Oxford CAUGHT OFF GUARD BY RESURGENT EAGLES
On Sunday 9th July, the Saints travelled to Bedfordshire for the 8th game of the regular season. Taking on the Eagles, the Saints were confident after a 2 game winning streak and a 35-14 victory over their opponent earlier in the year.
The Eagles however have found a burst of energy towards the end of their season with their squad bolstered by several new players. Running back Jamahl Watson amongst others have joined their roster and made an immediate impact.
Meanwhile, the Saints gained over 350 offensive yards and dominated possession of the football, but were unable to turn it into points on the scoreboard when it mattered.
With Oxford receiving the opening kickoff, both sides exchanged blows in the blistering heat with neither making any gains on their first drives and having to punt the ball away. A pass attempt on 3rd down from Eagles quarterback Nick Tilbury saw his receiver getting hit hard by defender Martin Fitzpatrick, breaking up the play.
The Saints with quarterback James Walter at the helm got a first down on their next drive but were unable to keep it going, resulting in another punt.
Oxford’s defense put pressure on the Eagles with linebacker Sam Stancombe bringing down Tilbury behind the line for a 8 yard sack.
Still in the first quarter, the Saints offense were making progress with running backs Ryan Kingshott and Tony Glover. A completed pass to Sam Armstrong on 4th down kept the drive alive. Oxford looked to get on the scoreboard first with a field goal attempt from 34 yards out, but the kick from Sam Fielden went wide right.
Now in the second quarter, the Eagles struck back immediately when Watson ran straight through the Saints defense. The towering player shrugged off would-be tacklers for a 80 yard touchdown run and showed good speed.
Mike Turner added the extra point, giving the home team a 7-0 lead.
7-0 Ouse Valley
The Saints responded with a drive across the field and big runs from Glover and Kingshott. From 2 yards out, Glover ran the ball in for the score but the 2 point conversion attempt failed.
7-6 Ouse Valley
Jamahl Watson caused panic again on the Eagles next drive, charging through for a 55 yard gain before going down with a apparent hamstring injury. Close to the Saints endzone, the defense made a stand with a tackle for a loss of yards from Spencer Duffy, bringing up 4th down.
The Eagles attempted a field goal from Mike Turner but it fell short of his target, forcing a turnover of possession.
The Saints had a shot at gaining the lead in the final moments of the first half but James Walter’s pass into the endzone was intercepted, bringing up the game interval.
Early in the 3rd quarter, a good punt from Oxford pinned the ball on the Eagles 9 yard line. With their offense on the field, they picked up a first down but faced pressure from the Saints defensive line with George Wright sacking Tilbury for a 8 yard loss.
Desperate to claim a lead, the Saints attempted another field goal at the beginning on the 4th quarter but Fielden’s kick from 26 yards out went wide right.
Later in the 4th, the Eagles approached the Saints goalline and Watson ran through for his 2nd touchdown of the day, this time from 12 yards out. Turner added the extra point.
14-6 Ouse Valley
A pass attempt on the next drive from Walter was intercepted by Akintunde Adewale, who made a great play and returned the ball 51 yards into the endzone for the score. Turner’s kick was blocked.
20-6 Ouse Valley
The Saints offense tried to increase the tempo with Walter switched to running back and Kyle Swann in at quarterback. Walter was gaining yards on the ground but with time running out, they were unable to get into the endzone.
A final attempt for a consolation score saw a pass from Swann intercepted, ending the game.
Final score 20-6 Ouse Valley
A disappointing performance by the Saints who were heavy favourites to secure the win. On paper, the Oxford side seemed to be dominating as they gained 340 offensive yards compared to the 223 by the Eagles.
The Saints also had more first downs and had several scoring opportunities, including 2 missed field goals. They brought good pressure on defense with 2 sacks and a interception, but gave up 2 big runs to Watson.
With both the Saints and the Eagles on a tied record of 4-4, the last two games for both teams will be crucial in determining playoff eligibility. The Saints will be looking to avenge the loss when they travel to the Solent Thrashers on 23rd July. Meanwhile the Eagles will be hosting the undefeated Sussex Thunder, who have clinched the conference title.
The final game of the regular season will see Oxford host the Eagles for the 3rd time this year on 30th July.
The Saints will need to pick up wins against both Solent and Ouse Valley to secure a spot in the Division 1 Playoffs.