SAINTS BRING DOWN THE EAGLES
On Sunday 7th May the Oxford Saints claimed a 35-14 victory against the Ouse Valley Eagles. A dominant display, the Saints entertained their home crowd with a much needed win at Tilsley Park.
Defenses for both teams opened the game strong, with George Wright and Martin Fitzpatrick tackling the Eagles behind the line for a loss of yards. With neither the Saints or Eagles able to pick up a 1st down on offense, both sides exchanged punts in their opening drives.
Oxford were first to strike with running back James Walter sprinting across the field on 3rd down for a 44-yard touchdown run. Dean Fuller’s extra point kick was deflected, but the Saints took an early 6-0 lead.
James Walter 44-yard TD Rush
Oxford kicked the ball back to the Eagles after the score and veteran Jonny Dover tackled the kick returner on their own 11-yard line, forcing the Eagles to have a long distance to go for a score of their own.
A veteran player for the Saints who had missed the previous games this season, Dover fitted seamlessly back into the game plan.
On 1st down, the Ouse Valley quarterback Jacob Corbett passed the ball over the middle and was intercepted by linebacker Calvin Holmes, forcing a change of possession and bringing the Saints offense back onto the field.
With good field position, the Saints seemed poised to score until quarterback Ben Denton was chased down from behind for a sack and loss of 14 yards. Another tackle for a loss and a 5-yard penalty against Oxford hampered them further, followed by the Eagles’ Harry Rackham intercepting a pass and returning it a huge 51 yards before being brought down.
With the Eagles back on offense, the Saints needed to hold strong and were aided with 2 tackles from Spencer Duffy for minimal gains.
On 4th down, Corbett looked to the air and hit receiver Richard Batten over the middle for a 28-yard touchdown pass. Mike Turner kicked the extra point through the uprights.
7-6 OUSE VALLEY
The Eagles defense continued to put pressure on the Saints with Ben Denton taking his second sack, this time for a 4-yard loss.
A pass attempt on 3rd down intended for Sam Armstrong was tipped up into the air and snatched by former Saints player Mike Turner, returning it 24 yards and just short of the endzone. Corbett handed the ball off to running back Kalaba Chibwe who charged through the middle for the touchdown from 5 yards out.
Another kick from Turner extended the visitors lead to 14-6.
With Denton side-lined with a possible concussion, 2nd year quarterback Kyle Swann took over. Runs by Walter and Tony Glover combined for a 1st down, but a pitch to Glover was off target and the fumbled ball was recovered by Ouse Valley for a 12-yard loss and change of possession.
With the Eagles in scoring distance following the turnover, they were unable to take advantage and find the endzone. The Oxford defensive-line continued to be a formidable force with Conor Whitehouse and George Wright landing tackles for a loss of yards on back to back plays.
On 4th down, the Eagles attempted a field goal but Turner’s kick missed to the left of his target.
Oxford’s coaching staff sent in a different formation on their next drive and put Walter at quarterback. The Saints kept the ball on the ground and alternated between runs from Walter, Antonious Athanasiou and Glover.
This was evidently wearing down the Eagles defense and they struggling to find an answer. Picking up multiple first downs, the Saints drove the length of the field before Glover ran over the line for a 22-yard touchdown.
Looking to tie up the game before the end of the half, the Saints went for a 2 point conversion. Walter passed the ball to tight end Richard Bloomer, who hauled in the catch and kept his feet in bounds for a successful score.
14-14 HALF TIME
Oxford came out strong to open the 2nd half with another sustained drive across the field. The Saints run game continued to impress and brought them to the 2 yard line, with Glover punching the ball in for his 2nd touchdown of the day.
Fuller added the extra point and the Saints reclaimed the lead.
The Eagles suffered another setback when the ball was fumbled on the first play of their drive and recovered by Oxford’s Spencer Duffy. Close to their opponents endzone, the Saints had another chance to add a quick score but a pass from Swann was intercepted by Turner, making a one handed grab to reel the ball in before he hit the ground.
Despite the much needed turnover, the Eagles continued to struggle on offense and had made little progress throughout the game so far with most of their big plays coming from turnovers by their defense. The Saints defense meanwhile remained unmovable, with tackles from Wright, Duffy and Dean Bryan.
Oxford hit back again with their powerful run game as Walter, Glover and Athanasiou moved the ball down the field. After picking up a fresh set of downs, Glover added his 3rd touchdown of the day from 3 yards out.
Fuller’s kick extended the margin.
With the game now in the 4th quarter, time was running out for the Eagles but the Oxford defense stayed on form. Defensive tackle Johnny Little sacked Corbett for a 2-yard loss followed by Wright and Holmes bringing down Chibwe for another 6-yard loss.
Oxford’s defensive line struck again on their next drive with Great Britain Women’s player Monica Lewinska forcing the ball carrier to fumble in the backfield, which was quickly recovered by Duffy for the turnover.
The efforts from the defense gifted the Saints offense great field position again and Swann connected with Walter for a 17-yard gain and another 1st down.
Glover finished off the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run for his 3rd score of the day with Fuller remaining solid adding the extra point.
With the game closing out, last ditch attempts by the Eagles to get their offense moving and add a consolation score were shut down.
Rookie linebacker Mark Wilkinson gained his first career sack, dropping the quarterback for a 5-yard loss and on their final drive, pass attempts for the Eagles fell incomplete with rookie Leon Byfield narrowly missing an interception.
FINAL SCORE 35-14 OXFORD
A strong performance from the offense, defense and special teams unit saw the Saints claim a much needed win over the Eagles. With Sundays victory, Oxford jump into 2nd place in the conference with a 2-1 record, behind the 3-0 Sussex Thunder.
With miscues in the first half leading to two interceptions, this gave the Eagles good field position and put the pressure on the Saints defense who put on a dominating show. The offense came out firing in the 2nd half with 21 unanswered points.
The offensive unit showed their power with 250 yards and another strong display in their ground game, utilising a range of runners to wear down the Eagles defense. James Walter continued his streak of 100+ yard games and claimed 147 yards with 1 touchdown.
Fellow runner Tony Glover looked on top form and added 3 touchdowns, with full back Antonious Athanasiou also picking up a score.
Tight end Richard Bloomer hauled in a crucial grab for a 2 point conversion to tie the game before the end of the first half.
The defensive unit were the stars this week, with the defensive line continuing to wreak havoc against Oxford’s opponents.
With 2 sacks, 1 interception and 2 fumble recoveries, the defense only conceded 10 rushing yards and 44 passing yards.
Oxford defensive line coach Toby Durant praised the defensive unit’s performance:
The defense were electric all day and but for one play were flawless. We knew we’d have a tough job pressuring the Ouse Valley passing game but we were able to create chaos up front with the play-calling and some strong performances across the defensive line
By holding their ground game in check we really forced their hand, and once they became one dimensional it was a lot easier for our guys to tee off on the quarterback
The special teams unit made it a long day for the Eagles with rookie Dean Fuller repeatedly kicking the ball deep out the back of the endzone several times. Jonny Dover and Travis Folkes delivered key tackles on kickoff to limit return attempts by the Eagles.
The Saints have a week for training and then travel to the Sussex Thunder on 21st May.