Sunday saw Big-cat Bowl #2 of the season as the Cheetahs travelled down to Maidstone for a clash with the winless Pumas. Despite being at opposite ends of the SFC 2 South so far this season, Herts were under no illusions that this would be anything like a walkover – Maidstone had a point to prove and were going to be up for the challenge.
It didn’t take long for the away side to assert their dominance though. After a stout 3-and-out from the Defence to begin the game, TJ Ajayi made a glorious run, weaving behind blockers and through tackles as he returned the punt all the way home for the score.
That set the tone beautifully for the rest of the afternoon as things went more or less to plan for the away side. A strong ground attack paved the way for more scores both rushing and through the air. Dan Levett smashed home from short yardage before, as so often this season, the defence showed enormous toughness to keep the shutout and again got in on the scoring action themselves. A swarm of Cheetahs D swamped the ball carrier and Craig Cudmore, having made the transition back to defence for this portion of the game, ripped the ball free and victoriously ran it back from short yardage for the score.
That little bit of good fortune helped the Cheetahs rack up the scoreline, but that’s not to say that Maidstone didn’t threaten to spoil the mood at times. Only a muffed snap and a tackle for loss by Defensive End Pat Armstrong managed to stall another Maidstone drive, before Tight End Henry Jacob converted on what was definitely the most bizarre play of the afternoon. On a play that appeared to have already died, Quarterback Jason Scurfield found Jacob who seemed as surprised as anybody to find the ball land in his lap, before showing strong athleticism to put the points on the board. Having put one passing touchdown away, the Cheetahs went straight back and got another on the cusp of halftime. Scurfield again managed to extend a play, scrambling outside of the pocket before throwing a ball where only receiver Tj Ajayi could get it. At the end of the second quarter, Pumas 0-38 Cheetahs.
An interception early in the second half threatened failed to shift the momentum as the Cheetahs received the ball back swiftly courtesy of yet another Maidstone punt. Turnovers were exchanged around midfield as perhaps both offences started to slow down… that is until RB Conor Wilson livened things up again, rushing to the edge and deep into Puma territory. A smart pass play came next before FB Cudmore slammed home, running right through the pursuing linebacker. One on offence and one on defence, yet no-one thought to put Cudmore on kick returns to attempt the full house!
Desperate to put some points on the board, Maidstone began to abandon the ground attack in favour of big play shots through the air. The Cheetahs defence were equally intent on maintaining the shutout. Consistent pressure from the entire line and notably defensive end Pat Armstrong forced the Puma’s QB into hasty decision making; he paid dearly, slinging an errant ball into the path of the waiting rookie CB Salim Elomari who showed superb instincts to slip in front of his man and take it back from more than 60 yards.
The icing well and truly on the cake, the Cheetahs held firm to deliver the shutout the defence craved.
Final: Cheetahs 54-0 Pumas.
We wish Maidstone the best of luck for the rest of the season, and look forward to hosting them on the 9th July.