Great Britain: London Warriors secure top seed with shootout victory over Bristol Aztecs

This past Sunday, the London Warriors (9-1) were put to the test again by the visiting Bristol Aztecs (8-2) but scored a late touchdown to avenge their only loss of the season and defeat the Aztecs 39-36 in the final game of the British National League regular season.

With the win, London finished first in the Premiership South earning home field advantage in the semifinals while relegating the Aztecs to second and an away game in the playoffs.

The Warriors entered the game as the highest scoring team in the league, having rolled over all opponents but one during the season with that one loss coming at the hands of the Aztecs. Meanwhile, the Aztecs were on a seven-game win streak, including the 38-14 win over the previously unbeaten Warriors.

After an impressive defensive showing from both sides saw the teams exchange punts for the majority of the first period, the Warriors finally got on the board as the quarter came to a close; ex-Leipzig Kings running back Ray Sobowale found the endzone, and a successful point-after from Ian Jacquet gave the home team a 7-0 lead. After another punt from the Aztecs, Sobowale increased the lead with a long run, with an unsuccessful PAT keeping the lead at 13-0.

Ray Sobowale breaks for a big touchdown run. Image courtesy of Charlotte Murden.

The Aztecs took over the second quarter though, as an 80-yard touchdown run from ex-University of Pennsylvania 1,000-yard rusher KK Brooks opened the floodgates. The next offensive drive saw tight end Sean Cook power into the endzone from a yard out to bring the score to 13-12 in favor of London. The Warriors attempted to respond, but a muffed snap recovered by Idrissa Fornah in the red zone would foil their plans. Bristol managed to gain the lead with a short passing touchdown from Louis Benzey to David Asamoah, before a Manny Crispin interception would allow Lewis Munt to increase their lead with a field goal as time expired in the first half with the score at 22-13 in favor of Bristol.

Sean Cook powers over the goal line. Image courtesy of Charlotte Murden.

Following the break, a pass from London quarterback Dee Williams to Henry Rowland (NFL Academy alum) set up fellow Academy graduate Toshane Boyce for a rushing touchdown. The Aztecs soon countered with a passing touchdown to Uba Emole over the middle, giving the Aztecs a two-score lead.

The final period saw a momentum shift towards the Warriors. After opening up the quarter with a touchdown, a shifty run from Leonardo Dabo (NFL Academy) set up Sobowale to punch in another, giving the home side a small lead. Another Benzey-Asamoah score, however, would put the visitors up 36-33 with under five minutes remaining.

David Asamoah celebrates his second receiving touchdown. Image courtesy of Charlotte Murden.

With the Warriors having marched into the redzone, the Aztecs made an apparent stop, but a roughing the passer call would keep the ball in the hands of Williams and the Warriors’ offense. They capitalized as Sobowale refused to go down before crossing the goal line, gaining a 39-36 lead.

The defense finished the job, as a James Cherry interception took Bristol’s offense off the field, allowing the Warriors to secure the top seed in the South in victory formation.

The London Warriors are now set to host the Edinburgh Wolves in the first round of the playoffs, while the Aztecs must travel to Manchester to face the defending National Champions, the Manchester Titans.

A current student at Bournemouth University as well as a quarterback with eight years of playing experience. Brad's goal is to be a part of the growth of the game around the world through journalism and media.