7th August 2005

BAFL Division One

Personal Assurance Knights 22-21 London Olympians

In a game that showcased the very best of top level British American Football the current National Champions held on to their lead in the Southen Division 1 Conference with a thrilling one point victory over the former champion London Olympians.

The Knights had lost in the teams previous meeting in London earlier in the season in a game where nothing had gone right for the Guildford based team after the first quarter. The Olympians however had subsequently lost to the Southern Sundevils leaving the Knights leading the Conference. The Knights knew that this would be a no nonsense test of their resolve to retain the Conference title.

One touchdown that had a great influence on the game happened 4 days before the kick off !! Paul Attia arrived in London to join the Knights for the remainder of their campaign. Attia a dual national Egyptian/Canadian had previously played College football in the States (NCAA Div1AA) with Liberty College and in Canadian College football with Western University in the CIS. After 20 months away from the game he was scheduled by the Knights to help out on both Offense and Defense - an early injury to star runner Kingsley Ejiogu however saw his debut turn into a baptism of fire as he carried the ball 32 times for 173yds - leaving just a little time and energy for occasional series as a Defensive back.

The Knights received the opening kick off and made an early statement regarding their intention to use the power of their Offensive Line to move the ball on the ground. 1,000yd rushing star Ejiogu carried the ball for 12 yards on the first play from scrimmage and Attia followed that up with 11yds and a second successive Knights first down. The Olympians however managed to slow the home team progress - and in the process Ejiogu sustained an injury that caused him to leave the game.

With Stuart Franklin not available for the game the Londoners turned to former Great Britain QB Junior Price to lead their offense. The Knights defense however - led by former London Monarch Tony Mackenzie slammed the door shut on the visitors ground game and they were soon forced to punt the ball back to the Knights.

Knights QB Ashley Heath then engineered a patient Knights drive featuring strong runs from Attia complimented by two short yardage pick ups by Paul "Benny" Wakeford. With the Olympians crowding the line of scrimmage to stop the run, QB Heath fired a 39yd bomb to Wide Receiver Jonathon Gerring to open the scoring for the Knights. Steve Belchers extra point attempt was judged to have missed and the Knights led 6-0 as the quarter came to an end.

The Olympians were forced again to punt to the Knights and a good return from Mike Dunson saw the home team take possession at their own 40yd line. The Knights turned again to Attia and his darting runs behind full back Moses Tomas made good use of the ground clearing ability of the Knights Offensive line. The drive set up Paul Wakefords four yard run - the fullback going into the endzone virtually untouched behind Center Dave Carpenter and Right Guard Kevin Keohane. Steve Belcher made sure of the kick by perfectly splitting the uprights and the Knights stretched their lead to 13-0.

The two defences then dominated the next couple of drives. Price was chased and harried by Defensive Ends Tim Siewert and Liam Smith while Tony Mackenzie and Ken Ross added to their tackle stats when the visitors attempted to run.

With the half coming to an end the Knights had possesion again. A short screen pass to Paul Wakeford looked likely to result in a big gain for the home team but the Olympians Sacha Conte came up with a big play as he managed to intercept the pass and return it to the Knights 15yd line.

Price then found just enough time to get the ball in the air to Andy Boyle who hauled in the 19yd pass for the first league points to be scored against the Knights defense in a home game this year. Boyle kicked the extra point and the score stood at 13-7 at the half.

The Olympians had the first possession of the second half and they came out in a determined mood. A long drive from the visitors ate up the clock and kept the Knights defense on the field for a lot longer than they had been used to in the first half. Fourth down conversions from Clive Palumbo and Andy Boyle kept the drive going, as with the Olympian ground game failing to make progress, Price went to the air to keep the visitors moving.

Facing fourth down and short yardage at the Knights 12yd line the visitors had the choice of a 29yd Field Goal to close the Knights lead to just a Field Goal or to go for it and keep the prospect of a go ahead touchdown alive. Having already converted two fourth down situations on the drive the visitors coaching staff decided to roll the dice again - unfortunately for them it was third time unlucky as the Knights Defense held firm and the home team took over the ball deep in their own territory.

A short run and an incomplete pass saw the Knights facing third and long on their own 15yd line. With the Olympian Offense in a bouyant mood and the Knights Defense needing a break the home team faced a crucial third down conversion attempt. Paul Attia was handed the ball and with Moses Tomas and former London Ravens star Joe StLouis leading the way he blasted his way to a 25yd gain for the Knights.

