Kilbride Pirates 12-15 PA Knights
18th August 2002
The Knights made the long journey north to East Kilbride to face the
unbeaten and #1 nationally ranked Pirates in the British Senior League Division 1 play off
The Guildford based team ranked at #4 with an 8-2 regular season
record were the underdogs as they took on the top ranked 10-0 Pirates. Pundits predicted
that the journey would be as significant in its affect on the game as would be the Pirates
two 1,000 yd + running backs Willie Brown and John Sutherland. In the end both assumptions
would prove a mistaken belief.
The Knights took 45 players in the traveling squad - a much larger
visiting team than the Pirates had seen in some time.
Whilst the South of the country basked in a heat wave the weather
for the game started with heavy drizzle and developed into a deluge. The Pirates home
field was already heavy (the game had been in doubt right up until Friday) and conditions
grew steadily worse.
The Knights took the opening possession and moved the ball on the
ground with their own 1,000yd rusher, American Tony Stitt, and Adedayo Ashaye. An Ashley
Heath pass completion to star WR Steve Belcher kept the ball moving but the Pirates then
stiffened their defense and the Knights were forced to punt. In already difficult
conditions and heavy rain the snap sailed over Punter Belcher's head - disaster was
avoided as the speedy wideout recovered the ball and got a quick kick away.
The Pirates first possession showed equal promise with John
Sutherland and Willie Brown both helping to move the ball before progress was stopped and
the Pirates punted.
The Knights immediately gave the ball back to the home team at their
own 37yd line as the ball slipped out on the first play of their second possession. The
Pirates saw Brown gain three yards then Sutherland fourteen on two carries before Willie
Brown burst free to run untouched for a 20yd Touchdown.
The Pirates went for their customary 2 Point conversion try and
appeared to have succeeded as QB Gary McNey completed a pass to Scottish Claymore TE Peter
Sochart. The play was called back on a penalty however and the ensuing try failed leaving
the score at 6-0 to the Pirates.
The Knights failed to make much headway on their next possession and
as the first quarter ended the Pirates took over leading 6-0.
The visiting defense led by top tackler Jez McLees, Tony McKenzie
and Tony Porter made a quick three and out for the Pirates.
The Knights then started a 7 play 65yd drive based on the powerful
running of Tony Stitt that led to the Americans 11yd scoring burst. The Pirates, who had
predicted a shutout of the Knights, were left visibly stunned as Steve Belcher slotted the
extra point conversion to put the Knights into a lead they never surrendered. Pirates 6-7
The Pirates came out running and concentrated on giving leading
rusher Willie Brown the ball. Former London Monarch Tony McKenzie delivered a crunching
tackle on the diminutive tailback which jarred the ball loose for the Knights Derek
Freeman to recover. The visitors saw the chance to add to the score line going into the
half time break but fine defensive work from the Pirates defensive backfield broke up two
opportunities for Heath to connect with Belcher. Having failed to make a first down the
Knights went for a 37yd Steve Belcher field goal attempt - the Pirates blocked the kick to
leave the score at half time 6-7 in favour of the visitors.
The Pirates opened the second half but the visiting defense now had
the measure of the Pirates running game and they made little progress. The Knights, with
Stitt in full flow, moved the ball impressively but again the Pirates stiffened to force
another Belcher punt.
QB McNey then tried to mix some passing into the equation. First a
sack by the Knights LB Tony Porter put the home team on the back foot and then an
interception by CB Andy Mitchell (returned for 14yds) saw the visitors knocking on the
door to extend their lead. Tailback Stitt, who was under used and suffered defeat at this
stage in Scotland with his former club the Southern Sundevils last year, took the
initiative behind some awesome blocking from his Offensive Line and Backfield colleagues.
He finished the drive with a 10yd burst to pay dirt and the Knights led 6-13. The Extra
point attempt narrowly missed as kicker Belcher struggled to stay on his feet in the
The third quarter ended as the Pirates took possession going into
the final 15 minute period.
