Category: 2015

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2015 Awards Night – Celebrating Our Successes

On Friday 4th December, the Oxford Saints gathered to celebrate the successful 2015 season

With a large number of players, staff, friends and family in attendance, the 2015 Awards Night was a great evening. Held at the Oxford Social Club, the evening featured a 3 course meal and live music from the duo cover group All Star.

Once the meal was finished head coach Andrew Day took to the stage and began the awards ceremony beginning with the hall of fame inductees for 2015.

Retired veterans Chris Day (left) and Troy Smith (right).

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Receiving the special Roger Hedges Award was former player and head coach Chris Janes. Chris has a long history with the Saints and has helped the club through difficult times in it’s past.

He is still involved with the club frequently and is often on the sidelines doing his excellent photography work. Most photos you see of the Oxford Saints in action are from his generous work.

After the Hall of Fame inductees and the presentation of the Roger Hedges Awards, head coach Andrew Day moved on to present the Player Awards.

Acknowledging a successful season which saw the Saints return to playoff football, the club recognised player contributions on and off the field.

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The awards are as follows (from left to right)

Mike Turner (DB) – Defensive Player of the Year
Chris Fox (DB) – Most Improved Player of the Year
Daniel Harvey (DT) – Defensive Rookie of the Year
Ben Denton (QB) – Offensive MVP & Player’s Player of the Year
Tyson Blackstock (OL) – Offensive Rookie of the Year
James Walter (TE/RB) – Team MVP
Tom Swift (WR) – Special Teams MVP
Luke Fry (LB) – Veteran’s Award
(Not pictured: Gordon Cutting (OL) – Lineman of the Year)

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The City Arms Gets Behind The Oxford Saints

As preparations for the 2016 season continue, the Saints are excited to announce that the well known City Arms Pub has joined us as our latest sponsor!

The City Arms on Cowley Road is a big part of Oxfords culture and is an increasingly popular venue for local residents and the growing student community.

Following a big refresh, The City Arms now sports a modern look with plenty of seating and a wide range of food and drink available. With charging points across the bar for phones and laptops, along with many big screen TV’s, The City Arms is the perfect place to be.

Expect to see players, staff and fans visiting The City Arms on a regular basis as the pub becomes a highlight of Saints social nights!

The City Arms has also become a regular venue to watch Sunday night football, with NFL games being shown across the bar and tables reserved for Saints players and fans.

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Furthermore, due to it’s excellent location and brilliant set-up, The City Arms has officially been chosen as the host venue for the Oxford Saints Superbowl Party. More details will be announced closer to the time, but make sure you come and join us to watch Super Bowl 50 on Sunday 7th February 2015!

The City Arms have also revamped their kitchen and now offer an amazing range of food which accompanies American Football perfectly, such as BBQ ribs, burgers and burritos.

The deal with The City Arms not only provides our club with a excellent spot to watch American Football and hang out, but they’re going to help us throw a great Super Bowl party and the team will also gain access to discount prices whilst raising money for the team through a cash kickback system.

Tickets and more details are available here  http://www.oxfordsaints.com/superbowl/

Saints Marketing Director James Dunstan said: “I’ve lived in Oxford all my life and The City Arms pub holds many fond memories for me. It’s always been a thriving and popular place right in the heart of Oxford’s nightlife. I’m thrilled that we’ve finally teamed up with the great staff at The City Arms and I look forward to many fun nights watching football and celebrating as a team”

Show your support to our newest sponsor by joining them on facebook https://www.facebook.com/cityarmsoxford

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First Saints VS Saints Championship Bowl A Success

‘Saints Championship Bowl I’ – A New Tradition Is Born

With the season finishing after our loss to Sussex Thunder in the quarter finals (read the game report here) the players took advantage of our rest week to have a team social at our new sponsor (and planned Super Bowl Party host), The City Arms on Cowley Road.

Fantastic food, copious beverages, and humorous games formed a great evening as we celebrated reaching the playoffs, whilst commiserating our “one and done” record.

