30 runs: 138 yds. 1 fumble
7 of 17 passes: 80 yds. 2 Tds
4 Sacks: Minus 27 yds. 1 fumble.
Connor: 21 runs. 96 yds. 2 receptions 17 yds.
Arb: 2 Kick returns. 75 yds. 2 runs 13 yds. 2 receptions 49 yds. 1 rec Td
Nolan: 5 runs. 27 yds. 6 of 15 passes. 63 yds. 2 pass Tds.
David: 2 runs. 2 yds.
Dom: 2 receptions. Minus 1 yd
Andy : 1 for 2 passes. 22 yds. 1 reception 15yd. 1 rec Td.
Rob Main: Two tackles for loss, 1 tackle, 1 sack
Antoine Longeville: 1 Tackle for loss. 3 sacks.
Leon: 2 tackles. 1 tackle for loss
36 plays. 147 yds. 1 Td offense. 1 Td defense. Two Pats. 11 penalties
25 runs: 147 yds. 1 Td. 1 fumble
1 of 9 passes. 14 yds.
2 sacks: Minus 18 yds.
Game MVP: Arb Xhameni
O MVP: Nolan Whitcomb
D MVP: Antoine Longeville
ST MVP: Dom Reedy
Hammer: Rory Smith
Juice: Andy Badger - fake punt