Varsity Bowl XI began with a Pythons possession after fielding the Lancers’ kick off. The Lancers’ defense did a fantastic job; setting the tone for the rest of the day by forcing the Pythons to punt after a 3 and out. However, the punt was called back after a penalty, giving the Pythons another chance which they converted with a pass on 4th down to extend the drive. A few plays later however, it looked like the defense may have halted the drive once more; forcing a fumble, which they were unfortunate not to recover. The play did result in a significant loss of yardage which helped the Lancers defense to force another punt; this time fielded without any flags.
The Lancers offense then hit the field, having a bit of a shaky start after a stuffed run on first down and a pressured Will Szymanski having to get rid of the ball before the play could develop on 2nd. On 3rd and long, the Lancers opted to pass, with Szymanski finding his receiver who unfortunately came up slightly short of the sticks, meaning the Lancers had to punt.
After what looked like a promising start to a Cambridge drive, a number of penalties set them back and meant that they once again had to punt, pinning the Lancers within their own 10 yard line. In this tight situation, the Lancers looked to pass downfield, which resulted in Szymanski throwing his first interception on the day and was returned by the Cambridge cornerback to the the Lancers’ 5 yard line. With the Lancers’ defense backed up, the Pythons managed to punch in a touchdown run 3 plays later, opening the scoring on the day. Electing to kick the PAT, the Lancers’ blocked the kick, leaving the score at 6-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter then began with a Lancers’ possession, and a number of punishing runs from Jonny ‘Preist’ Brooks, who ran with purpose and aggression behind an O-line creating gaps for him, even at the second level. However, Cambridge adjusted, forcing the Lancers’ to air it out; Joe Barker caught a long pass in double coverage on a slightly under thrown ball, to take the offense within the 10 yard line. 3 plays later, Brooks then ran in the Lancers’ first score on a power play, breaking a tackle to take the ball into the end zone. The Lancers elected to go for 2, unfortunately resulting in an interception, leaving the ball game tied at 6-6.
After kickoff and a couple of big runs, the Lancers’ defense held strong, forcing a turnover on downs around midfield, giving the offense good field position. Hoping to capitalise on this and turn momentum, the Lancers looked to run the ball, with Connor Thompson doing a good job of making defenders miss at the second level. Unfortunately, just one play later quarterback Will Szymanski found himself under pressure. Looking to scramble and hit his receiver downfield, he threw another interception as the ball bounced off his receiver's hands.
Another Pythons drive and another turnover on downs, the Lancers’ offense shortly found themselves back on the field, with their defense to thank for keeping them in the contest. After a promising drive, the clock expired for half time; the score 6-6.
With the Lancers receiving the kick off to start the second half, they looked to make a statement by returning to the ground game. After what looked like a couple of promising runs, the Lancers’ offensive line was unfortunately penalised a number of times, resulting in a Lancers’ punt on 4th down - not the start they had hoped for. However, the defense once again held strong, forcing another 3 and out despite the Pythons having good starting field position.
Another drive and another attempt to set the tone through the ground game - this time with linebacker Matt Williamson - the Lancers’ were once again forced to punt after just a few plays. This time however, the Lancers’ defense began to bend, with Cambridge driving all the way to the Lancers’ 10 yard line and eventually scoring a touchdown through the air. The Pythons then went for 2; their quarterback dubiously converting on a run after he fumbled at the goal line. The Lancers were now in a hole with less than a quarter to go; the scoreline 14-6 to the Pythons.
The next possession, the Lancers’ once again stalled on offense, and things began to look like they were going Cambridge’s way. However, with the Lancers’ defense forcing another punt, the offence was given what appeared to be one more shot to tie the game up and take it to overtime. Unfortunately for the Lancers, this was not to be, as the offense were forced to punt once more, leaving the Pythons with possession and only a few minutes left on the clock. However, the Lancers’ defense were fearless; swarming to the ball and turning the ball over through a fumble recovery. This now really was the final chance for the offense to redeem themselves and take the game to overtime. This pressure seemed to hit home, with the offense moving the ball after number of successful runs by Connor Thompson, bringing them within the 20 yard line. This drive was then capped off by a superb 20 yard TD run by Thompson, and the sideline went wild. Now all the Lancers needed was the 2 point conversion and things would be tied at 14 points each. Coach Adam Goldstein then opted for the bold move of throwing to convert, and receiver Chris ‘Megatron’ Nowek rewarded him for his confidence by hauling in the ball in the end zone. The game now tied at 14-14, the Lancers simply needed to stop the Pythons to take the game to OT. Of course the defense once again did their job, forcing a punt and giving the Lancers’ a chance to score to win the game. After another short lived drive ending with a fumble, the Cambridge offense took the field once more, again being shut out by the Lancers’ D to give the offense a chance at a Hail Mary to win the game. Unfortunately Lancers’ QB Will Szymanski was intercepted once more, and the clock expired to take the game to OT.
With the Pythons winning the toss, they started with the ball on the 25 yard line. Unfortunately, the Lancers’ defense began to show signs of tiredness, and after a number of powerful runs the Pythons scored on a TD pass to their wideout. The Lancers offense was equally worn down, failing to move the ball. Just a few plays later, Szymanski threw an interception after a last resort haul into double coverage in the end zone. The pass was intended for Joe Barker, who had caught a similar ball earlier. The Lancers’ defense now had to keep Cambridge out the end zone to stay in the game. After an agonising 5 plays - all runs, the Lancers conceded to the Pythons after Cambridge’s quarterback punched the ball in from the 3 yard line. A brutal finish to a great game, the Lancers were exhausted both physically and emotionally.
Congratulations to the Cambridge Pythons for their close fought win in Varsity Bowl XI, the final score 20-14.