12.04.2004 Farnham Knights
Knights beat O´s in their National Competition for the first time
The London O's have been winning in British American Football for so long - they had not been beaten this Century !. In fact their run went back over 6 years and 7 National Championships without losing to domestic opposition. That run came to an end in Guildford on Sunday 4th April as the hometown Knights finally produced the result that had narrowly avoided them in each of the teams previous 4 regular season meetings.
The Knights had seen some player turnover in the off season which resulted in a strengthened team - the question however was whether or not the coaching staff had brought the new look Knights together sufficiently to upset the National Champions in the first game of the season.
The Knights won the toss and elected to take the ball for the first possesion. The home offense made steady intial progress but were stopped by the O's Defense at midfield - Steve Belcher boomed a punt high into the wind making the returners catch difficult to judge , the ball hit his foot as a result and the Knights recovered to immediately get a second opportunity on Offense.
This time the Knights were not to be denied as they powered up the field behind their impressive Offensive Line - strong runs from Tony Stitt and Marc Saunders led to Kingsley Ejiogu speeding into the endzone from 5yds out. Jon Wyse added the extra point and the Knights led 7-0.
The Knights kicked off and Neil Edwards and Michael Dunson combined to knock the ball loose from the returner - the Knights recovered the fumble and were set for their third possesion without their Defense having seen action on the field.
This time however it was the Knights turn to give up possesion after moving the ball into O's territory - and to disastrous effect as the O's scooped up the fumble and returned it 59yds for a Touchdown. The O's extra point attempt was blocked and Michael Dunson very nearly got free on an attempted return - the score stood however at 7-6 to the Knights.
The Knights moved the ball again - with a key reception from QB Ashley Heath to WR Jon Wyse keeping the drive alive. The Knights went deep on the next play but - throwing into the wind the ball died just too soon for Steve Belcher who was open in the endzone - O's Safety Scott Rowe (happily back to his best after a serious injury last year) picked the ball off to set up the O's Offense. The Knights Defense were in fine form and three plays later the O's were forced to punt the ball away.
The Knights then added to the turnover stats following a controversial call by the Officials. QB Heath threw low to Rodney Edgerton who appeared to touch the pass which then fell incomplete - one Official however ruled it as a completed pass which was then fumbled - the O's returned the ball to the Knights 20yd line and after some discussion they took over on Offense.
This opportunity was seized by the O's and two plays later GB QB Stuart Franklin threaded a 19yd pass between two defenders to find Clive Palumbo in the endzone for 6 points. The O's elected to go for 2 points on the conversion but the pass fell incomplete. The Knights then trailed 7-12.
The pattern for the next two quarters was then set as both Defenses took control of the game. The Knights went three plays and out.
The O's took over - promising runs from Roland Williams saw them advance into Knights territory but on a 4th Down passing attempt Michael Dunson intercepted a Franklin pass in the endzone as the second quarter started.
The Knights next possesion ended after QB Heath was sacked for a loss of 11yds and the O's saw Franklins second interception of the day from the Knights Marvin Jimerson two plays later. The turnovers continued as the Defenses warmed to their task - a Knights fumble on the next play giving the O's the ball again. The turnover score then went to 5-4 in favour of the Knights as an O's fumble gave the ball back to the home team. An exchange of possesion followed which led to the score remaining 7-12 at the half.
The Knights elected to face the wind in the third quarter. The Knights offense could not make significant progress during the period but the O's made even less - the Knights running game did however eat up the clock. The O's first possesion of the quarter looked to have ended in disaster for then as Roland Williams spilled the ball under the weight of a Tony Mackenzie tackle - LB Ken Ross scooped the ball up and ran 55yds to the endzone - an inadvertant face caging penalty however brought the play back. Steve Harrison however ended the drive with the first of his 3 crunching sacks of QB Franklin. After a further exchange of possesion the teams turned around for the final quarter with the score still at 7-12. The O's punted into the wind and the Knights Chris McIver made a vital punt return - scampering 25yds back into O's territory. With the wind at their backs and with the crowd behind them the Knights were not to be denied. QB Heath found WR Steve Belcher for a key 15 yd gain. Tony Stitt powered them closer and then shook free a tackle on the next play to race 13yds to a Knights lead that would not be overcome. Jon Wyse added the extra point and the home team led 14-12.
The O's went three plays and out on their next possesion and the Knights were in good field position after a poor punt into the wind from the visitors. The home offense drove well but were stopped at the visitors 12yd line - the Knights went for the Field Goal but the kick was blocked - in a heart wrenching moment it appeared that the O's would return the attempt for a touchdown until Knights QB Ashley Heath made a game saving tackle on the sideline.
The O's had one last roll of the dice and RB Roland Williams started the drive well with two explosive runs. The next explosion however came from Steve "HBomb" Harrison as he burst around the O's line to sack QB Stuart Franklin deep in the backfield. Unfortunately the hit put QB Franklin out of the game and the O's were forced to bring in their Danish back up play caller. He got exactly the same treatment on the next play as he ran into Harrison while trying to avoid the Knights pass rush.
The Knights took over on downs and ran out the clock to a memorable victory.
The two teams face tough competition in the remainder of their fixtures but potentially this result could set up their clash on the last day of the regular season (8th August) as a huge factor in deciding the post season situation.
Knights Head Coach Steve Rains said " After coming so close to this result previously it is almost unbelievable that we have now achieved this first step. I am immensly proud of the team and my coaching staff - the way we battled as a team and the sacrifice by individuals for the team - the outstanding Defensive performance - the tremendous work by our Offensive Line, people have incorrectly thought of the Knights as a disparate group of talented individuals - this performance is all thats needed to prove that thought wrong. It is also fitting that, having ended their tremendous run that we should compliment Coach Ayub, his staff and the O's players on their reaction to the defeat. Whilst clearly disappointed they showed that they are a classy organisation in their congratulations and the social contact with our guys after the game. We look forward to continuing the exciting series of games between the two clubs both later in the season and in years to come - these games really are a great advert for British Football."
Asst Head Coach James Mitchell was clearly delighted with the result and added "This is a great moment for all of us - but we can do much better. The early errors need to be eradicated and as we have said as a coaching staff, this game - won or lost - is not our season. We will take a little time to enjoy this because it is an historic win - but then its back to work for our next game"
Score by Quarter Q1 Q2 Q3 Q4 Total
Knights 7 0 0 7 14
O's 12 0 0 0 12
A Heath 7 of 16 for 34yds 1Int (1 sack for 11yds)
S Belcher 2 for 21yds
J Wyse 2 for 17yds
R Edgerton 2 for 10yds
A Stitt 1 for -3yds
Total 7 for 45yds
A Stitt 29 for 93yds 1TD
M Saunders 12 for 35yds
K Ejiogu 7 for 29yds 1TD
J Wyse 2 for 6yds
A Heath 1 for 0yds
Total 51 for 163yds 2TD
Knights Defense (highlights)
Tony Mackenzie 6 Tackles + 1 Fumble Recovery
Ken Ross 6 Tackles + 1 Sack
Steve Harrison 5 Tackles + 3 Sacks
Mike Dunson 1 Interception
Marvin Jimerson 1 Interception
Passing 7 of 16 for 45 yds (34yds net)
Rushing 51 for 163yds 2TD
Total 67 plays 208yds 2TD
Passing 5 of 20 for 39yds 1TD(7yds net)
Rushing 18 for 47yds
Total 38 plays 86yds 1TD