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With no more practice or games to look forward to, most of us were staring down a long off-season with no chance to play contact football until late February/early March.

For those of you have had something you’re passionate about suddenly stop, you know this can be quite a jarring experience.

Fortunately, veteran Tight End (TE) Richard Bloomer floated the following idea: A scrimmage against ourselves: Team Offense versus Team Defense, but playing both sides of the ball.

For example, our regular Middle Linebacker (MLB) Dean Bryan #54 plays at Quarterback (QB) when on offense, but switches back to MLB when on defense. The idea for the “Saints Championship Bowl” was born.

Hereafter the teams will be referred to as Team Offense and Team Defense, with the units referred to as offense and defense.

Immediately there was an outpouring of support for this idea from the players; our season wasn’t over, there was something left to play for, and for some, a final chance to enjoy the sport we love together before retiring.

This would also be a great opportunity for rookies and first year veterans to get a lot more game time than they had experienced so far and also to see their opposite position, giving them a greater understanding of what an opponent would be trying to achieve in a regular game. This increase in football IQ will be invaluable to the team and to the players as their career progresses.


Rules & Conditions

  1. Team Offense must be players who primarily played offensive positions in 2015
  2. Team Defense must be players who primarily played defensive positions in 2015
  3. Team Offense to wear White Saints Shirts
  4. Team Defense to wear Blue Saints Shirts
  5. 20 minute quarters, no special teams.
  6. Game clock and down marker managed by Injured players acting as officials.
  7. Coach Greg Kennedy as head official.
  8. 3 timeouts per team, per half.
  9. Full kit
  10. Full contact

Organising The Teams

With the format set and volunteers streaming in for both “teams”, the injured Defensive Tackle (DT) Toby Durant stepped up as Head Coach (HC) for Team Defense, with Dean Bryan as his first string QB, and Wide Receiver (WR) Jake Geerthsen leading Team Offense as HC, putting TE Grant Tebb in as first string QB.

In true defensive fashion, each detail was carefully prepared, a playbook was published a week in advance, and a depth chart finalised by Dean Bryan. The Offense took a more relaxed approach, preferring to rely on a wealth of experience at most positions.

This was even further evidenced on the day when Team Defense arrived 2 hours before kick-off for playbook walk through and an organised warm up. Team Offense decided to show up 10 minutes before kick off, some still eating their lunch, maintaining their relaxed approach. Team Offense were hindered further when it was discovered that the majority of the white Saints kit was not currently at the venue and therefore had to improvise with a mix of different white shirts.

Owing to the player numbers (about 16 on offense and 24 on defense) and a desire to ensure player safety, special teams did not form part of the SC Bowl.

It was agreed instead that kick-offs would be placed on the 25 yard line, and if a team elected to punt, the ball would be marched 35 yards downfield by the referee (our very own Defensive Coach Greg Kennedy).

Saints sports therapist Naomi Maycock attended the game to provide her usual expert services to the team, including taping, injury prevention and sideline assistance to both teams.

2015  SC Bowl I Team Offense – Led by Jake Geerthsen

The Game Begins

Team Defense won the toss and decided to have possession of the ball first. After picking up a couple of first downs, Team Offense then managed to prevent any further movement and Team Defense were forced to “punt”.

With each team now back in their natural roles, the physicality of the game was ramped up. With everyone comfortable in their positions, Team Defense stood strong on this drive, with Team Offense held to a measly 7 yards before having to punt.

The pregame prep for Team Defense appeared to have paid dividends already!

The next drive by Team Defense gathered steam quickly, moving downfield thanks to strong running from Strong Safety (SS) Martin Fitzpatrick and quick passes from Dean Bryan to Free Safety (FS) Michael Bearman.

Team Defense managed to get within scoring distance when Dean Bryan completed a short pass to SS Chris Fox on a crossing route over the middle, breaking through tackles he carried the ball down field towards the end zone , until a last minute tackle from Grant Tebb forced him out of bounds at the 12 yard line.