The resolute home team were determined not to surrender their #1
ranked season without a fight and they mounted an impressive drive in an attempt to
reassert themselves with time running against them. Willie Brown made valuable yardage but
couldn't break the big run against the determined Knights. QB McNey found Sochart again on
a crucial 4th down attempt. The completion appeared to have come up short as Sochart was
knocked out of bounds by Jay Cashman - but on being re-positioned by the Umpire (who
claimed a better view of the play than the Line Judge) the ball was just good enough for a
Pirate first down. Gez Neilan nearly intercepted on McNey's next passing attempt but two
plays later the QB found Pirate WR Mark Squire alone in the Endzone for a 10yd scoring
completion bringing the score line to 12-13.
The Pirates elected to try for the lead and McNey again went to the
air. DB Cashman - who had been beaten for the TD - was having none of it and made a great
play to deny the Pirates and sustain the Knights slender lead.
The Knights then mounted a time consuming drive with Stitt again at
the forefront supported by the running and blocking of Rob Scruby. The powerful 49ers
practice squad player appeared to have broken free for a game winning TD only to be
stopped by an excellent diving tackle from Pirate linebacker Steven Wilson. The next play
saw Stitt dive into the endzone appearing to score - but the officials - working in very
difficult conditions - ruled him barely 6inches short of the endzone. The Pirates made a
great stand on the next play forcing the loss of a yard. Stitt then burst into the endzone
on the next play but the visitors celebrations were curtailed by a holding penalty forcing
them back to the 10yd line. The Pirates held Stitt to 7 yards on the 4th down attempt and
took over on their own three yard line.
Two runs (one of which resulted in an apparent fumble that was
returned into the Endzone by Stuart Clackson for a Knights TD - but was called back by the
majority decision of the officials) and a pass later they were still inside their own 5yd
line and elected to concede a two point safety by snapping the ball through the endzone
which extended the Knights lead to 12-15.
Clearly intending an onside kick from their 20yd line the Pirates
baulked when they saw that Knights Special Teams Coach Pete Vaughan had arranged the
"hands" team to receive the short kick. The Pirates therefore kicked the ball
deep and Rodney Edgerton made a decent 20yd return. The Knights were then able to run out
the clock and record a famous victory.
The Guildford based team progress to the National Championship Final
(BritBowl 2002) at Sheffield's Don Valley Stadium just two years after winning the
Division 2 National Championship. They will face the #2 ranked London O's who progressed
to their 6th consecutive final having beaten Birmingham in the other Semi-Final.
Knights Head Coach Steve Rains said, "The team, our supporters,
my coaching staff and our sponsor Personal Assurance fully deserve this win and a chance
to compete for the Championship. We knew this would be tough but full credit to Shelley
Hygate our team manager the arrangements to get us up here and back with time to prepare
properly were significant in this win. The players dealt superbly with very difficult
conditions and I am immensely proud of them all."
Defensive Coach Ian Ellis added, "This was a tremendous team
effort. Some individuals will feature heavily on the Stats sheet - but make no mistake
this was a team effort from the moment we left Guildford until the final whistle."
Special Teams Coach Pete Vaughan was justifiably proud of the ST
effort adding, "Field position in such awful conditions was crucial. Players from the
most experienced to the first year guys stepped up and took on that challenge to keep the
team in the game and our season rolling into the final challenge in Sheffield."
OFFENSE: DEFENSE: (Highlights)
Passing: J McLees 9 (5U + 4A)
T Mckenzie 8 (6U+2A)
G Neilan 6 (3U+3A)
T Porter 5 (4U+1A) + 1 Sack
M McMillan 4 (2U+2A)
J Shepherd 3 (3U)
D Freeman 3 (3A) + 1FR
S Harrison 2 (2U)
S Scriven 2 (1U+1A)
S Stonelake 2 (2A)
A Mitchell 1INT
A Heath 2 of 5 for 16yds
R Edgerton 1 for 10yds
S Belcher 1 for 6yds
A Stitt 33 for 203yds 2TD
A Ashaye 4 for 16yds
A Heath 4 for -5yds
R Scruby 2 for 5yds
P Wakeford 1 for -2yds
Passing 2 of 5 for 16yds
Rushing 46 for 217yds 2TD
Total 51 plays 233yds 2TD
Passing 4 of 12 for 46yds 1TD
Rushing 35 for 132yds 1TD
Total 47 plays 178yds 2TD