The Oxford Lancers hosted the Cambridge Pythons for Varsity Bowl XII on May fourth, also known as Star Wars Day, under the Friday night lights at the wonderful Tilsley Park Stadium and the Lancers stepped up to the occasion and brought the force!
The Cambridge Pythons played in the division above the Lancers all season, yet despite not tasting victory all season, Cambridge came to Oxford ready to play and the Lancers prepared hard all term to not underestimate this team. Conversely the Lancers went into this game with a 3-3 record yet played opponents from division 2, not division 1, which makes for an intriguing encounter.
Two key players for the Lancers were unable to play, Right Guard Chris Matthew and Middle Linebacker, Aidan Salomone, yet the annual Varsity inspires players to come and play. Alon Witzum and Blake Lewis, players on the Lancers team the season before have both been abroad this season, yet re-arranged their schedules to kit up against the old enemy. Alon slotted back in at right guard and Blake was going to be our special team demon. James Jackson also joined the team at this late stage, and his experience having played before meant he was our new much needed utility player in the trenches.
The Lancers exec did a great job of hosting the game in front of a crowd of near 200 and orchestrating a live feed and commentary of the game, all of this took hours of planning on top of an intense three weeks of training.
Lancers won the coin toss and elected to receive the kick. The offense had been firing on all cylinders in training and they felt the fast 4G surface was a perfect surface for their speedier guys. Wide Receiver, Lucas Stolle received the kick to start the game and instantly made an impact with 21 return yards taking the Lancers to set up on their own 28 yard line.
On our first play from scrimmage, Lancers Qb, Will Szymanski, fired the perfect pass to Andrew Badger on a corner route who made a leaping catch for a 26 yard pick up. Instantly the Pythons defense knew we could air it out and had to respect our pass game. Three runs and one more pass later and running back Connor Thompson ran in from five yards to draw first blood. The 2 point conversion was no good, but the Lancers offense came off the field with confidence after their opening scoring drive which was made up of six plays covering 62 yards.
The Lancers defense began with the same intensity that their offense had started with. Their first run play resulted in a tackle for loss, as club President Josh Allen at defensive back swooped in with an open field tackle and five players later the Pythons punted the ball away. Lucas Stolle received the punt and returned it 12 yards. However this time the Lancers offense failed to connect in the air and punted the ball away, but the Lancers defense forced a punt themselves. The Cambridge drive was mainly killed off by linebacker and defensive captain, Harvey Appleby who recorded a sack for a loss of nine yards leaving threw Lancers to set up shop from around the half way line for their third drive.
The Lancers offense went back to the ground game for their first play, and opted with their much loved 24 Power. Rookie lineman, Rich Heit at Left Guard timed his pull to perfection, and set up a huge block for Connor who then broke three tacklers for a 46 yard rushing touchdown. Lewis Morgan was there with his trusty right boot to convert. 13-0 to the Lancers.
Cambridge needed to make something happen and they did strike in the air with a 16 yard pick up, but penalties and a sack from Linebacker Yune Kown (and the crowd chanted his name: Yuuuuune) meant another punt for Cambridge, but this one fell at the Lancers 9 yard line. The Pythons defense held strong on the next drive forcing the Lancers to punt from their own back yard.
With the Pythons gaining field position in the exchange of punts they had a short field , as they set up in Lancers territory at the 38 line. The Pythons made a quick strike to their wide receiver on post route resulting in a 38 yard passing touchdown. The 2 point conversion was unsuccessful and at 13-6 the game became very interesting.
Third Strike: Connor Thomspon came to ball
With Cambridge scoring, they started to bring the pendulum back their way. However the Lancers had to get a good drive and if they couldn’t score at least give the ball to Cambridge with a long field. A pass to Lucas Stolle, who athletically scooped the slightly low pass for a 16 yard gain gave the Lancers a much needed first down taking them to around the half way line. (The Tilsey field is 90 yards long) With the Pythons slightly worried about the Lancers athletic receivers they seemed to have forgotten about Connor Thompsons ability in the run game and the fact that the Lancers offensive line love nothing more than run blocking. Connor took the hand off, cut his way back inside and before long he was in the end zone for his third touchdown of the night, capping off a mazy 46 yard run, which had taken him to over 130 rushing yards, on the final play of the first quarter. The point after was no good, but the Lancers were looking good at 20-6.
Cambridge to the air
With Cambridge only really causing any damage in the air and by being behind by fourteen points they needed to make yards quickly. However the Lancers defense, under the co-ordination of Coach Ian Hiscock, adjusted his secondary expecting the pass. In this tinkered scheme it was Josh Allen from the free safety who leapt highest to pluck the ball for an interception (his third of the season).