With Team Defense knocking on the door it seemed that the first points of the game were inevitable, until a fumbled handoff led to Team Offense regaining possession of the ball.

In an attempt to show contempt for the abilities of Team Defense, Team Offense offered team physiotherapist Naomi Maycock a chance to put on kit and take a snap as QB. Unfortunately HC Jake Geerthsen and QB1 Grant Tebb had underestimated the tenacity of Team Defense, as the snap was botched and they were able to force a safety, opening the scoring 2-0 to Team Defense.

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2015 SC Bowl I Team Defense – Led by Toby Durant 

The rest of the first half passed without major incident, both teams struggling to get a sustained drive going. In the dying seconds of the half Team Offense attempted a deep ball which was close but incomplete, although the back judge determined that the clock had expired whilst the play was ongoing (meaning it should now be half time), referee Kennedy decided to give Team Offense one more play. This play would result in first year WR Tom Swift breaking through multiple defenders, with three members of Team Defense having hands on him at one stage, to run the ball in for the game’s first touchdown. The score at the half was 6-2.

As we broke apart for team talks, Team Defense HC Toby Durant channelled an ex-player by giving the encouraging words of “just be better”. No drama here…

The second half started with Team Offense in possession of the ball again, moving quickly downfield before stalling within 10 yards of the end zone. Another turnover from a fumbled handoff gave Team Defense possession, and an opportunity to put together a scoring drive.

For the second half, Dean Bryan moved to play offensive line and FS Ian Hiscock stepped in to fill the role of QB. However, a strong defensive showing from Team Offense led to them forcing a safety, making the score 8-2.

Now even further behind, Team Defense needed to rally together. With time and opportunity slipping away, turnovers from MLB Connor Day and FS Adam Gibbs kept the game within reach. A hard fought series put Team Defense within scoring distance and Corner Back (CB) Matthew Wheldon hammered through the line on a short run to bring the score to 8-8.

2015 SC Bowl I Team Offense – Celebrating their first title

The tie game was short lived however, as on the next series TE (and Team Great Britain candidate) James Walter stepped in at QB and found a wide open Grant Tebb on a screen pass. Tebb evaded the tackle attempt by veteran CB Mike Turner and ran the ball down the sideline to score, bringing the game to 14-8 to Team Offense.

Another fumbled handoff on the next series saw Team Offense back in possession of the ball quickly. With time running out, Team Defense desperately needed another turn over. A brilliant effort from Dean Bryan saw him flip a ball-carrying Offensive Lineman (OL) Tyson Blackstock as he attempted to hurdle his way through the defensive line, recovering the fumbled football for Team Defense.

Unfortunately even this wasn’t enough. Team Defense were hurrying through plays and getting back to the line as the game clock was ticking away, but efforts were cut short with another fumble.

At the final whistle the score remained 14-8 to Team Offense, and the ‘Saints Championship Bowl I’ trophy was awarded to WR Ali Galbraith by Coach Kennedy.

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Conclusion

The inaugural Saints Championship Bowl was a huge success and will become a annual tradition for seasons to come.

Team Offense may have earned bragging rights for the next 12 months, but Team Defense will be hungry to redeem themselves.

This brings to a close the 2015 Season, a new crop of rookies have caught the American Football bug and will be returning next year hungry to learn, veterans are a year more experienced and will be pushing each other for more game time on both sides of the ball.

The Saints Championship Bowl was fantastic fun and the perfect way to end the season.

Next year we plan to make Saints Championship Bowl II bigger and better, with more organisation, photographers, video and publicity.

Until next year!

Written by #29 Chris Fox

James Walter Selected For GB National Trials

Oxford Saints star RB/TE James Walter has been invited to the GB National Team Trials

The driving force behind the Saints offense has seen his hard work be justly rewarded, with a highly coveted invitation to attend the GB National Team Trials in Sheffield.

James will be attending the trials alongside other hopeful players as he strives to earn a spot on the final roster.

