Oxford Lancers vs Brighton Panthers Match Report, 20/2/22
Oxford Lancers 20-6 Brighton Panthers
Falmer Sports Complex
One week after the Lancers’ statement win against Oxford Brookes, the 5-0 Oxford team traveled to Brighton to take on the 4-0-1 Brighton Panthers. The stakes for the game couldn’t be higher, with the winner taking the Division 2 South title, and guaranteeing promotion into Division 1 the following season. Having been demoted the previous year, the Panthers were hungry to return to where they felt they belonged, whereas the Lancers hoped to move up from Division 2 for the first time since 2016-17, and cap off their exceptional season with promotion, their ultimate preseason goal.
From the outset, the intensity was clear. It was apparent that the well coached Brighton side was prepared for the Lancers’ ground attack, and they were able to shut down both David Ojeabulu and Nolan Whitcomb effectively, forcing a quick three and out. The Lancers defense responded in a similarly stout manner. Gideon Blankstone was all over the field, bringing down the Panthers’ running backs, along with the rest of the Lancers defense. Following an incompletion on 3rd down, the Panthers punted it back to the Lancers.
On the ensuing Lancers’ drive, Joel Chesters was able to make use of his mobility, picking up first downs through both scrambling and linking up with the ever-reliable Tal Jeffrey. Unfortunately, the drive eventually stalled at mid-field, and the Lancers were once again forced to punt, with the game remaining 0-0.
The scoring finally opened on the Panthers’ second possession. On the 4th play of the drive, their running back broke away for a 65 yard touchdown run around the outside, following some exceptional blocking by the Panthers O-Line and receivers. The 2 point conversion was unsuccessful, making the score 6-0 Panthers.
The Lancers were now in an unfamiliar position, having rarely trailed over the course of the season. Furthermore, the Panthers’ run defense continued to hold strong, and with extreme winds present, passing was an impossibility. The Lancers’ were held scoreless once again on their third possession, and punted away. However, the Lancers were able to get the spark they needed through an athletic interception by defensive end Drew Robertson, who then returned the ball down to the goal line.
This gave life to the Lancers offense, as they were able to punch the ball in a few plays later on a Nolan Whitcomb run. The two point conversion succeeded, and the score was now 8-6 Lancers.
From here on out, it was a defensive masterclass by the Lancers. Wesley Cline, Tom Ricketts and Owen Morris were consistently in the backfield taking down the running back, with Liam Paton, George Newick and Miles Keat shutting down everything through the air. On the offensive side of the ball, Oxford leaned on their ground game. With significant injuries to their offensive line, they were still able to make significant headway with massive plays by David Ojeabulu, paired with hard nosed running between the tackles from Nolan Whitcomb. David Ojeabulu was able to cross the plane and score at the end of the first half; the score going into halftime was 14-6 Lancers.
The 2nd half saw much of the same. Brighton made a change at quarterback, opting for a more scrambling approach at the position, but he was largely kept in check by Robertson and Cline. The interior pressure from Stewart Humble, Alex Fogassy, William Wells and Keanan Fortuin continued to stymie both the run and pass game. As such, Brighton was unable to put any points on the board. And when Brighton did indeed string a drive together into Lancer territory, they ultimately turned the ball over on downs after a clutch tackle by Gideon Blankstone.
The Lancers’ offense also operated in a similar vein. They continued to stay on the ground with Whitcomb and Ojeabulu. Wesley Cline also made his debut at running back with some strong running, which was able to keep the chains moving. It should also be noted that when Humble went down with an injury, another devastating blow to the already depleted line, Wesley Cline stepped up and filled in at center.
The Lancers were ultimately able to put the game away with a final drive at the end of the 4th quarter, continuing to pound the rock, picking up 5 yards each time at will. The impressive drive was capped off with a Nolan Whitcomb touchdown run. The extra point was missed, making the score 20-6, where it remained when the final whistle blew. It was a resounding victory, and one which was celebrated by the Lancers in great fashion.
By defeating the Panthers, the Lancers were able to secure the conference title and promotion to Division 1 in the following season. Additionally, they were able to grab the 1 seed in the impending Division Southern Cup playoffs, a truly monumental feat for the Oxford squad.
Pass - 4/10, 18 yards, INT
Run - 39 rushes for 195 yards, 3 TDs
MVP - Nolan Whitcomb
Run - 17 rushes for 81 yards, 2 TDs
OMVP - David Ojeabulu
17 rushes for 84 yards, TD
DMVP - Drew Robertson
5 tackles, 1 sack, 1.5 TFL, 1 INT
STMVP - Ollie Williams
1 2-point conversion
Hammer - Michael-Akolade Ayodeji
Juice - Drew Robertson
(for his self-tipped interception)