UK American Football: Watford Cheetahs upset play-off bound Kent Exiles!

‘the Cheetahs would pound out the yards, willing themselves to victory’


[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lthough the game statistically didn’t mean much for either side; the host Watford Cheetahs and visiting Kent Exiles had plenty to play for. The playoff bound Exiles would play their starters for four quarters and the Cheetahs would play with their hearts. However, the spread of three scores to the Exiles would only prove to show it wasn’t worth the paper it was written on.

The game would start with the Exiles winning the coin toss and deferring to the Cheetah offense. This is exactly what the Cheetahs were hoping for. QB Martin Brown and the receiving corps supported by strong running by RB Kenny Gayle would prove a recipe for success. A strike to WR Ben Shipley would validate the textbook drive and the PAT would see the score at 7-0. The high-powered Exiles offense would respond with a well-balanced drive ending with QB Zac Richie finding WR Anthony Clark for the TD. The Exiles would attempt a two-point conversion which was no good (7-6). The Cheetahs knew the day would be a dogfight and the counter punching would have to be crisp. The fully prepared Cheetah offense would once again see a textbook drive, which would eat up 6 minutes of game clock, ending in a score. RB Gayle and RB Danny Hounslow utilised powerful running while QB Brown would find WR Craig Edmunds for large gains. Once inside the red zone it was all Gayle as he broke tackle after tackle on his way to pay dirt. Running back Hounslow would offer one of the most amazing blocks of the year on the play. He would go low and cut the OLB who looked to have been in position to make the play. The point after was good making the score now 14-6. The Exiles offense would once again take the field and they too know the definition of counter punching. QB Richie would connect with a myriad of receivers for big strikes to get the Exiles into position. A questionable call on a completion on the 1 yard line would set the scene for an easy score for the RB. The two-point conversion failed leaving the 14-12. This was only the first quarter…

The second quarter would see the Cheetah offense once again on the move. With more of the same, QB Brown would find WR Shipley, in the back of the end zone, for his second TD on the day. PAT no good, 20-12 Cheetahs. The Exiles, now beginning to feel the pressure, would find lady luck on their side. QB Richie threw a poor pass that should have been easily intercepted. However, two of the Cheetah DBs would run into each other, deflecting the ball into the air. It was clear the Exiles receivers have practiced the tip drill because WR Clark would take the deflection into his hands and scamper into the end-zone. Two-point conversion was no good 20-18. On the next series, the Cheetah offence would find itself stalled for the first time and was forced to punt. The Exiles would take advantage and see QB Richie once again find an open receiver for the TD. Two-point conversion was good and the Exiles would lead for the first time 26-20 going into halftime.

During the half the Cheetah defense would regroup and understand that if they were to win the game they had to make a statement. This is just what they did. The third quarter would come and go with one score, a FG by the Cheetah K Danny Morton, bringing the score heading into the fourth 26-23 Exiles.

The fourth quarter of the game would go down as one of the most historic quarters in Cheetah history. The sidelines were nervous and the tension in the air was thick. The Exiles offence was on the move and would find them inside the Cheetahs 20 yard line. A few untimely penalties and a huge sack by LB Greg Ashman would see the Exiles face a 4th and long. It was clear the Exiles did not have a kicking game so they were forced to go for it, which would lead to an incomplete pass and possession to the Cheetahs. With 8 minutes left in the game Offensive Coordinator James Lowry told QB Brown that “under no circumstances, can we give the ball back to them”. The drive of the season was about to take place. Hard nose running from RBs Gayle and Hounslow along with key first down receptions from WR Richard Flemming would see the Cheetah offense methodically move down the field. The Exiles defenders almost knew what was coming however long drives on the day would see them almost handcuffed to stop it. Play after play, the Cheetahs would pound out the yards, willing themselves to victory. With 1:08 on the clock, RB Gayle would lower his head and drop his shoulder as he punished Exiles DBs all the way into the end zone. PAT was good bringing the score to 30-26 Cheetahs.

With under a minute and a couple time-outs, the high-powered Exiles offense would take the field. Knowing he needed a TD to win, QB Richie would consistently find his receivers to push down the field. On the Cheetah 30-yard line and faced with only 7 seconds remaining, QB Richie would find his receiver in the back of the end zone only to see the ball fall through his hands incomplete. The receiver had made a good adjustment to the under thrown ball but just couldn’t haul it in on what would be the final play of the game.

The game would see the Cheetahs finishing on a 4-game win streak bringing their season to 6-4. However this day would mean so much more than a record. After congratulating the Exiles on their season and wishing them luck in the playoffs, the Cheetahs would regroup in the middle of their pitch. Here they stood, no longer only team, but a brotherhood…

Game highlights will soon be posted on our YouTube Channel. Stay tuned.

Game report written by Julien Lorelli and James Lowry.