Lancers end their fantastic 2014/2015 season with a trip to Essex, and a 33-12 victory!
Several graduating Lancer players, who had previously left the club earlier in the season for academic reasons, made one last hoorah and decided to kit up one more time. This allowed the Lancers to field a record 25 players, all be it with a few of them being rusty.
While the Lancers were riding high after their defeat over divisional favourites, UEA Pirates the week before, they were not taking this game lightly. A potential second spot was up for grabs, and the Essex Blades took the Cambridge Pythons (eventual title winners) to double over time the week before.
The game did not begin at the scheduled time and after 20 minutes had passed, the Lancers were told that the official referees were not going to make it. Initially it was decided that because Essex (as the home team) could not field referees, they had to forfeit the game which would grant he Lancers a 0-1 victory.
Thankfully the Lancers had with them two level 1 BAFCA coaches, the Blades themselves had one too. This meant the game could technically still be played and be officiated by the coaching staff.
Lancer President and free safety Tom Fox, who due to an injury had not played since the Lancers were defeated by Cambridge in December, had to make a decision.
He could take the 0-1 win (and then conduct a scrimmage/ joint training session with Essex) or accept to play the game and run the risk of losing, or winning but potentially give up vital defensive points.
In this league when teams are tied and the head to head records are even, the next tie break is points relinquished. So rather ironically a 0-1 victory is better than the eventual 12-33 win. Tom and his teammates wanted to play for real and did not want to walk away with a gifted win.
So two Lancer coaches, Adam Goldstein and Ben Lacey, joined an Essex coach and the match kicked off with a constantly rolling game clock.
Essex shock the Lancers Defense
The Lancers kicked off and the Blades opted to run the ball on their first play. The Lancers were concerned about Essex attempting a pitch play, that they left the middle wide open. On their second play, the Essex runningback sliced through the Lancer line and out ran the secondary for a 60 yard running touchdown. The point after was no good and the home team were 6 points up very quickly. It was as if the Lancers still thought this was going to be a scrimmage instead of an official game.
On the kick-off, Essex went with a squib kick but the Lancers recovered the ball in Essex territory.
Facing 3rd and long, Lancer Quarterback Will Szymanski got away from two rushers and fired the ball to receiver Adam Wong for a crucial 7 yard gain and a first down. The pass was contentious as it looked like the ball may have hit the ground during the catch, yet it was the Essex coaches’ call as it was on his sideline.
Despite his own players waving that the catch was incomplete, the Essex coach signalled that it was a completion and awarded Oxford the first down. This 9 play 31 yard drive was exactly what the Lancers needed and Will Szymanski punched the ball into the endzone with a three yard QB run. He then kicked the extra point himself, making it 6-7 to the Lancers.
Fumbling leads to nothing
Although it was a windy day there was no rain, both teams started to fumble the ball. First Essex fumbled from their kick return, but the Lancers could not do much with the short field and gave the ball back while going for it on 4th down. Essex then went three and out before Will Szymanskifumbled on another QB run. Essex could not capitalise either and they had to punt quickly.
Oxford Head Coach Andy McKenzie was aware that for at least eight of his players, this was their last time kitting up and he wanted to make sure everyone got plenty of playing time. This meant thatJonny Priest Brooks, one of the Lancers’ crucial Ironmen for the season, was mainly playing on defense.
However Oxford were starting their next drive from their own 20 and needed a bit of magic. On a sweep play Priest looked like he was going to get hammered in the back field by the Essex lineman. He made a swift spin move inside, cut away from a linebacker and just like the Essex running back before him, he out raced the secondary for a glorious touchdown. The pat was no good and the score was 6-13.
With Essex back in possession, a couple of Lancer players who had taken time away from football made three encroachments fouls in four plays giving up yards, followed by a Essex pass for 15 over the middle. But all of Essex’s momentum was lost after they then fumbled the ball, and Priest was there to pounce.
With a series of runs and screen passes the Lancers put together another impressive drive: 10 plays and 40 yards. Although they did not convert on 4th down, they showed that they can move the chains and control the game on offense.
The near perfect drive to start the 2nd half
With the Lancers receiving the ball to begin the 2nd half, they put together an immense drive that practically took up the whole 3rd quarter. The Lancers rotated three runningbacks and notched up 70 yards over 13 plays, converting twice on 4th down. However at the 2 yard line, Szymanski was intercepted in the endzone and Essex cornerback was tackled at the 2 yard line as he tried to win back some field position.
This was Essex’s opportunity to get back into this game but they fumbled at the line of scrimmage. Oxford’s Scott Tan was there to pick up the loose ball and bring the Lancer offense back onto the field.
Ben “Viking” Gronvold, who was enjoying his transition from receiver to Runningback, scored from two yards out for a rushing touchdown. The point after attempt was no good and the Lancers were 6-20 up.
Following the kick-off, Essex started their drive on the 15 yard line. They attempted a pitch play and another fumble added to their woes. The ball bobbled 15 yards into the end zone and Priest was there once more. He dived on the ball for another Lancer touchdown. The point after attempt was no good and it was now looking like a one sided affair at 6-26 to Oxford.
During the 4th quarter following a huge sack, Essex were forced to punt the ball back to Oxford. After a few plays their luck changed and Essex intercepted a pass from a screen play and returned it all the way for a touchdown giving their home crowd a big lift. The two point conversion attempt was thwarted and the score stood at 12-26 to Oxford. Essex however were back in the game and went for an onside kick attempt as they hoped to maintain possession of the ball. Thoughts of a Essex comeback were short lived, as the Lancers received the ball following the failed onside kick attempt.
Oxford’s Hendrick Schopmans changed his jersey number and lined up at Tight end. The huge German, who had played the position in his home country, had been asked to play on the offensive and defensive line all season long. His hands were a little rusty and failed to haul in any of the passes that were thrown his way.
After some tough running from Gronvold and Szymanski, the Lancers were at the 15 yard line. The Essex players then made a bad read in the secondary leaving Hendrick Schopmans wide open. He dived to the floor to scoop up a low pass for the touchdown. In his excitement he spiked the ball ‘Gronk style’ and was given a fifteen yard penalty for un-sportsman like conduct, but his touchdown remained.
With Symanski adding the point after it was now 12-33 to Oxford.
In their final two drives, Essex went to the air and attempted pass after pass which resulted in four sacks for the Lancers, two from rookieBelal El-Halfawy in his first game.
The game capped off what was an excellent 5-2 season for the Lancers. The game MVPs have not yet been decided as the coaches need further time to analyse the film.
Around the division
Cambridge beat Kent to take the division with a 6-1 title winners.
Oxford Brookes were beaten by UEA leaving Oxford Lancers, UEA and Kent all on a 5-2 record. It was a three way tie for second place because UEA had beaten Kent, Kent beat Oxford and Oxford beat UEA. So it came down to points allowed.
Kent finished second with 40 points allowed, followed by the Lancers with 47 and the Pirates came 4th. So overall the 0-1 forefeit win offered to the Lancers before the game took place would have gave them 2nd place, but the team would rather finish third and know this was a real win.
Oxford Brookes finished fifth with a 4-3 record. They were the only team in the division to have beaten Cambridge, the eventual division winner.