The Cheetahs got off to an emphatic start to the 2018 campaign, putting up 70 points away in Hastings to the Conquerors.
On a beautiful day on the Sussex coast, both teams opened their campaign knowing that in extreme heat, the tone had to be set early. The Cheetahs certainly did that – despite a completion on the first play from scrimmage, defensive pressure came thick and fast from the away side. A punt from Hastings deep inside their own territory was returned to the redzone by TJ Ajayi. Two plays later, Adam Adeniji picked up where he left off last season, hammering the ball home with a jinking run.
The Cheetahs strong D line repeatedly forced the Conquerors to punt from deep inside their own half as the sacks kept piling up, with exceptional contribution from rookie Kayode Sampson. Special Teams showed its value with returns consistently providing the field position that led to further scoring early on.
So on the ground, so through the air – the Cheetahs showed they were able to mix it up, adding to the scoring as rookie QB Jake Barnes took advantage of a great route and busted coverage to find a wide open TJ Ajayi in the back of the end zone.
The game continued on this path for the majority of the first half, with exceptional defensive pressure from the away side providing the Cheetahs offence with the field position to force the ball home again and again.
The second half started with another excellent return from Ajayi, again providing the offence with a short field. Clearly the Cheetahs wanted to carry on where the first half ended, with Jake Barnes throwing first to receiver Ben Weeks for a big gain on the outside and then to rookie receiver Tom McQuillin for his very first touchdown as a Cheetah, holding on to the ball well through contact in the end zone.
Hastings looked to be finding a little rhythm of their own, but this was quickly halted as last season’s QB Jason Scurfield, now playing Safety, was alert to a tipped path and found the outside clear to take the ball home for the pick six.
The home side did have a spot of joy on their next drive however, finding their tight end open for a big gain that set them up for a touchdown a few plays later. The away side may have disputed the validity of the play, but credit is due to the Conquerors for sticking at it. Their pleasure was cut short when TJ Ajayi – who has been threatening with big returns all day – took the ensuing kickoff straight back to the house.
The game decided at this point, the Cheetahs took the opportunity to pile on a few more scores including a notable first drive for another rookie QB. Jacques Vitry, playing in his very first game of American Football, launched a dime to receiver Tom McQuillin to cap off an excellent day all around for the Cheetah Pride, who were able to celebrate afterwards in the sun by dressing up the unfortunate rookies.
The Cheetahs are immediately back in action as they travel to face the Swindon Storm this Sunday!
Having watched his offence put up 70 points, coordinator Will Sparke said: “It was wonderful to see the squad so motivated to start the season the right way and we got to witness some truly impressive performances. However, we have little time to celebrate and we need to immediately shift our focus onto the next challenge”.
Defensive Captain Josh Kent was “Very happy with the way the defence played against Hastings on Sunday. I feel we contained them well and they didn’t really throw anything at us that we couldn’t deal with. We gave away a few first downs thanks to silly penalties that are expected with first game jitters and naivety. On the whole we shut out the Hastings offence and I’m happy with how the guys played but understandably we are all gutted that we let them score. We hope to see Hastings again this season at our homecoming game where we as a defence will look to shutout the Hastings offence. As a defence we will take all the positives and correct the few negatives in our next game against the Swindon Storm.”
Lineman Andy Dickens, playing both ways, was particularly pleased with the work shown by the offensive line who gave up no sacks on the day. “We have had a really good pre-season with strong attendance and competition for places in the unit. As well as receiving some excellent coaching from Russ and Gary. I think the hard work really paid off today and we were able to do our bit in creating holes for our running backs and ensuring our rookie QBs had plenty of time in the pocket. We are not getting too carried away as we know there are tough tests to come and plenty we can improve on.”
Running Back Adam Adeniji echoed the praise for the offensive line, noting that they helped his big game: “I felt like I was super prepared, trained hard and executed well. The O Line made some great blocks and once I got into space I played to my strengths”.
Rushing: Adam Adeniji (4)
Receiving from QB Jake Barnes: TJ Ajayi (2), Tom McQuillin
Receiving from QB Jacques Vitry: Tom McQuillin
Special Teams: TJ Ajayi
Defensive: Jason Scurfield
Rushing Yards: Adam Adeniji (167)
Receiving Yards: Ben Weeks (39)
Passing Yards: Jake Barnes (74)
Sacks: Andy Dickins (2), Jordan Legge (2)
Tackles For Loss: Kayode Sampson (2)
Interceptions: Jason Scurfield (1)
SFC 2 South