QB Ashley Heath found Jonathon Gerring down the sideline for a good gain and Gavin Hart, giving Attia a well earned breathing space, picked up another first down as the Knights embarked on their own time consuming drive. With the bulk of the Knights drive eating up yards on the ground the drive took the two teams into the fourth quarter. The drive however was slowed by the Olympian defense as the Knights entered their redzone (20yd line) and, facing fourth down and 2 from the 4 yard line, this time it was the Knights coaching staff who had the decision to make. With Steve Belcher, one of the best ever British League kickers, available and the prospect of stretching their lead to a two score margin the Knights settled for a 21yd Belcher Field Goal to lead 16-7.

The Olympians are well known for their comeback wins and the Knights knew that the game was far from over. With Price finding success through the air - and a Knights penalty adding a 15yd helping hand - the visitors were soon threatening the home teams endzone. Again with Mackenzie driving them on the Knights defense stiffened and the Olympians faced a vital fourth down and goal to go from the 1yd line. The Olympians running back appeared to have fumbled the ball at the 1yd line - and the Knights looked to have stopped his progress short of the endzone. No signal was given but after momentary confusion the referees unpicked the pile and signalled an Olympian score. Boyle added the extra point and with 9 minutes remaining the score now stood at 16-14.

The Knights again sought to control the game and the clock with their running game. This time however it was the Olympian defense that held firm and the Knights were forced to punt. Great Britain and All Europe returner Jeremy Sims caught Steve Belchers punt at the Olympian 24 yard line - 76yards later the Londoners were celebrating a go ahead score. Boyle added the extra point and with 5 minutes remaining the momentum had dramatically swung in favour of the visitors who led for the first time 16-21 after Boyles PAT.

After Boyles kick off into the endzone the Knights took over at their own 20yd line. There was no doubt that their drive needed to result in a score if they were to win the game.

After one short gain a loss of yardage on their second play saw them staring defeat in the face. Many teams would have crumbled - but QB Ashley Heath calmly picked out Tony Talbot with a pinpoint 9yd pass to give the Knights a first down. Paul Attia picked up good yardage on the next play and then fullback Moses Tomas added to that with a 9yd pass reception from Heath. The Olympians however stiffened their defense again and the Knights found themselves facing another 3rd down situation. This time Heath hit WR Jon Gerring for a 25yd gain to both keep the drive alive and put the Knights deep into Olympian territory.

Attia then followed Tomas and StLouis in a repeat of the earlier big gain and was barely stopped by the visitors at their one yard line. From there Full Back Tomas was unstoppable and he crashed into the endzone for and emotional score with just 1 minute remaining on the clock. The Knights two point conversion attempt narrowly failed and the home team led 22-21.

The Olympians were not simply going to accept defeat and a good return from Clive Palumbo saw them takeover at the halfway line. Price completed a pass to Sims to put the visitors at the Knights 32yd line - but time was running out for the visitors. An incomplete pass and another Knights run stop saw Price spike the ball on the next play to give Boyle the time to attempt a 49yd Field Goal to win the game. The Knights knew that the NFL Europe triallist had the leg to make the kick - but the celebrations started as the attempt fell short.

The Knights (7-1) now face tough back to back games with the Southern Sundevils (4-3-1) who beat the Olympians earlier in the season. Next weeks game is in Guildford KO at 2-30pm.

Knights Head Coach Steve Rains said "This was a very important win and a significant come back for us. They have done that to us a couple of times in the past so it was particularly nice to go ahead in the final minute - although I dont think our supporters want us to keep it that close every week!! Paul Attia made a great debut appearance for us after Kingsley had to come out of the game and we are delighted to have him here - he is a friend of Cameron Saylor who played for us for the last couple of years and I know he will be particularly pleased that Paul helped us to a last minute win. Having said that this was a tremendous team effort and I am proud of everyone in a blue shirt today"

Defensive Co-ordinator Ian Ellis said "A great performance from our defense. The front seven held the Olympians to just 17yards on the ground and although they had some success in the air we held them at crucial points in the game which resulted in this excellent win"

Assistant offensive Line Coach Paul Setterfield added " With three of our Offensive line squad missing today our starting five stepped up and did a fantastic job however I must give a special mention to Kevin Parker who stepped into the breach whenever we asked him to without any drop off in production for the Offense - he has been patiently waiting for his chance and today showed that his dedication and effort have paid off"

Offensive Assistant Paul Allison concluded "We are predominantly a running team and the ground game was superb, but Ashley showed that we have a passing threat that cannot be ignored and Jon Gerring had a super day gaining over 100yds on 4 receptions - those individuals deserve a mention but as Steve said this was a complete team effort - the guys on both sides of the ball were in the zone today and simply refused to be beaten, we are immensly proud of all of them"