In the first of this season’s battle of the big cats the Cheetahs welcomed the Bournemouth Bobcats to Hertfordshire. With two wins under the belt the Cheetahs wanted to assert themselves against undefeated opposition.
The Cheetahs started off as they planned to go on, sacking the Bobcats QB on the first play. The defence have shown all season long that they will provide a solid challenge for any offence and so it proved again, as the Bobcats tried to assert their will early on going for it on fourth, but the defence was having none of it, forcing the turnover on downs.
The offence looked like they were going to match the momentum of the D early on with a couple of big runs up the middle. However, a fumble on fourth and short stalled the promise of that drive. Defence did their job well, with a 3 and out, though a huge punt was downed by Bournemouth at the Cheetahs 1 yard line, creating a sticky situatiton for the offence. It looked perilous for a few plays as the Cheetahs failed to get away from their own goalline, before a pass to receiver Ben Weeks on third down bought them out into the open field, almost breaking all the way. Momentum restored, the offence capitalised and RB Adam Adeniji took a huge toss play past some solid blocking work and home from all of 53 yards out. Dan Levett converted the 2pt conversion.
The offence were no sooner off the field than they were back on again, Safety Mark Foster picking off a wayward pass from the Bobcats QB and setting up the O nicely at midfield. WR Pete Armstrong did some good work, connecting with QB Jason Scurfield twice – first under double coverage to restore the drive, before bringing the Cheetahs inside the Bobcats redzone. A few runs were stuffed near the goalline, but the Cheetahs went for it on fourth down and a perfectly executed throw from Scurfield connected with WR Ant Lavender for his first TD of the season. Conor Wilson converted the 2pt.
After a shaky start, it was turning into the dream first half for the home side. The defence weren’t about to let up just yet and swarmed to the Bobcats ball-carrier, with defensive tackle Ben Bruce somehow stripping the ball away for his second turnover in two games! Only an ankle tap stopped him turning on the after-burners to take it back for the score… which Hertfordshire will have regretted, as they immediately turned the ball over themselves on an intercepted pass. Clearly the Herts defence were unimpressed by their efforts going unrewarded, so they went back out and gave the ball back to the offence; this time it was CB Tom Hutton taking the ball away and running it back to set the Cheetahs up just over halfway. Again the offence capitalised quickly, as four plays later Dan Levett smashed the ball home from short range, though was not able to convert the 2pt try.
Another strong defensive stand proved for naught as an unfortunate bounce on the punt gave the ball back to Bournemouth deep within Cheetahs territory. A poor read from their QB fed the ball directly to Tom Hutton, who made no mistakes in hauling in his second interception of the half. At this point it was becoming a game of pinball rather than football and the Cheetahs made mistakes that were contributing to it – a blitz play from the Bobcats defence creating the turnover and giving the ball back to the away side in the redzone. This time they did take advantage of the field position, throwing the ball in for their first touchdown of the game and the 2pt conversion to go with it. This clearly rejuvenated the entire Bobcats side, as their defence forced a turnover on downs on the next Cheetahs drive. The Cheetahs defence matched them immediately to force the punt and the first half fizzled out with somewhat of a whimper.
The second half started much as the first ended, penalties forcing the Cheetahs offence into punting and the Cheetahs defence doing their job to make the Bobcats do the same immediately afterwards. It took a big play from slot receiver TJ Ajayi to break the lull, taking a ball in from Scurfield and breaking multiple tackles to run down deep into the redzone. Craig Cudmore took full advantage to power the ball home. Despite missing the 2pt, the energy was well and truly back for the Cheetahs and a great tackle from CB Andy Bartram on kickoff forced the fumble, with rookie Tom Smith recovering the ball. One play later the game was more or less sealed, QB Jason Scurfield reading the defence and calling the play at the line that gave the ball to Ben Weeks with only open field to run into. Adam Adeniji converted the 2pt try and the mood at this point was one of jubilation, as the Cheetahs saw 3-0 within their sights.
Another Bobcats drive, another turnover for the Defence, this time on fourth down after good tackling kept the away side to minimal gains. Entering the fourth quarter the Cheetahs showed few signs of wanting to take their foot of the gas – perhaps well aware how important point differential could be later in the season. A strong drive had a touchdown called back for a dubious flag, before an unfortunate interception in the redzone turned the ball over to the away side. A huge batdown from the batdown king himself – CB Max Duffin – stalled the Bobcats offence once again and brought the punt unit out.
Drives were exchanged without further incident, until first a strong run from FB Craig Cudmore got the ball moving and then a nice throw from QB Deniz Karagulle connected with slot receiver Matt Day deep into Bobcats territory. With time running low, the Cheetahs threw a deep shot that was knocked down at the goalline and wrapped up the game. Final score: Cheetahs 36-8 Bobcats.