With a short field of 30 yards the Lancers got the 9 yard line, and on 4th and 6, and with the Lancers defense playing so well, coach Adam decided to go for it instead of opting for the field goal. Despite a catch from Lucas stole, the ball was turned over on downs. With the Pythons backed up and under intense pressure from the defensive tackles, Rob Main, rookie Rory Smith and Oscar Rahnama the Pythons could only do quick fire passes all of which were off target and the Lancer received a punt taking them back to the Pythons 35 yard line once more.
This time the Lancers dialled up qb runs, and Szymanski showed off his moves in the run game, picking up fifteen yards of the drive. Lucas Stolle cauight the 6 yard laser from Szymanski on a play-action pass. Szymanski then rumbled into the endzone for the 2 point conversion. 28-6.
In just a matter of plays we saw a flurry of fumbles and interceptions.
On the ensuing kick off , Lancers defensive back duo of Joe Muse and Lewis Morgan caused all sorts of carnage. Muse was responsible for forcing the fumble from the Pythons kick returner while Lewis (who kicked the ball) came in and recovered the fumble. Yet just three plays later Szymanski made an unusal error and the Pythons picked him off, but the denfder only got as far as his own four yard line.
The Lancer defense came out hungry. Rob Main and James Jackson flocked to the Qb, who tried to avoid the sack by chucking the ball in front of him, the intentional grounding call meant it was a Safety for the Lancers and two more points 30-6.
The Lancers kick returner, Rory Meredith made some great yards , but sadly fumbled the ball, luckily for him the Pythons had gone off side and the kick was reset. Just a few plays later, the Pythons sacked Szymanski (their one sack of the night) due to a slight mix up in the back field, the ball popped out but fortunately Connor was there to land on the ball. With just minutes to go in the half this lead to the Lancers being forced to punt. The fake punt was called, yet Andrew Badger threw an interception, but the Pythons did not have much time and could get out of their own 20 before the half time whistle blew.
The Friday night lights came on, and the stadium looked awesome. The Lancers defense continued their ferocity up front stopping the run and the Lancers had the ball back quickly. On their second play, the Lancers attempted a tricky play. Szymanski handed the ball to Badger from the slot as a “reverse” , Badger, then planted his feet back across his body flinging the ball to a wide open Szymanski who was hurtling down the sideline…and who says Qbs wearing number 12 can’t catch? Szymanski skipped past defenders before brought down. The crowed were stunned, but it was all in vain as there was a line man downfield . Yet Szymanski brushed it off and went back to the huddle to orchestrate a 14 play drive. This time he rushed for a first down and more and broke into the end zone, but a holding call brought this play back too and Lewis Morgan went for a field goal from the 23 yard line. The kick had the distance but it went slightly wide left. Despite not scoring on this drive the 14 plays chewed out a lot of the clock and took the ball deep into Python territory.
The Pythons were tackled for a loss from Matt Williamson and James Jackson which set up another 3 and out. Rory Meredith was there to secure the punt, he danced past defenders for a 17 yard return. 7 Plays later the Lancer’s punt team was sent out. This time they faked it again, but Badger pitched the ball to Lewis Morgan who had to still make up 6 yards for the first. He made a Meredith like move and powered forward for the first down. The offense came quickly back on to continue with the drive over seven more plays. Rookie running back Cameron Clarke, picked up 17 yards on the ground before Szymanski secured the touchdown from one yard on a quick inside run. The point after was no good, taking us to 36-6 .
A sack from Rory Smith meant another three and out in the Lancers 12th drive of the night Connor picked up his fourth rushing touchdown and this time the point after from Lewis was good. 42-6
In the Pythons last drive they were forced to punt after five players giving the Lancers a rolling clock of two minutes to play just a few more plays.
Andrew Badger was steering the two minute offense at quarterback. He just misfired on the first play, but his second was peach to Jamie Fowler on the inside seam, who was wide open. Jamie galloped into the end zone for a 40 yard touchdown taking the final score to 48-6.
Awards and Stats
The Varsity bowl was presented to club captain, Josh Allen, while the MVP trophy was given to Connor Thompson, who racked up an impressive 180 yards on the ground and 4 TDs. Though this win was very much a team effort. The Lancers were a force in all three phases of the game and every Lancer got to see the field. This was very much the perfect send off for the 13 veteran players who are graduating this year.
36 rushes. 264 rushing yards. 5 rushing Tds. 1 rushing 2Pat
22 of 37 passes. 214 pass yards. 2 passing Tds, 2 Interceptions, 1 sack
22 rushes for negative 22 yds
7 of 25 passes. 73 yds. 1 Passing Td
Lancers Special Teams:
2 Pats. 3 returned punts for 49 yds. 3 returned kicks for 33 yds.
MVP: Connor Thompson
O MVP: Jamie Folwer
D MVP: Harvey Appleby
Hammer: Alon Witzum
ST: James Jackson
Juice: Lewis Morgan