OXFORD LANCERS 18-12 chichester spitfires
Having played just one game this season (a loss to Sussex Saxons) the Lancers travelled to Chichester for what was the start of a gruelling five game schedule back to back.
The aim was to secure the win and hopefully rotate bodies to keep everyone fresh for the Cavalier Cup game in just six days.
The Run game Vs the Pass game
With a delayed Kick off until 2:30pm (due to medics), the referees decided, (because of the diminishing light), to play just ten minute quarters. The rain started just after kick off and the field was already a muddy bog to begin with, which meant the game plan for the Lancers was run, run, run.
The Lancers won the toss and fielded the kick on the 90 yard rugby field. Arb Xhamëni got around 15 yards on the kick return to set us up at our own 23 yard line.
With reigning MVP, running back, Connor Thomson away on placement the rock was handed to rookie running back David Ojeabulu multiple times on the first drive. He used his stiff arm to consecutively move the chains, while rookie Qb, Nolan Whitcomb controlled things behind the line of scrimmage; Nolan ran the ball well and made a great pass for Arb who was tackled at the one yard line.
Apart from one false start, every play on this 14 play, 67 yard drive gained positive yards. The crucial play was Nolan’s nine yard run on a fourth down and 7 situation. Moments later Nolan punched in the Touchdown from one yard for his first ever Lancer Touchdown. Sadly the two PAT was not converted, but the Lancers had a perfect drive and practically ate most of the first quarter.
Despite the rain Chichester decided to stick to their game plan and pass, and it amazingly it worked, and they made three back to back passes through the air. Though rookie defensive backs; George Newick and Cristobal Gomez made some hard hitting tackles to stop them. Then a crucial sack on 3rd and long from defensive line veterans Rob Main and Chris Nowek saw a fourth and massive. The ensuing punt left the Lancers with good field position at around half way.
We can pass too
With Chichester set up to defend the run, a pass play was called. Nolan saw his receiver, rookie Dom Reedy, and zipped in a fast ball. Dom cut inside, then out and beat the safety for speed into the corner for a quick 47 yard Touchdown strike. The Pat was not converted but the Lancers were looking good at 0-12 up.
With our kicker away, we asked for kickers to step up, and it was starting right tackle, Stefan Collins, at 51 years old is our oldest ever player (and probably oldest in Uniball) put himself forward. Being from Scotland perhaps he has been inspired by Cleveland Brown’s punter, Jamie Gillan- AKA, the Scottish Hammer. Though despite his enthusiasm Stefan squibbed the ball down the middle, giving the home team a starting point from just inside their half.
Chichester stayed committed to the pass and made a 25 strike. The Lancers were called for a dubious penalty before Chichester picked up another first down in the air, getting them to within the Lancer’s 10 yard line. The Lancers tackled their running back for a short run and then a sack, but that was not enough as the home team struck a 7 yard Touchdown through the air on a corner route to their tall receiver. The conversion was no good making it 6-12 to the Lancers.
Lancer's rookie receiver, Kelly Apakama returned the kick for around fifteen yards, which had bobbled on the floor around the five, giving the Lancers some space to work with.
Time to Blitz
With Chichester worried about our run game, they started to blitz, and pretty much did not stop doing that for the rest of the game. At 3rd and long, Dom Reedy set up a lovely block for Nolan to run outside for fourteen yards to move the chains, but three plays later Stefan was out there again, this time with his punting boots on.
Goal line Stand
The Lancers defensive backs started to figure out the Chichester route concepts and began playing with more aggression, coupled with the fact the ball was getting heavy and wet, meant there was many as five incompletions in this drive. Sadly a strike of ten yards and then a 20 yarder through the air, got the home team to the Lancer’s five yard line, but the clock was nearing half time. An incomplete and a pass for negative two yards allowed for one last play before the half. This time the Chichester quarterback took a sack from the Lancer’s triple headed monster; Rob Main, Chris Nowek and Rory Smith all combining for what resulted in a great goal line stand, and the Lancers were up 6-12 at the half.
Second half-nothing but rain- fumblitis
Chichester had the ball from their own twenty to start the second half, but their first play was a fumbled snap which killed their drive, despite making two short completions straight after. After a weak punt, the Lancers had a great opportunity to go two scores up. Nolan and David churned out hard fought yards, but sadly, David fumbled at the Saxon's ten after making what would have been a first down.
The Saxons then had a fumbled snap, and a tackle for loss which saw the home team with a 3rd and very long. They surprisingly ran the ball, and although they got twelve yards it wasn’t enough and they punted. The punt was yet another fumbled snap and the Lancers d line pounced giving the away team a very short field.
Sadly the Lancers had a penalty that took them back fifteen yards and in the end they turned it over on downs. However on the very next play the Lancers had the ball back, courtesy of another poor snap, but this Saxons Qb was unable to recover it and veteran defensive tackle, Rory Smith jumped on the ball. This would be the third short field in a row and the Lancers had to seize this opportunity.
On the first play of the drive, Nolan tucked the ball, got a great lead block from David, and dived for the corner for the score. Again the conversion was no good, but the Lancers were now 6-18 up.
Then came a thing of beauty…or was it luck? Stefan Collins lined up for the Kick off, yet the ball bizarrely came out at a perfect 45 degree angle , and it went just far enough before a Lancer got on the ball for a surprising successful, and rather accidental on side kick. Or was it accidental Stefan? Either way, the momentum was with the Lancers
The Lancers could not do much in the rain, and so it was a quick three and out as we headed into the 4th quarter.
4th Quarter: Tight finish
On their next drive, Chichester had a nice scramble and then went back to the air, and it worked. A short five yard pass, became a 25 yard Touchdown pass. The conversion was no good, and at 12-18 it was time for Oxford to control the clock
With Chichester sending seven defenders on every play (despite leaving receivers uncovered), the Lancers could not do much, and they went for it on 4th and 4 but came up a yard or two short, giving the ball back at around the half way line.
After getting a nice gain for 7 yards in the air, the next two plays for the Saxons were incomplete. Then rookie d lineman for the Lancers, James Tufnell made a great play at end, forcing the fumble. The Saxons Qb recovered the ball but the sack took them back around 12 yards, which then resulted in a turn over on downs.
Chichester had all three of their time outs, and the Lancers pretty much just needed a first down or two kneel it out. In just seconds it was fourth and four again, and once again the Lancers were just short. giving the home team one last shot.
The last twenty seconds took forever and credit to Chichester they played clever football, but in the end the last play, a pass for seven yards was smothered, and the Lancers got their first victory of the season.
47 plays. 137 yards. 2 Tds. I fumble
15 of 29 passes. 142 yds 2 TD.
12 runs. 29 yds 1 fumble
6 sacks negative 34 yds.
41 plays. 197 yds . 2 rush tds. 1 pass Td. 1 fumble
Nolan: 5 of 6. 1 Td 72 yds.
Dom: 2 catches: 55 yds. 1 Td
David: 2 catches: 11 yards
Arb : 1 catch. 6 yards
34 runs. 2 Tds. 129 yards. 1 fumble
Arb: 2 carries. 3 yards
Nolan: 15 carries: 63 yds. 2 Tds
David: 9 carries. 52 yads 1 fumble
Amari: 8 carries. 11 yads
1 sack. negative 4 yds.
MVP: Nolan Whitcomb
OMVP: David Ojeabulu
DMVP: Rob Main
ST: Arb Xhamëni
Hammer: Chris Nowek
Juice: Stefan Collins- Onside kick