The history book of the #CheetahPride added another page on Sunday, as the Senior squad wrapped up the conference crown with a shutout win against their tenacious rivals, the Portsmouth Dreadnoughts. The Cheetahs needed to win by more than 12 points to become SFC 2 South Champions, which the away side will have known and been prepared to prevent.
In a nail-biting game punctuated by rain throughout, the home side gave themselves some early breathing room on the very first play from scrimmage. Offensive MVP Adam Adeniji followed powerful blocking, hid behind centre Stuart Butcher whilst the rest of the offensive line set up the perfect blocks, beat the single defender in his way and burst for a huge opening score and touchline celebrations.
The score sat at 6-0 for a considerable portion of the game. The Cheetahs got into the redzone twice more on extended drives, ultimately failing to convert and allowing the Dreadnoughts a way back. The Cheetahs defence were absolutely resolute though, nullifying the power run game that Portsmouth had used so effectively in the reverse fixture. Defensive plays including a huge tackle for loss and pass breakup from Jason Scurfield were key in preventing the away side from advancing to the redzone.
As it so often is, it was special teams plays that changed the game. First, Stuart Butcher blocked a field goal. Later, a huge punt from Luke Neal, deep from within Cheetahs territory, backed the away side right up and provided the momentum required to lift the home side.
Soon after, rookie receiver Tom McQuillin caught the deep shot and showed incredible breakaway speed to take the ball in from all of 85 yards. The points differential required, the Cheetahs switched into game-management mode, taking what was
given without giving what was still a dangerous Portsmouth side any opportunity to claw their way back. Huge stops were the order of the day for the defence, but the crucial moment occurred at 12-0. The Dreadnoughts stalled within field goal range. Knowing that losing by less than 12 points would secure the title, the away side attempted the kick. For the second time in the game, pressure on the kicker led to a shanked kicked, a missed field goal and a massive hold on to the shutout.
Victory in sight, the Cheetahs offence ground out the first downs to the two minute warning before finishing the game off in style. Adeniji broke off one run down the middle, and then another to add the score. Two points were added by receiver Ben Weeks and the game was done.
The Cheetahs win the SFC 2 South and now advance to the Quarter Finals of the playoffs.
Head Coach and DC Craig Barnes enthused about a “magnificent result for the team.” He noted the Cheetahs’ “tremendous resilience throughout, and our offence was able to score with some huge plays”. Barnes singled out RB Adam Adeniji as “truly a star – first play of the game and he scores a 60-odd yard touchdown run”. Craig also praised his defence for “totally shutting Portsmouth down”. Defensive MVP Jason Scurfield “was a great leader by example, making big tackles for loss.” Equally, Special Teams MVP Luke Neal “excelled” in helping the home side to win the field position battle. Barnes wrapped up by saying that he is “so proud of these players. They were challenged on Sunday and met the challenge head on. We were worthy winners. We await our Quarter Final opponents with keen anticipation.”
OC Will Sparke was drained after the game. He felt “that was probably the most intense game of football I have ever coached. We came in with a point to prove after our last trip to the Dreadnoughts and demonstrated exactly what we are about this time around. Sunday was fun but now it is back to work as the real grind begins.”
Rushing: Adam Adeniji (2)
Receiving: Tom McQuillin
Rushing Yards: Adam Adeniji (205)
Receiving Yards: Tom McQuillin (91)
Tackles for loss: Jason Scurfield (2)
Field Goal blocks: Stuart Butcher