Welcome to 2018…
The Senior squad welcomed the Norwich Devils to St Albans yesterday, for their first matchup against opposition in 2018. The session was split into an hour-long game, followed by some situational scrimmages so that the Coaches on each team could test out their hard work.
The Cheetahs can be pleased with what they saw during the game portion, scoring twice on extended drives and keeping Norwich limited to deep shots, of which they converted one late into a score.
Chairman Luke Clark noted that having finished their 2017 campaign with “a sense of unfinished business“, the addition of new blood throughout the squad had led to a “renewed hunger“. The Chairman added that “It’s exciting to see our young and talented squad chomping at the bit to get this season underway. That season began Sunday“. Clark also thanked the Norwich Devils and welcomed them back to competitive football, labeling them a class organisation who he believes will do well in their upcoming season.
For Offensive Coordinator Will Sparke, this was the first time his work on the practice field had come to fruition against an opposing squad, and he was keen to recognise the Devils’ contribution to the afternoon:
“I would like to thank the Norwich devils for their conduct on the day and for a highly competitive scrimmage. It felt like both teams learned a lot from the experience and I very much hope to meet them again in the Playoffs at the end of the year. It was very exciting to see such a new team put up such a competitive performance, their attitudes demonstrate a really promising future for the sport within the UK. My offensive staff and I truly wish them the best for the coming season.”
As far as the Cheetahs were concerned, Coach Sparke was pleased with how the hard work put in by players and coaches during the pre-season had translated over into the scrimmage.
“Yesterday’s scrimmage was a great opportunity to really get a feel for where we are at as an Offence and on a personal note it was very exciting to see how effectively we were able to move the ball. It seems that we are on the right track towards becoming a truly explosive and scary prospect for opposing defences. Over the past 12 weeks we have been aiming to get to the point where game day will be relatively easy compared to our usual training sessions and yesterday it really felt like all the effort that everyone has put in so far shone through. That being said we cannot afford to get cocky or slow down so we will be looking to capitalise on our success with renewed vigour and intensity. We already know that our season is going to be a long and difficult grind so there is definitely a need to keep our focus over the next few weeks. The preseason so far has been tough and in all honesty most of the credit for getting us this far should go to the positional coaches and players themselves. I have pushed them very hard over the last 12 weeks and the results of their dedication were on full display.”
Unsurprisingly given the work that has gone in to installing a completely new offensive scheme over the off-season, the new OC had plenty to say regarding the performance.
I would like to throw particular credit in the direction of the O-line, including their two positional coaches Russell Begbie & Gary Culleton, who have been forced to learn an entirely new and particularly demanding scheme this year. They seem to be loving it though and the results that the O-line delivered yesterday were hard hitting and effective. The consistently excellent work of running back coach Simon Smith and of our new wide receiver coach James Bath is also worth noting. They have done a truly stellar job getting their respective units ready for the coming season. The wide receivers in particular have made great strides and the inclusion of some talented new faces leaves me feeling that this unit has a very bright year in front of them. In terms of Quarterbacks, we had a great day on Sunday with all four guys on our roster performing with poise and executing the scheme to a very high standard. Both Martin Brown & Rookie Jake Barnes had very productive spells during scrimmage and were able to move the ball with efficiency resulting in lengthy drives and several scores. Veteran Deniz Karagulle and rookie Jacques Vitry also had a great afternoon, the highlight of which was the rookies’ first career pass going for a 95 yard touchdown to running back Charles Handscombe. Going forward this unit looks remarkably competitive and I am sure they cannot wait to get their teeth into the season proper as they get ready to shred opposing defences. To conclude I just want to remind my players that we are immediately moving forward onto the next challenge so keep working and keep your nose to the grindstone. Remember….. No Doubt!”
Equally, Head Coach Craig Barnes was cautiously optimistic about what he saw Sunday:
Sunday’s scrimmage with our new friends, the Norwich Devils, was a highly productive afternoon. Both sides of the ball performed well, it was particularly pleasing to see the ‘Katyusha’ offence operating in anger for the first time. I was delighted to see us move the ball consistently, our backs and receivers were able to make good gains thanks to some tremendous blocking by our offensive line. I am convinced they will be a devastating unit this season. Defensively, I was also pleased. Whilst there are some schematic issues to clear up, the biggest plus was the execution of fundamental skills, a big part of defensive play. Tackling was generally very sure, and we generated consistent pressure on the Norwich QB. I was pleased with our run defence, we can be confident teams will not be able to move the ball on the ground this year. So all in all this was a very valuable session. I hope Norwich got as much out of it as we did, I would like to meet them again some time – maybe in the playoffs! We’re now concentrating on finalising our preparations for our opener.
The regular season begins for the senior squad with an away fixture at Hastings Conquerors on May 6th.