So, we’ve played the East Kent Mavericks – a team with tremendous depth and developing rapidly over the last few seasons, and probably the team that will rival us for a spot in the post-season. It was a long, tough game, played in typically brutish fashion, with hard hits coming in from all angles. However, a superb pass into double coverage was the difference on the day as we came out 7-0 losers.
Then, regrettably, we hit the wall. Not “the wall” where we’re all so tired and can’t continue, but the wall that was the London Cobra’s defence. The senior contingent of the London Warriors youth team, it was stocked with big, young, fast specimens. Not least the middle linebackers who made every offensive player’s life very difficult all day long. They tackled hard, they ran hard, they were fast, and boy did they hit hard. If you’re in any doubt about that, ask Pat Willis…
Some might argue that 34 – 0 was an unfair reflection on our defence, who stood firm for a very long time, and suffered as our offence spluttered and coughed up the ball in crucial situations. However, the Cobras are a very talented team, and they will be sweeping through division 2 this season, and it would be no surprise to see them demolish division 1 next year too. Having said that, i’m certain that there are weaknesses, and i’m certain that they are beatable. I’m just not sure how at the moment…
So, we plough on regardless, and, at 1-2 we travelled to the local rivals – Essex Spartans.
Playing on astroturf is rarely fun, and so we were pleasantly surprised to find a soft and springy surface, albeit still coarse enough to open the skin pretty easily, as a number of our guys found out. All told though, the surface was quick, slick, and good for football. Just wish the grass fields we played on were as flat!
Now, this was Essex’s first game of the 2008 campaign, and they started looking rusty. The Gladiators came out and took the ball, marching downfield early, but with the Spartans setting out their stall very early on. Within the first series we saw abusive language, foul play, taunting, spitting, punches thrown, and generally very poor behaviour which endeared them to nobody on the Gladiators sideline. So with the game scoreless after both the Gladiators’ and Spartans’ first drive, the Glads took control, marching downfield thanks to Alex Robinson. “Slider” really tore into the Essex defence, ripping through them for big gains throughout the first quarter.
The scores soon follow, and Slider runs in for two scores in the first half, converting one of the PATs himself. Just as the Gladiators take control the officials make the first of their bizarre calls of the day… Let me set the scene…
Essex punt the ball away on 4th and plenty. Tommy Clarke is back to return the kick on his 5yard line. The ball sails away, and Tommy sees that it has plenty of forward momentum so moves out of the way, ushering it into the end zone for a touchback. So the ball bounces, rolls closer and closer to the end zone. Tommy watches it closely, urging it on, but it’s in vain as it stops not 6 inches from the goal line. The Spartans run up to down the ball, and the Gladiators offence takes to the field. However… the officials converge and debate. After some time they signal for a Spartan’s first down – first and goal from about 4 inches. Apparently, Tommy touched the ball and the Spartans recovered. Absolute rubbish! If that was the case then why didn’t they run an extra step into the end zone? Stupid officials! So, the Spartan’s QB dives over the line for the score off the next play, and we enter half time with the score at 13-7, despite Slider having more than 100 yards rushing already, and Essex having not even achieved a first down.
The second of the officials’ curious decisions came in the second half, after a third Robinson touchdown. The PAT was taken, looked like it had gone wide, but was signalled good. The officials converge with the Spartans’ head coach, and discussion ensues. It transpires that the official didn’t watch the ball through the posts, and just assumed that it had gone through, despite slipping wide. As a result, we were asked to re-kick. We attempted a fake, which wasn’t successful, but it was a truly ridiculous situation.
So, after a successful second half, the Gladiators triumph at 34-13, but the real highlight was Slider’s performance – 334 yards, 4 touchdowns, average over 9 yards per carry – a new Gladiators record rushing performance. So, fair play to the little fella!
Up next is Maidstone Pumas, and then a month’s break before we commence the second half of the campaign.