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Cobras win at Exeter

The Cardiff Cobras travelled to Duckes Meadow on Sunday to begin their 2014/2015 campaign against the Exeter Demons. The Demons, looking to build upon a season in which they reached the Challenge Trophy semi-final, would provide a stern test for a Cobras team that is looking to rebuild its identity as one of the front running American Football programs in the country. Coming off the back of a solid 5 weeks training before taking the field for the first game, Cardiff were out to make a statement that would force the rest of the league to take note.

Cardiff won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball on a fresh Autumn’s afternoon in Exeter, looking to put up some early points on the board. After a promising couple of runs from veteran running back Ayo Akintunde, the drive stalled after a good stand from the Demon’s defense, and the Cobras were forced to punt the ball.

Getting their first taste of an offense that put up over 250 points last season, the Cobras defense struggled early with the tricky nature of the Demon’s scheme. A combination of a short field to defend and a sluggish start by Cardiff led to Exeter Captain Alex Briggs punching the ball into the endzone on a wide receiver reverse play that completely fooled the Cobras defense. After the conversion, Cardiff had dug themselves a hole only 3 minutes into the game, trailing 7-0.

The Cobras offense struggled to find consistency for the remainder of the first half, showing flashes of strong play but stalling midway down the field. The defense stepped up to the plate after their shaky start, still giving up yards to the Demons but digging in and making plays when it counted. Rookie Harry Kirkham delivered a crushing blow on an Exeter back for an 8 yard loss sending waves of confidence throughout the team. The two teams were locked in a midfield chess match, exchanging hard hits with both defenses dominating. Midway through the second quarter, the Cobras caught a break on an attempted field goal by the Demons as the ball hit the post and the score remained unchanged. With the Demons driving down the field inside of two minutes left in the half threatening to extend their lead heading into the interval, the Cobras defense held strong again after a wayward pass from the Exeter Quarterback was intercepted by Free Safety Ed Woolcott ensuring that the Cobras would go into the half down by only a single score.

After the break, momentum began to shift. The Cardiff defense was fully into their stride growing in confidence with every play as the Demons threw everything they had at them with diminishing success. Some outstanding play up front by veterans Alex Frost, Jake Saffer and rookies Harry Kirkham, Rory Beswick, Jonathan Thomas and Max Gathercole on the defensive line did the dirty work up front to stifle the Exeter attack. Linebacker Toby Lock wreaked havoc in the Exeter backfield dragging ball carriers down before they could pose a serious threat finishing the day with 13 tackles, 5 of which were for a loss. As they grew in confidence, they became more aggressive in going after the football. The first significant change of momentum was seen when Woolcott stripped the ball and recovered the subsequent fumble, giving the Cardiff offense the ball on the Exeter 20 yard line. The offense fed off the good play of the defense and it didn’t take long for them to convert the turnover into points. After establishing the run with Akintunde in the first half and building upon it at the start of the second, it allowed the pass game to become effective. A hard play action fake by Quarterback Chris Brinkworth to Akintunde had the Exeter defense going the wrong way and he found 4th year Receiver Stefan Pollitt on the backside of the play wide open with a clear path to the endzone after picking up a solid block from Dan Reeves. The conversion was missed so the Cobras still trailed by 1 with the score at 7-6 midway through the 3rd quarter.

The defense continued in the same fashion, completely shutting down the double wing attack of Exeter. A forced fumble by Strong Safety Robin Ford was recovered by Linebacker Shaun Rees at the bottom of the ensuing scrum, only adding to the momentum that Cardiff were obtaining. The running game continued to dominate and Cardiff drove down the field deep into Exeter territory midway into the final quarter. The Exeter defense showed great fight to force a 4th down situation for the Cobras from the Exeter 18 yard line. With time winding down, Brinkworth launched a high, arcing throw from the pocket, which beat the Exeter defensive back and found Pollitt in the right hand corner of the endzone for the go ahead score with 7 minutes to play in the game. Brinkworth then converted the two point conversion attempt by scrambling to the right and diving in past the pylon to give Cardiff a solid 14-7 lead.

The offense leaned on Akintunde yet again to seal the victory. With excellent blocking from lead blocker and Club President Rhys Romo, and the offensive line of “Big” Ben Mason, Alex Dunkley, Alex Frost, Toby Lock and Jake Saffer, he passed 100 yards on the ground for the day as Cardiff looked to control the clock. Some crucial conversions in big situations forced Exeter to begin to use timeouts to preserve what little time was left.

Exeter were in the last chance saloon with less than a minute to play and had to break down a now resolute Cardiff defense to send the game to overtime. 4 pass plays in a row yielded no yards and the Cobras were able to kneel the ball out in a victory formation after a hard fought battle to get their first win of the season.

Offense - Chris Brinkworth & Stefan Pollitt (joint)
Defense - Ed Woolcott
Rookie - Harry Kirkham
Overall - Ayo Akintunde





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