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He completed the 2015 season with 148 carries gaining 1103 yards in just 8 games, claiming 14 touchdowns with an average gain of 7.5 yards per carry. As dangerous as he is on the ground, James also hauled in 20 passes for an additional 186 yards and 3 touchdowns.

James led the team in carries, receptions, yards gained and touchdowns.

He is also the teams punter and is able to punt the ball with power and accuracy, which frequently give the Saints defense an advantage.

With thousands of adult players across the country, to be acknowledged for your achievements and given a chance to play for your country is a significant honour.

Following the recent successes of the GB Women’s Team, expectations are high for the Men’s team to follow suit and deliver a strong performance in Europe.

James Walter 2015 Highlights

Originally from Gloucester, James joined the Saints when he came to study at Oxford Brookes University.

Making his debut season in 2012, he quickly showed his abilities and proved himself to be a valuable addition to the team.

For several seasons James competed on the American Football field all year round, playing his university ball with the Oxford Brookes Panthers over the winter, then playing with the Saints in the senior leagues during the summer.

A hard task for many to achieve as the constant training and physical effects of playing can make it difficult for some, whilst also balancing academic work, but James showed his commitment to the game and worked even harder off the field to get his physical fitness to the level required for back to back seasons, year after year…

Following news of his invitation, fellow teammates have praised James on his achievements and are thrilled that his hard work through the season has paid off, wishing him good luck on his trials.

Oxford Saints during the BAFANL Division II SFC West match between Oxford Saints and Cornish Sharks at Oxford Rugby Club, Oxford, England on 12 April 2015. Photo by Gareth Brown.

Veteran Linebacker Dean Bryan:

“James Walter? What can I say. I could tell that this guy was talented when he first joined the team back in 2012. He was one of a very very good crop of OBU Panthers we recruited in the pre-season that year. James initially played as a tight end for us but he became a much more versatile player when he really hit his fitness regime hard.”

“The last few years has seen James become a dual threat in both the run and pass game. With all of that said, what impresses me just as much as his ability on the field is that over the last season and a half, he has really stepped up and become a leader on the offense. I still think #7 has another gear he can reach and we are delighted he chooses to play his senior ball here in Oxford. In open space, he is almost unplayable and practising against him every week definitely challenges our defense and makes us better.”


 

First year Running Back/Tight End Grant Tebb:

“It’s been a pleasure to play with James this summer, his leadership, passion and talent have been evident to me me in my first season with the Saints. The effort he puts in on the pitch and willingness to do all it takes has really inspired the offence and brought the level of play of all around him up. His call up to trials is well deserved and will allow him to showcase his full array of skills”


 

Veteran Wide Receiver Sam Armstrong:

‘Walter has thoroughly deserved and earned the call up to the GB trials. His hard hitting, always giving 100% attitude at training all season, his determination in every game to being the best he can be and fighting tooth and nail to get every single last yard out of every single play, even when dragging two guys behind him.”

“He hasn’t just improved himself this year, he’s helping improve the entire squad through giving the rookies valuable coaching and giving the vets a top tear player to train with and against.”


 

2nd year Strong Safety Chris Fox:

“James has been one of the most influential players on the team this year, not only with his ability but with his work ethic and willingness to teach others. Teaching others provides insight into your own technique and I think James has continued to develop his own unique playing style, harder and faster than last year and shows no sign of letting up now.”


 

1st year Linebacker Graeme Taylor:

“I’ve played this sport for 10 years with players from all over America and Europe, and I can honestly say that James Walter is one of the best players I’ve ever had the fortune of playing alongside. To gain over 1,000 rushing yards in an 8 game season is unbelievable, and he thoroughly deserves this opportunity to represent GB. I know he will do himself and the Oxford Saints proud.”

Oxford Saints v Torbay TrojansSky Bet League 212/04/2015.

Player Profile: Chris Fox – Life With The Oxford Saints

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Name: Christopher Fox

Hometown: London, UK

Nationality: British/Swedish

Height: 5’11

Weight: 170

Chris Fox joined the Oxford Saints for the 2014 season after hearing an upcoming rookie session promoted on local radio.

