For the second match at their new home field, University of Hertfordshire De Havilland Campus, the Watford Cheetahs welcomed a fellow club of historical standing in the annals of BritBall, the Ipswich Cardinals, with both clubs originating back in the heyday of the sport the 1980’s.
If the Cardinals thought coming back to the National Division, from their rough ride in the Premiership, would be a breeze they were given a rude wake up call from the opening Offensive play. As veteran WR Frank Mayo took a short screen pass, and with escort blocks from TE Julien Lorelii, and WR Richard Fleming, he took the ball 45 yards. Three plays later WR TJ Ajayi added another 20 yards and set the Cheetahs up on the Cardinals goal line. A short lived but spirited goal line stand was soon overwhelmed when QB Martin Brown, found fellow QB Danny Hounslow uncovered over the middle for the TD. The Extra Point was pushed wide to open the scoring at 6-0.
The Cardinals would start deep in their own half when their KR fielded the kick off whilst kneeling down, and with this the Cheetahs Defence set to work disrupting the Cardinals running game. The opening play, an off tackle run to the right, was disrupted by LB Dan Howard, SS Connor Elliott and DE Neill Prothero… who forced the RB to yield ground before a mass of Cheetah gold jerseys swarmed him. This set the tone for the following plays, and resulted in a Cardinal punt on 4th down from inside their own 20.
PR Frank Mayo, fielded the Punt at the Cardinals 45 yard line and broke towards the right sideline with CB Thomas Hutton and FS Mark Foster providing escort detail down to inside the 10 yard line, once again setting the Cheetahs Offence in prime scoring position in a short space of time. This time WR TJ Ajayi took the short pass from QB Martin Brown and drove it to just short of the goal line and caused the tackling CB to literally come out of his shoes in the process of trying to contain the elusive runner. The Cheetahs ran two plays at the heart of the Cardinals defence before QB Brown hit on his second TD pass of the day to an uncovered TE Julien Lorelli in the right hand corner of the end zone. This time K Danny Morton drilled the XP home to take the score to 13-0.
A short kick off from the Cheetahs gave the coverage team time to surround the Cardinal KR, and lock him down at the 30 yard line. The Cardinals once again tried the right side with an I formation lead, and managed to slip past a full out blitz from the Cheetahs for almost a 10 yard pick up on first down, lifting their spirits and demonstrating that there was still fight in the proud franchise. A short run would yield a first down, followed by a FB dive for another first down, getting the Cardinals into Cheetah Territory. The Cardinals briefly crossed the Cheetahs 40 yard line, before a blown exchange in the back field caused their QB to flee out of bounds to avoid the chasing pack. On third and long SS/OLB Danny Morton would read the off tackle run and drive the RB back for a four yard loss back behind the Cheetah 40 yard line. After a penalty the Cardinals set to punt from the half way line, and looked to pin the Cheetahs deep. PR Frank Mayo rolled back the years, and ripped off a 40 yard return cutting up the left sideline to give the offence the half way line to start their next drive. As the Quarter ended the Offence failed to take advantage of the field position and was forced to punt. P Danny Morton then dropped his kick short of the Cardinal Goal Line, and Gunner Mark Foster took down the Cardinal PR within two strides in a text book open field tackle forcing the already demoralised Cardinals Offence to start backed up.
The Cheetahs Defence showed uncharacteristic generosity for the opening play by daring the Cardinals to run against only 10 defenders. This was corrected on the second play and normal service was resumed, with SS Danny Morton again making a key tackle for a loss on the Cardinals RB to force another punt. This time the Cardinals punter decided to kick away from PR Frank Mayo, having decided discretion was the better part of valour. At the end of the play however a run up helmet in the back into PR Frank Mayo from Cardinals OL #57 would show the frustration building in the cardinals, which would ultimately lead to his ejection later in the game.
QB Martin Brown would then take advantage of a loose Cardinal Secondary with a sight adjustment touch pass to the outside for WR Richard Flemming to run onto. Unfortunately after that the Offence would splutter before ultimately punting as the Cardinal Defence applied pressure to the Cheetah’s passer.
