The Oxford Lancers – the university’s American football team – have been on a fantastic winning streak over the last year. Unbeaten since November 2014 they had claimed four wins out of four coming into this match against their Oxford rivals. The signs were there for a close affair as both teams had comprehensively won their first matches of this new season, and this was proved correct in this tight and cagey game, pierced by moments of class from either team.
The game could not have begun any worse for the Lancers as they conceded a touchdown to Brookes within the opening set of downs. The Brookes quarter-back delivered a well-directed pass over the top of the Lancers defensive line which the Brookes running back cheerfully collected in the Lancers’ end zone. Luckily for the Lancers, Brookes failed to make an attempted two-point conversion.
The Lancers struggled to get into the game in this first quarter, and it looked like this slow start might cost them dearly when Brookes had the ball in the end zone for the second time soon after. However, an illegal offense formation in the scrimmage from Brookes saved the Lancers from a greater defecit.
The second quarter was more promising for the Lancers as they started to take control in both offense and defence. Brookes were pinned back in their own half for most of the quarter partially thanks to some good punts from Alex Dale, in contrast to the abject performance of his his opposite number. Johnny ‘Priest’ Brooks, the driving force in both offense and defence for the Lancers on the day, also helped the Lancers regain some control after a great tackle on a pivotal third down for Brookes. However, for all their territorial advantage the Lancers could not find the cutting pass to get into the Brookes end-zone.
Going into the third quarter the Lancers were still 6 – 0 down. Johnny Brooks was the star of this quarter, one where the Lancers really started to put pressure on Brookes. He made a fantastic 60 yard run on the first set of Lancers’ downs and on the turnover made crucial interceptions on both first and second down to give the Brookes no room for manoeuvre. Some good defensive work by Benedict ‘Hit me’ Shillito also helped keep the Lancers on the front foot.
Nonetheless, a touchdown was still proving elusive and time was running out for the Lancers as the match entered the fourth quarter. However, it was the superb Johnny Brooks who finally made it into the Brookes end-zone on a first down after a turnover. A blistering 40-yard run down the left sideline – doing well not to stray out of bounds – went unchecked by the Brookes defence as he glided in for a deserved touchdown. However, the conversion was unfortunately blocked, so the score was level at 6 – 6.
After spending so much energy getting themselves back into the game, an immediate Brookes response threatened to destroy destroy the Lancers spirits. The Lancers kept Brookes at bay with a number ot terrific tackles, but they were unable to keep the Brookes offense at bay. Two yards away from the end-zone on third down, the Lancers defence split and the Brookes running back walked through the heart of the defensive line to leave the Lancers heartbroken. Again the Brookes offense attempted the risky two-point conversion but it did not pay off. This left the score at 12 – 6 with time running out for the Lancers to get something from the match.
However, the Lancers were not left feeling downtrodden for long as straight from the restart they secured an excellent turnover meaning that from the first down they had twenty yards to the Brookes’ end zone. On first down the Lancer’s quarter-back, Will Szymanski, pulled out his best pass of the game when his team most needed him and Alex Dale latched onto it in the end zone achieving an almost immediate reply.
The score was tied at 12 – 12 with the Lancers conversion chance yet to be played. Neither team had managed to convert yet, but given the small amount of time left a successful conversion and some tight defence would mean victory for the team that had been behind for so much of the match. Alex Dale braved the pressure and dutifully provided the winning kick to wild celebrations from the onlooking Lancer players.
Some solid defence for the remaining minutes ensured a victory that had looked out of the question earlier in the quarter. A great result for the Lancers that will hopefully give them the extra momentum to continue their winning ways for the rest of the season.
PHOTO / Hendrik Schoman