first British team in the States
The article below is an account of the Brighton B-52s historic trip to California in October 1986 to compete in the second Budweiser Transatlantic Bowl. Their opponents were the San Francisco City College Rams, and the game was played at the San Francisco 49ners legendary home, Candlestick Park.
On Monday 6th October 1986, they took on the Rams, and although they may have lost the game 77-6 (they lost the first one at Brighton's Withdean Stadium 76-0 in December 1985), most of the British players said it was the highlight of their careers.
Quarterback Chaz Jasicki said,
game was tougher than anybody can realise in England ... because the
standard of play and calibre of players were so different. They hit
harder and run faster."
The B52s visited the 49ners training camp and watched a practice one afternoon. R C Owens, the 49ners administrator, guided the group and provided loads of background information about the team and players. Jerry Rice sparkled during the training session, grabbing every ball that came his way - and making it look easy. The 49ners and Rice especially, impressed the British players with their slick professionalism. After practice, some of the 49ners talked to the B52s and offered tips and advice. Tight end Russ Francis' instruction on blocking techniques proved especially helpful. Dan Parrish, ex-defensive line coach for City College, spent a lot of time with the team explaining City College strategies and how to read their plays.
The B52s training and determination came together in the second quarter when Chaz Jasicki connected with his brother Jim with a fourth down touchdown pass. Offensive lineman Russ Parker broke his leg badly and was stretched off the field during the goal-line drive. Amid cries of "Do it for Russ", the B52s scored and the team went mad!
As well as the training and the game, the players did plenty of sightseeing. Some of their visits took them to the Muir Woods redwood forest, the Inglenook vineyards in the Napa Valley, a cablecar ride. They watched the Stanford University vs. San Diego State college football game, at Stanford, which Stanford won 17-10. Several players also watched the 49ners vs. Indianapolis Colts NFL game. B52s coach Wayne Hardman was 49ners ball boy for the game!
As for the game that they had come to play, they were well beaten by an efficient City College Rams side. Their coach was a touch unkind in his post-match analysis,
"They came out with a lot of fire, but that was about all. They didn't come together as a group of men." Indeed, this unique event, played in front of a 3,000 crowd in the magnificent Candlestick Park, rather fizzled out for the Americans.
Happiest smiles on the night belonged to the Jasicki brothers, who combined to score the lone TD for the B52s, following an impressive 9 play 80-yard drive. Mark Wynnick first raced through the middle for 43 yards, followed by a 22-yard run from Gladstone Mackenzie which together accounted for most of Brighton's rushing yardage. A penalty then helped their cause further before Wynnick gained six yards and then another one, and the B52s found themselves two yards from the San Francisco goal-line on fourth down.
Instead of going for the field-goal, Chaz Jasicki passed into the far left of the endzone to find his younger brother and Brighton, by now 34-6 down in the second quarter, were jumping for joy.
"It made the whole trip worthwhile", said a delighted Jim, the only American-born player in the 49-player party.
Yet as Chaz threw the TD, one of his five completed passes out of 14 attempts on the night, the B52s offensive lineman Russell Parker was being taken to hospital with a broken leg. Brighton also lost fullback Gordon Perry early on with a badly bruised arm.
Nigel Hoyte, of the London Ravens, sacked Rams QB Tom Martinez (who finished with 154 yards passing and 2 TD's at half time). City had discipline problems, and gave up 170 yards on 16 penalties, losing 3 TD's in the process and had two players ejected!
Gladstone Mackenzie, of the Milton Keynes Bucks, ran for 34 yards on 8 carries, and Mark Wynnick, gained 61 yards from 12 carries, but their efforts were to no avail.
With their first touch of the ball, the Rams scored on Andre Alexander's 58-yard punt return to open the scoring. From the home teams first offensive drive, Pete Russell had it just as easy to score from 13 yards out. City College running backs Eric Phillips and Louis LeDay both went on to score two TD's while there was one apiece from Arthur Tautalatasi, Eric House, Howard Smith, Gary Merriweather and Kelvin Magee. Steve Albrecht kicked 9 extra points, and defensive lineman Ronald Brooks bagged a safety.
While the Brighton coach felt much of the damage was done due to his special teams not performing, City College coach George Rush hit the nail on the head when he said that the Brighton team did not play as a team. For as much as the 21 players loaned from other clubs contributed individually, the task of knitting them together proved to difficult in such a short space of time.
Coaches and players at the end of the game embraced each other and pledged to make this an annual fixture. Sadly, however, the two teams never played each other again.
Brighton B52s Squad
- Nicky Jones, Alex White, Amanda Jones, Louise Krige, Anja Heasman,
Maria Rolfe, Laura Hardin, Toni Ormerod
Article adapted from Gridiron UK December 1986 issue