On the following drive the Cardinals QB would attempt one of only a handful of pass attempts all day, attempting a long sideline pass. CB Thomas Hutton shut down the play by getting inside position on the under thrown ball to break it up. The Cardinals would return to form and go back to their lead running plays for the next couple of plays before punting again. This time PR Frank Mayo was contained to only a ten yard return, and the Cheetahs O returned to the field starting from their own 30, and their worst position of the day. WR TJ soon changed that with a short pass from QB Brown which he ran up the right sideline to the Cardinals 5 yard line. WR Frank Mayo took a short pass from QB Brown and with blocks from WR Greg Roscow and TE Julien Lorelli scooted into the Endzone for his first TD of the day, and Browns third TD pass. The 2 point pass play was tipped by a Cardinal Defender and dropped by WR Roscow in the back of the endzone, leaving the score 19-0.
The Cardinals would then go three and out following a well covered KO from Cheetahs Kick Off Coverage unit. After a couple of quick incompletions QB Brown would drop a timed pass over the heads of chasing Cardinal defenders for the out-stretched hands of WR Richard Fleming to haul in. With the end of the half approaching the Cheetahs sensed blood in the water and went on the attack. A quick inside run from Rookie RB Charles Handscombe broke for a quick 10. QB Brown then sat back and floated a ball deep over middle for a waiting WR TJ, who was hauled down at the goal line. An attempt to hit TE Lorelli in the end zone was thwarted by a missed hold from the Cardinals, so the Cheetahs settled for a Morton chip shot FG to end the half and take a 22-0 lead into the break,
The Second half began with the Cardinals driving into Cheetah territory, and after another Cheetah Goal Line stand from the 5 yard line the Cardinals were forced to attempt a 20 yard FG. With Cheetahs streaming through the middle of the Cardinal FG Line the kick missed wide left, which turned out to be the Cardinals only real scoring chance of the day.
After holding the Cheetahs Offence the Cardinals special teams almost gifted back possession when the PR played volley ball with the well hit Morton Punt at his own 30 yard line. The bounce of the ball fell on this occasion for the lucky Cardinals, as the ball went out of bounds with four hungry cheetahs in hot pursuit.
The Cardinals returned to form with run plays between the tackles, with moderate success, interspersed with a key 5 yard loss by DT and birthday boy Leon Green, who shot through ineffectual blocking. On the next play the Cheetah defence ripped and recovered the football from the Cardinals.
QB Martin Brown, took a shot down the right sideline, and was picked by Cardinals defence. The Cheetah defence went back out on the field and immediately ripped the ball off the Cardinals to return possession to Brown and the offence. QB Brown made his last pass of the day count, with a floated middle ball to WR TJ who had been once again left surprisingly uncovered in the middle of the field. This time WR TJ finished the play off for the TD. The 2pt attempt was turned away by the Cardinals Defence, leaving the score at 28-0.
As the game progressed the Cardinals running showed new life, until a personal foul penalty on #57 brought back a 20 yard run to the half way line. Three plays later CB Jason Scurfield ended the Cardinals drive with an interception of a left sideline pass.
With Danny Hounslow at QB the Cheetahs initially experienced moderate success running the ball, but were forced to punt from their own red zone. A Danny Morton punt was dropped on the Cardinals 45 yard line, only for the PR to run into the back of his own up backs and fumble the ball for Jason Scurfield and Mark Foster to recover.
QB Hounslow then ripped off a 20 yard Tebow-like QB Draw to get the Cheetahs into scoring position again. After a quick toss sweep from RB Rob Nicholas, Hounslow took advantage of a Defence misalignment to sneak down to the 5 to end the 3rd Quarter.
The 4th Quarter started with QB Hounslow losing yardage, before handing off to fellow BNU Buccaneer alumni RB Chris Fox, who followed a Cheetah surge into the End zone for his first score in team colours. With Morton converting the XP the score stood at 35-0.
On the Cardinals following drive a personal foul and ejection on #57 killed any hope of progressing down the field as the Cheetahs continued to play their full bench. The Cheetahs were once again able to set up their offence in the Cardinals half to begin a drive, and finished it with Birthday Boy and new father FB Alan Harris diving over for a popular score. With Morton’s XP this brought an end to the scoring at 42-0.
A closing 80 yard INT TD from LB Mike Williams was called back due to blocking violations on the return, but the possession change stood and allowed the Cheetahs to run out the final 2 minutes to kill the clock and maintain their perfect start to the season.
by Head Coach Nik Maxey
Picture by Sarah Kerenza Priestley