No standings available
Oxford 24 - 42 Milton Keynes
The Saints season came to an abrupt end on Sunday when they were beaten 42-24 by the Milton Keynes Pathfinders.
It was under brooding skies and clamouring tension that the Saints took too long to find their rhythm against a Pathfinder team who executed well and capitalised on the spectacular. Ultimately MK managed to keep the Saints at arms length to record a deserved victory and a semi final match up against the Peterborough Saxons.
The Saints vaunted defence started the game in their usual style forcing the Pathfinders to punt and then intercepting QB Michael Keogh at midfield to set up good field position for their offense. What followed, however, was a first quarter to forget, fumbling twice in their opening four possessions and allowing the dynamic Pathfinder offense opportunities to move the scoreboard.
Despite solid work from the Saints front seven Milton Keynes chipped away for openings and it was running back Curtis Williston who found the daylight he was looking for midway through the first quarter, broke a tackle and sprinted away from the pursuit for an electrifying 65 yard touchdown.
Still, though, there was little to choose between the teams and both defences had the measure of their counterparts until a first special teams disaster for the Saints saw a punt blocked and recovered at their own 2. Keogh wasted little time in hitting Neil Arthur on a quick slant for a 14 point lead.
The Saints stayed composed and Ali Galbraith’s offense finally began to deliver on their extravagant promise driving 60 yards for Mike Oluwole to power over from the 1. Finally Oxford looked like they had gained a foothold and with the defence doing sterling work against MK’s quick and dynamic offense the game was afoot.
Enter Christopher Parr. The Pathfinder kick return man fielded Jonny Dovers kickoff inside his 20 yard line and cut, jinked and finally exploded past the cover for an 82 yard score, sending the teams into the half with the score 22-6 to the visitors.
If that lightning riposte deflated the Saints there was worse to follow at the start of the third quarter as Keogh connected deep over a blown coverage to bring the Pathfinders into the Saints redzone before hitting Richard Smith in the back corner for a comfortable 28-6 lead.
The absence of alternatives clears the mind quite marvellously and the Saints needed to move and to move fast. Josh Randall directed his first drive at the helm of the Saints offense 56 yards behind the electric running of rookie Harry Carr, who would finish the day with 125 yards, to the MK 5 from where Chris Ellis intimidated his way across the goal-line to bring Oxford within range once more. The Saints were driving and the blood was up, and then Parr, for the second time drove a stake through Oxford hearts.
The return man managed to field a short squib kick, taking the ball in stride and the momentum all of 71 yards for his second score of the day. Oxford weren’t giving up but every positive from the men in white seemed to be met with a big play from the team in borrowed red.
In courage the brave soul can mend even disaster and a magnificent 90 yard drive, featuring a 58 yard reception from Galbraith was capped by Oluwole’s second score of the day and brought Oxford within 18 with plenty of time left in the game. Oxford dared to dream but Milton Keynes had other ideas, putting together a composed drive at just the right time and Keogh threw his third TD of the game, a 19 yard strike to DeAngelo Laaland, as the third quarter expired. Oxfords task had just become that bit too difficult.
Chris Ellis added another score following another solid possession for Oxford but the Pathfinders were always just out of reach and both defences mopped up the remaining time to leave the final score 42-24 and Oxford one and done in this years playoffs.
There will be post season events including flag football, awards evenings and fundraisers but for now the Saints will reflect on a season of almost unbelievable progress somewhat mitigated by a sense of opportunity missed.
Published: 07-08-2012 by nw