Initially put to work with the wide receivers, Fox quickly realised that his passion laid with the defense and he was keen to switch to a position which allowed for more aggressive play.

Fox has since become a solid part of the team and after an impressive rookie year, he has now claimed lots of game time in his 2nd season and was awarded defensive MVP in the 50-16 victory over the Swindon Storm on 5th July.


How i got into American Football – Growing up in Sweden

My introduction to american football was playing ‘NFL Quarterback Club 99’ on the Nintendo 64 with my brother. I tended to pick the New England Patriots and he would be the Green Bay Packers, of such things are loyalties born…

I never thought it would be something that I could ever do myself, I was a bespectacled short kid with little athletic talent. Even if I had wanted to play, the accepted sports were rugby at school or association football (soccer) at home, where would I find an american football team in Sweden?

1620868_689722711091811_444562608_nFast forward to me in 2014, I’m living in Oxford having been to school (Millfield) and university (Exeter) here in the UK. Now I play Madden on the XBox and although I’ve grown taller, I’ve also grown outwards; the result of a sedentary job and propensity for chugging beer.

A particularly unflattering photo shocked me and lead me to start working on getting back in to the shape I was in when I played competitive rugby at school.

Although it took longer than it should have, by the end of the year I had managed to get back to the fitness level I wanted. The question arose of what to do now, I was fit but what I needed was a reason to maintain… Although I’d played rugby and enjoyed it, I’d never loved it.

Then a fortuitous radio advert mentioned a “Rookie taster day with the Oxford Saints American Football club”, reminding me how I’d always wanted to play but never had an opportunity, here was my shot and my dreams of playing linebacker like Mike Vrabel or Ray Lewis could be realised.

My First Training Sessions

Without going in to the details of how that first session went, I did manage to get put on my back during a “non contact” drill, I was absolutely hooked. The next session was back at the Saints home ground at Abingdon Rugby Club, in howling wind and pouring rain, but in no way was I deterred.

When the team was split between offense and defense I had no idea where to go, I spoke to the coaches and they put me with the receivers. Thinking back to the taster day, the drills I’d most enjoyed had been the ones for the defence, and so at the next training session when we split between the offense and defense, I happily trundled off with the defense and introduced myself to the D coaches, although they did put me with the defensive backs rather than the linebackers.

Now these were the drills I had in mind, every rep ending with contact or knocking a pass away to crush your opponents dreams. Didn’t matter how big they were I loved it, unfortunately I still had a lot to learn about technique…

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I was told to follow the advice of veteran Ben Denton (free safety at the time but is now our starting quarterback) as he would teach me how to play free safety. He was switching to cornerback which meant I managed to get almost every snap at free safety during scrimmage at the end of practice, which sounds great until veteran Stephen Bentley charges through the linebackers and I’m the last man responsible for taking down this diesel train.

He may have driven me back another 4-5 yards but I managed to get him down, which really cemented my opinion that this was a sport I would enjoy!

The 2014 Season

As we neared the end of pre-season we had two main events upcoming, a friendly game against Bristol Apache, and a controlled scrimmage against the Berkshire Renegades.

First up was the controlled scrimmage against Berkshire, a premier team (the tier above us at the time) and for a lot of us, our first outing against a live opponent.

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Once again I was lucky to pick up a lot of reps but as a rookie I still didn’t have the situational awareness, ending up deep in our endzone and allowing a short pass to be completed to the front.

This was my first exposure to the heightened sense of competition this sport brings out in you, and seeing how differently everyone reacted to mistakes made here versus in practice showed me this wasn’t a group of weekend warriors, they were here to beat every opponent that came along.

When we came up against Bristol a few weeks later I thought that I was ready. Man, was I wrong. Previously every offense I’d faced had been a maximum of two wide receivers, but Bristol run a predominantly trips formation (three wide receivers lined up together). They also run a no huddle offense. For a rookie this was too much.

I found myself allowing receivers to get behind me, anathema for a free safety, and where I’d thought I was in good shape this was definitely disproved.

As it was a pre-season game I don’t think the score was promoted anywhere and I am definitely happy about that. This would be one of the worst experiences of my football life and it made me realise that I needed to be fitter and smarter before I could play this game at the level that was expected of me.

Once the season started,  veteran Mike Turner came back from the Oxford Brookes University Panthers and played free safety for us, which allowed me to study someone else in the position.

Firstly I noticed the amount he communicated, relaying information from one side of the field to the other. This is where I learned why the FS is thought of as the general of the defence, able to see everything from his high viewpoint and organising his troops as required.

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After a few weeks the coaches also moved me from FS to strong safety. Rather than being the last line of defense, here I got to play as a mixture between linebacker and defensive back.

I was closer to my preferred position, but up close I also realised how unsuited my body type was to that position.

Strong safety on the other hand fit me like a glove. Heavily involved in run support, but also responsible for short passing routes, I understood why the coaches had put me here.

As the season progressed and we had some close scorelines. My time on the field was fairly limited, but this spurred me to learn all I could from the vets and also to get myself in the gym and really start to build something.

From the final third of the season and over the off season I spent 3-5 days a week training. Either lifting #ClangingAndBanging or working on stamina and agility.

The hardest thing to get through was the idea that I was “Training for a sport not a swimsuit competition” as veteran lineman Rees Gidley was forced to tell me.

With other members of the team we’d meet up to do cone drills and practice catching, I’d watch YouTube videos of DBs training, and I’d research what type of lifting they were doing as they got ready to try and get into college or into the NFL.

I had my sights set on a starting spot on the Oxford Saints defense and I was going to give it everything I had. Luckily I had a lot of support from other members of the team, people like Matt Wheldon who would lift with me, Coach Peart and Martin Fitzpatrick who took the time to write up the areas I could improve, and Ali Galbraith who would give me an unholy leg burn with constant back peddling transitioning to sprints.

I came back at the start of 2015 stronger, faster, better, and I was ready to show the coaches what I could achieve.

The 2015 Season

Pre-season came and with it a few weeks of non-contact training.

Focussed on footwork and catching, I felt the work in the off-season had really given me a boost. This was only heightened as we moved in to kitted practice.

Hitting harder than I did last year, understanding how a play was going to develop earlier than I could last year, having the confidence to diagnose a play and react to it, meant I was making more positive plays than last year.

The effort I’d put in seemed to culminate during our match against Bristol at home where we started the second half with both of our Strong Safeties on the field. This was the longest period of continuous play I’d experienced and was the first game I felt comfortable in my position and what was expected of me.

Winning this game felt like retribution for the pre-season game the year before where I was unsure and unfit, this time I was ready and able to meet the challenge.

As the season progressed I continued to work hard on and off the field. Then, on 5th July 2015,  what I’d been striving for finally happened; I was starting for the Oxford Saints.

Our opponent for the day was nearest rival, the Swindon Storm, who’d drubbed us 50-16 earlier in the season in a game where I was injured.

This was my chance to show the coaches that they were right to put their faith in me and also for me to get an amount of revenge.

The game report and highlights are available here.

For me everything just seemed to click. I wasn’t thinking, I was acting instinctively.

I was able to see things happening and react to them in such a way that I contributed to the defense holding them to only 13 points. Points which were scored not by a sustained drive where they had us on the back foot, but each time by a single broken play where we were caught out.

The game ended with Coach Wykes nominating me as defensive MVP, an honour I hadn’t even dared think I could earn yet. With enough hard work, determination, and listening to the coaching and advice from vets it shows that we can surpass our own wildest dreams.

I’ve found a family and a home with the Oxford Saints, and they bring out the best in me. No other sport has ever made me feel this way, and now all I need is to deliver on the expectations that they have of me.


Interested In Joining?

Preparations have began for the 2016 season and new players are invited to sign up for our rookie training sessions in November & December.

Full details and registration instructions are available here.